Sometimes, career development leads to the pursuit of a new job. In other cases, it’s a matter of blooming where you’re planted.
October is National Learning and Development Month, and Diana Florez, who completed Georgia State Online’s Health Informatics Graduate Certificate in August 2022, knows firsthand the role that education can play in reinvigorating a career.
For the past 15 years, Florez has served as a speech-language pathologist for Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, treating patients with brain and spinal cord injuries as well as outpatient neurological disorders. Though she enjoyed her work as a clinician, her desire to broaden her knowledge of the healthcare system and further her career led her to the field of health informatics.
“In the last few years I’ve been interested in informatics, and my hospital was switching to a different electronic medical records system, so I did a lot of work with that,” Florez said. “The trainer that my hospital hired was actually in the informatics master’s program at Georgia State, and she told me about the certificate.”
Georgia State’s Health Informatics Graduate Certificate is offered fully online and consists of 19 credit-hours that can be completed in three semesters. Students take courses in healthcare data analytics, project management, quality and information technology.
After researching and learning more about the program, Florez chose to enroll. Along the way, her course assignments led her to expanded professional opportunities in her role as a speech-language pathologist.
“The program has helped me build connections with lots of different people in my hospital,” Florez said. “The certificate gave me a little bit of a leg up to actually know more about different topics and become a more well-rounded clinician.”
In her data analytics course, Florez was able to collaborate with an individual in her hospital’s quality department who helped build her skills in the field. Since then, the quality department has asked for her input on numerous projects.
For her capstone project, Florez worked on an initiative she wanted to implement in her hospital, collaborating with a nurse to launch an outpatient medication management program for patients and their families. Though the project fell outside the scope of the initial capstone assignment, her professor encouraged her to “go for it” and offered to find her outside assistance if needed.
“The professors are people who are actually in the field, so that’s always helpful,” Florez said. “It’s not just somebody teaching you something that they have no connection to.”
It was not always easy for Florez to manage the demands of her full-time job and her coursework, but she developed a system that set her up for success. She managed her academic deadlines by adding them to her work calendars so she always knew what was next.
“In the beginning there’s always that learning curve,” Florez said. Once I got through the first semester, I knew what I was doing.”
Florez credits the certificate program for giving her a bird’s-eye view of her daily interactions with patients and a greater understanding of how small adjustments can lead to big improvements over time.
Down the road, Florez hopes to shift to a position as a clinical informaticist, where she’ll be able to apply the knowledge she’s gained through her certificate program to analyze electronic medical records to improve patient outcomes. But Florez acknowledges that the program opened her eyes to opportunities she hadn’t considered before.
“I got into the program thinking I knew what I wanted from it, and then I just got so much more than I ever even thought about,” she said. “ It’s been really good.”