ENDLESS OPPORTUNITIES - WCJC's online Health Information Technology Program prepares graduates for careers

August 04, 2021
ENDLESS OPPORTUNITIES - WCJC's online Health Information Technology Program prepares graduates for careers
Wharton County Junior College's Health Information Technology Program Director Debbie Lutringer said her program's graduates find employment in hospitals, assisted living centers, physician's offices and surgery centers. Job outlook is positive, with employment expected to grow by eight percent over the next decade. 

WHARTON, TEXAS – Mackenzie Dornak knew she wanted to work in the healthcare field, she just wasn’t all that excited about needles and blood. Wharton County Junior College’s online Health Information Technology Program offered the perfect solution.

“I was looking at the WCJC programs page on the college website and saw the Health Information Technology Program and it really interested me,” the Needville native said. “I really enjoy the idea of medical field work without direct patient contact and care.”

Health Information Technology Program Director Debbie Lutringer has heard many similar stories since taking over the program in 2007. She said a fair portion of her students begin in nursing but become disillusioned after the hands-on work begins.

“We offer something in healthcare besides direct patient care,” Lutringer said.

The program further offers an entirely online experience, something that Dornak found appealing as it allowed her to schedule her class work around her work schedule.

“The program is convenient because no matter where I am or what time it is, I can do my school work and not have to be in class at a certain time,” Dornak said. “I’ve been able to formulate a work schedule that allows me to financially support myself while still attending school.”

The Health Information Technology Program offers both a 60 semester credit hour AAS degree as well as two certificate options. Coursework focuses on healthcare information and record keeping as well as coding, statistics, quality assessment, ethics, legal aspects and basic anatomy and physiology. A virtual lab allows students to practice on real-world software in a simulated environment.

“We strive to provide graduates who have the skills and expertise to enter the work field as productive and competent employees in the health information management profession,” Lutringer said. “We want them to become assets for their employers and also to be mentors for our current and upcoming students.”

Since the program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education, students completing the AAS degree plan can sit for the Registered Health Information Technician credentialing examination.

Program graduate Amanda Gomez pursued that certification in order to achieve a promotion at work and is currently the Health Information Management Director and HIPAA Privacy Officer for Cuero Regional Hospital.

“The program has benefited my career tremendously,” she said.

Gomez credited Lutringer and Health Information Technology Instructor Robin Matzke with being great resources for the students.

“They care about the students and their success and make themselves available, even after graduation,” she said. “I have reached out on occasion for questions and always received a response.”

The program includes practicum courses designed to prepare students for what they will face in the workplace. Karen Wells, Director of Health Information Management for MidCoast Health System, has served as a clinical practicum supervisor for WCJC’s program for years. Wells is a graduate of the program herself.

“WCJC is known for their high integrity program with outstanding instructors,” she said. “We regularly accept students for their clinicals and have been very impressed with their knowledge and job skills.”

Wells noted that she looks to WCJC when job openings arise.

“That is always my first choice of searching when trying to fill a position,” she said.

Program graduates find employment in a host of settings, from hospitals to physician’s offices to surgery centers to long-term care facilities. Lutringer said the job titles vary greatly, with graduates working as revenue analysts, data specialists, medical coders, quality data managers and more.

As for salary, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2020 Occupation Outlook Handbook, the median pay for medical records and health information specialists is more than $44,000 annually. Employment is expected to grow by eight percent over the next decade.

“It is a wonderful experience to see students grow and become professionals and leaders in the Health Information Management profession,” Lutringer said. “The opportunities are endless and always changing.”

For more information on WCJC’s Health Information Technology Program, visit the website at wcjc.edu