Thursday, November 14, 2019

Professional Practice Experiences in an Evolving HIM World

All HIM students are required to complete professional practice experience (PPE) time in a HIM practice environment.  The most typical PPE environment is a HIM department at a healthcare organization (hospital, long term care facility, physician’s office, etc.), but many other opportunities exist, such as insurance companies, software vendors, or government agencies.  In recent years, the number of sites willing and available to host student PPEs have declined, so students and/or preceptors may need to get creative.  PPEs are critical learning experiences for students who have little to no background in the HIM field.

The traditional PPE is a one-on-one encounter between student and preceptor spread across days or weeks.  It covers a variety of topics and may include meetings, completing a project, or answering specific questions from the student’s homework assignments.  With the “do more with less” staffing approach that’s prominent in various industries, it’s becoming more complicated to get dedicated PPE preceptors for students.

One way to combat the lower number of PPE sites/preceptors is to hold group sessions.  In this manner, an organization will schedule dates, times, and topics for students to attend.  Instead of traveling around to meetings or visiting different physical departments at the organization, sessions are held in a conference or training room, and speakers are rotated through.  This experience is not as personalized as the traditional PPE but allows for many students to meet with a variety of professionals while minimizing the time commitment of the professionals.


With the increasing availability of technology, students are completing some PPE hours remotely.  CAHIIM does not allow the entire PPE time to be replaced with simulated activities; however, it has been possible for students to attend meetings or see a demo of the software via WebEx or similar teleconferencing programs.  This may be a more tailored discussion between preceptor and student than the group option, but it may not share important contextual information the student would likely see if he/she were present on site.

Although it takes much time and effort to be a PPE preceptor (been there, done that), it can lead to potential new employees, greater networking, and even earn you CEUs.  PPE preceptors and mentors can earn one CEU for every 60 minutes of direct contact with a maximum of five CEUs per student, and a maximum of ten CEUs allowed in each recertification cycle.

As with anything else in healthcare (and to go along with the 2020 Annual Meeting theme), change is inevitable.  We must learn to adapt without compromising the integrity of student education since the students of today are the workforce of tomorrow. 

About the Author 

Carol Barnes, MS, RHIA is currently a Director on the OHIMA FY19-20 Board in charge of the Professional HIM Development strategy.  Carol is an adjunct faculty with The University of Cincinnati HIM program.