Graduating amid a pandemic

Graduating amid a pandemic

From practicums to convocation ceremonies, see how CHIMA members and education institutions have adapted. 

happy young woman with graduation cap and laptop

Completing a degree can be challenging at the best of times—but completing one during the COVID-19 pandemic brings that challenge to a new level. Both education institutions and students have found themselves needing to evolve over the course of the past 10 months in response to health concerns and government restrictions.

Deanna Wiebe, BHA, CHIM started the Ryerson health information program back in 2012, taking it part time via distance learning so she could continue working. As luck would have it, the pandemic struck as she was beginning her practicum. “Exactly at the time of the COVID shut down, we were embarking on the data collection period of our projects where we were required to be onsite at our facilities for a minimum of 45 hours total,” she shares “All onsite visits were immediately cancelled.” Fortunately, Deanna was able to complete the project remotely with the help of her preceptor.

Deanna’s classmate, Merenie Crosby, BHA, CHIM, had a similar experience. “I had so many personal things going on going into practicum… but I did the best I could and got all of it planned and arranged, and things fell into place for me to start visiting the site in February of 2020,” she says. Of course, things changed once the shutdown began. While Merenie was still able to be on site while her preceptor was there, she had limited access within the building. Thankfully, it was enough to complete her practicum.

Fellow CHIM Julie Phillips also graduated from Ryerson’s HIM degree program this year after completing it remotely on a part-time basis—but she had a different perspective. “The pandemic did not affect my experience too greatly,” she shares. For her, the biggest challenge was the uncertainty around whether she would be required to present her final practicum in person in Toronto. Ultimately, with plans changing quickly due to the pandemic, she did her presentation online from her home in Prince Edward Island.

And it wasn’t just classes and presentations that were moved online. Due to travel and gathering restrictions, many education institutions scrambled to adjust plans for convocation ceremonies typically held in person.

Ryerson University hosted their graduation this past June virtually, and HIM graduates had a mini graduation celebration via Zoom where they enjoyed catching up with their peers, professors, and administrative staff on their last year in the BHA program. The school also decided to postpone the October graduation. Once the province confirms that it is safe to do so, Ryerson hopes to host a graduation luncheon for both the June and October cohorts.

Like many schools across the country, Conestoga College also moved their convocation online, which was met with great enthusiasm from the parents and families of graduating students. The college organized separate convocations for their spring and fall 2020 graduates, complete with an email invitation to view the ceremony at the designated time and online convocation programs for attendees to download. The ceremonies had all the pomp that you might expect of a convocation, with pre-recorded opening remarks and welcome from the president, dressed in a traditional gown and standing at the Conestoga podium. Award winners visited the school individually to receive their awards and pre-record their own speeches, while faculty recorded messages of encouragement and support at home in lieu of the post-ceremony mingle. Students had the opportunity to submit their own photos and messages and received their framed certificates by mail.

As graduates move beyond convocation, they are likely considering the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on their job prospects. “I am hopeful that the promises of government investment into different areas of health care will open up new opportunities in the coming months,” Deanna says. It’s something that’s likely on the minds of many in the health information field and beyond right now.

If you are a CHIMA professional member and interested in current health information job openings, please check out our job board.

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