By: Crystal Kearley, CHIM, Chair, NSPE Chapter
As a student of Darlene MacEachern’s, my biggest takeaways from her instruction were: never stop trying; it’s OK to be wrong; keep going until you find the right answer. She has demonstrated both humility and wisdom to her students and has encouraged us always to ask questions and to challenge her if a better answer seems apparent. This is how the HIM profession works in the day-to-day: we are problem solvers and innovative thinkers. Darlene was one of those teachers who harnessed that potential in her students and prepared them to carry those skills into the workforce.
Hearing more about her journey through her own HIM career gave me a window into what has made Darlene such a great teacher and an accomplished HIM professional. Here’s some of her story:
This is how the HIM profession works in the day-to-day: we are problem solvers and innovative thinkers. Darlene was one of those teachers who harnessed that potential in her students and prepared them to carry those skills into the workforce. – Crystal Kearley, CHIM
Darlene began her career in health care working in the darkroom at the x-ray department in Truro, Nova Scotia—a job she excelled at while attending Nova Scotia Teachers College. After graduating from the college in 1978, and with few teaching jobs available in the region, Darlene directed her skills toward medical transcription in Inverness, Nova Scotia. While she harboured a passion for teaching, her immersion in health records piqued her interest, and she found she wanted to learn more about the field of health information. A close friend was a Health Information Management (HIM) professional and helped point her in this new direction.
Darlene was heavily supported by management at Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital in Inverness, Nova Scotia, when she decided to take the program online in 1998. She worked for Inverness Consolidated full-time while completing her studies at her kitchen table—all while she raised her four children.
After retiring from the health care sector in 2011, Darlene began teaching in the HIM program at the New Brunswick Community College in Moncton—a move that brought her fascination with health information together with her love of teaching. And then in 2013, she transferred back to her home province as an instructor in the HIM program at Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) on the IT Campus in Halifax. For Darlene, it all added up to a sense that her career was coming full circle.
In this profession, the sky’s the limit. – Darlene MacEachern, CHIM
Leaping forward to the NSPE Chapter’s In-Person Education Day in 2019, Darlene told her career story to a packed room. After she finished, she asked her current students who were present to stand. She asked the same of any former students who were in the room. Very few people remained seated. “As an educator,” Darlene says, “you know you teach a lot of people, but to see them all together in one place was an overwhelmingly proud moment.”
Assessing the trajectory of her career, Darlene notes that the move to electronic records keeping stands out as the most significant change she’s experienced. “To begin my career transcribing reports on a typewriter and end it during a pandemic, with records able to be accessed in real-time, from home, is something I could not have imagined when I started in this field,” she says.
It’s a development that’s emblematic of something Darlene says about the HIM field as a whole: “In this profession, the sky’s the limit”—which is why she counsels HIM students and young professionals to do what she was encouraged to do: always try to stretch beyond your comfort zone, use available resources wisely, master your skill set, be aware of what you’re good at, and identify within the broad field of HIM what you’re most interested in.
To begin my career transcribing reports on a typewriter and end it during a pandemic, with records able to be accessed in real time, from home, is something I could not have imagined when I started in this field. – Darlene MacEachern, CHIM
Applying this to a look over her own career, Darlene wishes she had recognized earlier the value of Folio when it came to coding and regrets just a little not pushing herself to expand her skills beyond the 3M tools she was using at the time. She credits her own mentor, and former boss at Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital, Brenda MacDonald, with encouraging her move toward becoming an HIM educator.
In this new chapter of retirement, Darlene plans to spend as much time as possible with her grandchildren and walk on the beach. She’ll also remain connected to the HIM profession by working part-time, focusing on release-of-information duties, and once again coming full circle: working for the same hospital (Inverness Consolidated) where she began her HIM career.
“It’s been a good ride, that’s for sure,” she says. “I’m going to miss it, but I’ll be happy to pass the torch on.”
Although retired from working in a health care setting, Darlene remains an active Certified in Health Information Management (CHIM) professional with the Canadian College of Health Information Management, working in the education sector. To find the College’s registry of professionals, click here.