April 2022 Member Spotlight

Elijah Blackburn, RHIA, CHPS, CHTS-IM, CHTS-TR

Professional Shares

Where do you work and what is your job title?
Arkansas Surgical Hospital, located in North Little Rock, AR. I work there as the HIM Director.

How long have you been a member of ArHIMA?
Since I was a student in the HIM program circa 2005 – 16 years!

What certification types have you received or are seeking to receive?
Currently, I have four: RHIA, CHPS, CHTS-IM, and CHTS-TR. The CHTS (Certified in Healthcare Technology Specialist) credentials have been sunset, but I’m allowed to still use them as legacy credentials. The –IM suffix indicates I passed coursework and an exam for Implementation Management and the –TR suffix indicates I passed for Trainer. These were around the advent of HITECH and huge EHR adoptions, so technology specialists were in need. I plan on getting my CDIP in 2023.

Which college/university did you attend?
I attended Arkansas Tech University for my undergrad from 2003-2007 and spent some time with National Park College for technical coursework from 2010-2011.

What made you decide to pursue a career in HIM?
When I decided to flip from Creative Writing Education to Nursing, I thought I was declaring my final major. Little did I know that an elective course in Medical Terminology (taught by the infectiously charismatic Darla Sparacino) would make me curious to see what HIM was all about. I quickly realized after reading a few college brochures that HIM could be a unique intersection between clinical and technological worlds and marry two fascinations I’ve always had in traditional student settings.

What other jobs and/or titles have you held prior to the present one?
Like a classic Millennial, I’ve held quite a few job titles. I’ve been a(n): Executive Assistant to a R&D VP; Apprenticing Optician; a Practice Management Software Trainer and Implementation Specialist; Practice Management Consultant; Mobile App Designer; Hospital HIPAA Officer; I.T. Liaison; Denials Management Coordinator; Senior Professional Business Analyst; Medicaid Business Process Modeler; and On Set Movie Cat Wrangler (just kidding).

What are some of your responsibilities at your current position?
My current position as HIM Director for this particular healthcare system allows me to blend as a working and administrative director. Of course, there’s oversight with employees in my department, but there is also supportive roles in conjunction with my primary role that help aid in making the hospital a well-oiled machine. And it could be anything from helping the Business Office interpret a remittance advice (RA) to resolving an order set issue with a surgeon.

What is a typical day like for you?
There’s no such thing. However, I try to keep aware that tactical tasks be taken care of immediately and in the mornings, while strategic planning and organizational meetings happen later in the day. I love a good, structured schedule and some of that can be achieved, but you can’t plan chaos.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I feel honored to be a part of an organization who prides itself on being the best, whether that be through patient satisfaction results and being awarded Press-Ganey’s Guardian of Excellent Award three years in a row; low quality outcomes like an infection rate of less than 0.3%; having employee benefits like profit sharing; or being rated Arkansas’ only double five-star rating from CMS. My staff are incredibly cognizant about their work and compassionate to patients and other employees at-large. Our clinical information systems are integrated into our state-of-the-art operating rooms. Every employee from the C-level to the Groundskeeper practices compassionate greetings and are always willing to lend a hand. Arkansas Surgical Hospital is truly a great place to work.

Any other professional tidbit(s) you want to include?
The worst thing someone can tell you is No. So ALWAYS ask. I wouldn’t have been in some very interesting jobs and interesting places if I didn’t ask.

If you want to be in management or some type of leader, find your leadership style. There are 1000s of way to slice and dice core concepts with a watered-down analogy but have a fundamental understanding of what it is.

Personal Shares

What’s something about you (a fun fact) not many people know?
I’ve been trying to learn Russian for years and can only get to minimal conversational pieces! The next time you see me, feel free to say здравствуйте, как дела?

What’s something you want to do that you’ve never done before?
I want to go to Europe during May and attend a Eurovision Song Contest sometime in my life.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?
One of the first CEOs I’ve interacted with as a young professional shared with the company one day, “People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care” I’ve carried that with me since then and have always tried to practice it.  So often do I find myself as a teacher or trainer of some sort, and it never fails that adult learners are FAR more receptive to what you have to say if they can relate, can feel empathy, or have a sense of feeling that you care.

Do you like to cook? If so, what is your favorite thing to cook?
I haaaate cooking. However, during holiday times, my family always asks me to make my famous pumpkin spice cheesecake, loaded baked potato deviled eggs, and a brie en croûte. I also appreciate and participate in hyperbolic grilled cheese sandwiches. Kraft Singles? Ugh, no. Mango chutney, bacon, and Gruyere? RIDICULOUS! (and also yes)

Where is one place in Arkansas you would suggest people to visit?
Go to Sherwood, AR and find Vortex Classic Arcade on Kiehl Ave. They have over 100 classic arcade games from Galaga to Donkey Kong as well as pinball machines all set to Free Play. All you have to do is pay a flat fee and you can stay as long as you like. Everyone should go at least once.