Career Insights from ArHIMA Past Presidents

As an organization, we feel that we can all learn something from each other, but this can only be done if we share a little bit about ourselves with one another. Therefore, we developed “Career Insights from Past Presidents” where an ArHIMA Past President will have the opportunity to share their knowledge and experiences. The depth of knowledge within this group is something we should all be proud of. ArHIMA is proud of our members and honored to hear their career insights.

September 2021 – Dana Williams, MSHI, RHIA, CHP, CHC

Dana Williams, MSHI, RHIA, CHP, CHC, served ArHIMA as the 2015-2016 President. She is currently the Privacy Officer for Baptist Health in Little Rock.

How did you hear about the HIM field?
Both of my parents are nurses so I had some exposure to healthcare growing up. I thought it was an interesting field but was looking for something less than clinical.

Where did you go to school?
ATU for both degrees – Go Wonder Boys and Golden Suns!

Did you have an educator(s) that assisted you, went above and beyond for you, made you want to become a volunteer for ArHIMA, or helped shape you into the professional you are today?
Darla Sparacino and Mindy Wilkins were my primary instructors for undergrad. They were both very involved in our association and I saw, through them, the importance of growing our profession.

How long have you worked in this industry?
I worked part-time as an admissions rep at a hospital while I was in college so I guess that makes 25 years. I accepted my first full-time job in the industry shortly after graduation.

Which has been more valuable in your career, your education or your experience?
Gosh, that’s really tough. Education opens the initial door which is vital but willingness to learn and grow in the industry is the only way you’ll keep the job (and get the next one).

What was your first job?
When I was 15, I worked as a waitress at my uncle’s BBQ restaurant.
Shortly after college graduation, I worked as the HIM Director at Charter Behavioral Health. I didn’t like it there and left after 5 months. The facility closed within a year or two.

Tell us a little bit about your career.
I left Charter and the for-profit world for Baptist Health. I am much more at home in the not-for-profit side of healthcare. I spent 11 years as the HIM and Admissions Director at our hospital in Heber Springs. I transferred to the Corporate Compliance Department in July 2009 and have worked in a variety of roles. In 2015, I became the Privacy Officer for our system of 11 hospitals and over 50 clinics.

What part of your career do you love?
I sincerely believe that the work I do impacts individual patients, community health, and our nation as a whole.

What are a couple pieces of advice you would give to someone who is just starting their career?
Be willing to do the stuff that no one else wants to do. Ask to be added to projects and committees, organize an event, etc. You can’t sit in your office and think good things are just going to land in your lap. Next to skill, attitude and relationships are everything.  You’ve got to get involved and get your name out there as someone who is friendly, competent, innovative and dependable.

What kind of advice do you give students today who are going through life and not seeing the possibilities?
Start working in healthcare immediately – in any capacity!  Like all industries, healthcare has unique lingo, ebb and flow of customers, specific personality types, cyclic operational patterns, etc. The sooner you able to absorb these the better off you’ll be. Sign up for free webinars for all topics.

What is the best career lesson you’ve learned so far?
Be organized and have excellent follow-up. Trying to remember what was done or needs to be done eats up time and effort which could be used to make progress.

What is your favorite part of your job?
Working alongside people who impact the care delivered to our patients. I’m always excited to be involved in new processes and working to make sure they’re compliant with privacy regulations.

How do you manage your time?
I’m hyper-organized (like I might need medicine).
When I meet with my boss, I always ask him three questions and use his answers to help steer my time and efforts –
Are you satisfied with the quantity of my work?
Are you satisfied with the quality of my work?
Do you want me to do anything differently?

What do you do at work on a daily basis?
Training/education, policy development
Audits and investigations
Data (BAA) management
Phone calls from patients and employees for advice and reassurance

What advice do you have for someone new to the industry?
Join ArHIMA!  Go to the annual meeting – networking is a must. I can’t wait for Branson 2022.
Get some credentials!
Take any job you can get. If you have a willing heart with a solid ratio of quality and quantity of work, good things will come your way. If it doesn’t, you’ve got work history on your resume to look for the next job.

Is there a quote that motivates you?
Luck favors the prepared – Edna Mode from The Incredibles
Stole this from a buddy’s email signature

Who inspires you?
My grandfather. We were very close until his death in 2017 at the age of 91. He was a kind, hardworking, helpful and family-orientated man. He’s an inspiration to all who knew him. The attached picture was taken in November 2016.

How do you create motivation for yourself and for your team?
Project and tasks list
Recognizing hard work and achievement
Genuine words of appreciation

How do you maintain a work-life balance?
I feel like it comes out in the wash. We take care of patients around the clock and I feel compelled to be available when really weird things come up. They only call when it’s important and I’m happy to help.
I get out a 5X7 index card each night and lay it on the kitchen counter. As thoughts pop in my head, I write them down. This keeps me from churning the thoughts all evening so I can be more engaged with my family. The index card also gives me a starting list for work the next day.

What made you decide to run for President of ArHIMA?
My reasons for running were many:
I saw others put out the time and effort before me and believe that each person must take a turn for the betterment of others.
I thought the networking would be valuable.
I thought it would look great on a resume.
There was some cool travel involved.

What did you learn from being President?
During my presidency, we had a joint meeting with HIMSS in Little Rock. I learned a great deal about the joys and headaches of collaborating with another entity.
I learned how hard our committee chairs and board members work on our behalf!

What would you say to someone who is thinking about placing their name on the ballot for the President-Elect position?
Do it. The work is meaningful and you won’t regret it.

Anything else you would like to add?
Just a story to back up the answer to all the other questions –
My career path was greatly influenced by my relationship with Kathy Roberts. She was the Corporate Compliance and Privacy Officer for Baptist Health from 2001 to 2015 and we were on a couple of committees together. Even though I was working in one of BH’s smaller hospitals, I was the only person in our system with a privacy credential. She would ask me to cover privacy issues while she was on vacation and a relationship was born. When she posted an opening in her department in 2009, I applied and was hired for the position. I’ve been in the department in various roles ever since.

Key takeaways
Take on extra work if a short-term loss looks it could be a long-term gain.
Get credentialed.
Relationships are vital.
Don’t be afraid of our industry and trying new things.