(June 8, 2009)
A trio of students in Robert Campbell’s health information management course in East Carolina University’s College of Allied Health Sciences has helped give children with special needs a place to play outside.
A covered outdoor shelter has been built at the Howell Center off N.C. 43 just northwest of Greenville. The center is a private, non-profit intermediate care, 24-hour facility for medically fragile infants and children. The 30-bed center provides total care for children with complex medical conditions who are released from the hospital but not yet ready to go home.
Funding for the shelter came from Howell’s corporate office in LaGrange, but it was spearheaded and implemented by ECU health services and information management students Jill Best, Haleigh Wilhide and Steven Foy.
“We see a difference in kids being able to go outside,” said Best, an infant-toddler specialist and fundraising coordinator at Howell Center who will graduate with a degree in health services management in December. “So many come from hospital environments and have never been outside all their lives. It’s a different sensory experience for them.”
Tonya Lyons, administrator at Howell Center, praised the students’ efforts. “We’re really pleased to have it. We’re thrilled to have the students’ participation and their input to improve the kids’ quality of life.”
In the course, students are introduced to concepts that describe a health information system. Students learn management techniques, such as workflow analysis and change management. Because the health care industry is constantly changing, as future managers, students must learn how to manage change, not only from a personal standpoint but from a departmental and organizational perspective, Campbell said.
To help students learn the principals of change management, they are given a project to complete. The project requires them to implement change either in their personal life, their professional life or by helping an individual close to them manage a lifestyle change. In the past, projects have focused on recycling, weight reduction, smoking cessation, exercise and the reduction of offensive language in the workplace, Campbell said.
“Getting them to believe they can manage the change is the interesting part,” he said.
Best already had the idea for the shelter at her workplace, and put out a call to other students who might be interested in the project. Wilhide and Foy were the first to reply.
“The main thing for us was communication,” said Wilhide of Pikeville, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s in health services management and is a member of the N.C. Air National Guard. Since the students were enrolled through distance education, the project was completed through e-mails, phone calls and letters.
Students had to document each project to show that an attempt or actual change occurred. “For myself, there can be no greater feeling when I or my students are able to help individuals in the Greenville community,” Campbell said.
ECU students in nursing, education and medicine also have participated in internships or other special projects at Howell Center in the past, Best said.