Monika Young longed for a career in health care that didn’t involve direct patient care.

After 14 years of working as a dental hygienist, the Navy wife wanted a new challenge and found it at Tidewater Community College.

Attending an information session on the college’s Health Information Management program, she learned about an associate degree that applies information technology and business to health care

“I had heard good things about TCC,” Young said. “I got excited. You can go full time. You can go part time. The hours were convenient.”

She alternated between attending morning or evening classes – the same material is taught in both sessions so students can choose the most convenient option for their schedules. The flexibility allowed her to continue working as a hygienist while attending college.

Scholarships helped pay the way for the 67-credit associate. Twice Young earned the Virginia Health Information Management Association award for a total of $4,000. An American Health Information Management Association scholarship knocked $1,000 off tuition, and its local chapter awarded her a $500 scholarship.

“My professors are the ones who told me about the scholarships,” Young said.

“She is the first student I have had to earn all three!” said Amy Shay, program head for HIM at TCC. “Monika has demonstrated excellent ability to set goals and be persistent in achieving them.  She was a model student who will go far in her new career.”

Young hadn’t had a computer class since 2002, but she became proficient quickly thanks to hands-on training at TCC’s Regional Health Professions Center on the Virginia Beach Campus. She credits the HIM faculty for keeping classes interactive and engaging.

“It’s definitely challenging, but the faculty is always there to answer any question,” she said.

Young was also one of the students interviewed when the HIM program underwent reaccreditation earlier this year.

The HIM program achieved reaccreditation for 10 years, the highest recognition awarded by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education.

Young completed an internship at Sentara as part of the TCC program. She passed the Registered Health Information Technician examination to earn an industry credential. TCC boasts a 100 percent pass rate on the exam.

That certification and a recommendation by Shay secured her a job shortly after graduating with her associate in health information management.

Young, 35, was hired on the spot for a validator/indexer position at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. She doesn’t work directly with patients. Instead, customer service, accuracy, attention to detail and ethics are important qualities in her job, which requires processing of electronic health records.

 “I was at crossroads when I came to TCC,” said Young, who just passed the Certified Coding Specialist exam awarding her another credential that will enable her to advance in the field. “I got a great education with teachers who were knowledgeable and experienced. I got a job in a field where there are lots of possibilities for growth.”

Information sessions for the program are held the third Thursday of every month (except December) at 1 p.m. at the Regional Health Professions Center. Contact Shay at ashay@tcc.edu or 757-822-7262 for information.