The MHA Online Program and the Health Care Puzzle
Why did you choose the Ohio University MHA online program?
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Curriculum that Reflects the Changing Landscape of Health Care
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Meet Marya Vande-Doyle, a recent graduate of the MHA online program. Marya is a mother of two and has a full-time job at Wayne County Rural Health Network. Listen to her story as she talks about being able to manage school, work and family, as well as how she was able to apply coursework right away in her current position.
My name is Marya Vande-Doyle, and I work for the Rochester General Health System, specifically with the Wayne County Rural Health Network.
I chose the program, one, because it’s an accredited program, and recognized nationally as a strong program. And I also selected the online program because it was flexible, and I appreciated the interaction that I would have with the other students throughout the curriculum.
We had people from the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Heart – Cleveland Clinic. I think there was somebody from Children’s Hospital. We had physicians from Florida and Vermont, and I think the conversations were incredibly dynamic. And the diversity of, you know, the urban-centric versus rural approach really brought a fine balance and in terms of our health policy discussions, it was very robust.
In terms of health policy, we spent a tremendous amount of time reviewing healthcare reform and it’s application within the rural communities. I used portion of the curriculum when I spoke on Capitol Hill in February for the National Rural Health Association and the New York State Association of Rural Heath. In terms of applying policy to what community needs, and understanding how critical stakeholders can impact health policy within the community. The other asset of the program that I think really drilled down within my career and within my practice was the perspective of process and planning and strategy, and the whole Lean Sigma approach, which was something I wasn’t familiar with, and I feel like that’s something that I’m going to be using every day.
The online approach was just tremendously beneficial to – you know, I’m a mother. I have two children and I’m married, and I work full-time, and we also own and operate a charity in a rural community, so I needed something that fit into our lifestyle. And it was just incredible that I could, you know, literally sit in my bed every night and study for five hours and I wasn’t disrupting anything that was to occur in my normal daily routine.
I think the balance initially from the onset of the program, just learning, being patient, because at the very beginning of the program, learning how to walk through the Blackboard system, you’re taking a new program and you’re trying to hand in submissions and it was a little intimidating. I mean, I feel like I’m somewhat computer savvy, but I’m not a technical expert, by any means. So, allow yourself the flexibility at the beginning to learn the system and then understand as you move through the program, you really can determine when you’re going to work. It’s like the best part-time job of studying ever.
Within the program, I didn’t use my cellphone or text messaging with my – with my counterparts at all. I – you know, I said that I would prefer to do everything on – the online system and through email exchanges, and using that, using email it was a really convenient way of having communication with my counterparts in that we could all identify when it was an open opportunity for us to learn, so in terms of flexibility, you know, for myself, I would study early in the morning and in the evenings, and then on the weekends. But it – I would not say that it impacted my daily routine. I got less sleep. That’s probably it, but I felt like I was there for all the sporting events and I participated in, you know, all of our regular activities, so I feel like it was flexible and fit in well.
Really, what I would share is that the program – I feel that it was – it was a significant investment for my family, and I feel as though it was worth every single penny and every ounce of energy that I put into it. I learned so much, so if you are – you know, I think we’re at this point where we’re – it’s a Master’s program, so you’re interested in learning as much as possible, and there really is no limit to what you can learn, and I will carry this program with me for a long time. I am very certain of that.
Morgan Templar is a recent graduate of the MHA online program. During the program, he was promoted to a director position at the hospital he was working at. Morgan is a true testimonial of the opportunities this MHA program can present.
My name is Morgan Templar. My current title is Senior Program and Project Manager at Blue Shield of California.
When I began my program I was working in a hospital in Virginia, and in order to be promoted to director, I had to be enrolled or have completed a Master’s program. I didn’t find a program that I was happy with there, so I looked around and found the Ohio University online Master’s degree program. It was exactly what I was looking for. It was a very respected school and a very well-organized program. And I really liked the module program. I thought that would work very well for me working full-time and doing the degree full-time.
When I started, as I said, I was the manager of a single hospital. During the program, I was actually promoted to Director at the corporate level, which was over a six-hospital system. And this current job that I just took, and actually I’m moving to San Francisco next month for this job, is 144% of what I was making when I started the program. So the salary was certainly worth it. What I learned from the program, though, was really valuable and very useful. Several of my peers in our cohort were nurses or even, there were a couple of physicians, and working with them and understanding their – their perspective on what we were learning was very interesting. I worked in Physician Services so I was already working with physicians on a very regular and close basis, but to get their take and their “A-ha!” moments of what we were learning was really interesting. I learned a lot from that and it really helped give me a little perspective on what we were learning and how it would be useful in my career.
Relationships that you build, the ability to recommend each other. You know, to be able to get a letter of recommendation from one of my peers that I met in this program was part of how I landed this current job, so it’s really – you really do understand how good the people you’re working with are. That professional relationship will just continue to be strong.
Well, the online format and the way it’s organized worked very well for me. The ability to do most of my schoolwork on the weekends really helped because I could do my regular job during the week and then just on Saturday morning get up, do all my reading, do all of my writing, get everything done over the weekend with things being due on Sunday evening, that really helped a lot to be able to complete the degree and still work full time.
My advice would be, “Absolutely, do it.” Recognize that the commitment of time and the financial commitment, because it is significant, is worth it. There is a lot of opportunity in health care and especially with the Accountable Care Act, and the changes that are occurring right now. The broad based understanding of healthcare that you gain from this program, the exposure to managed care, the exposure to hospital administration, the exposure to your peers, like I said, people who are managers of other hospitals or healthcare facilities in different fields is so valuable, and it’s certainly worth it. It’s very worthwhile. It’s personally fulfilling but professionally, it was certainly – for me at least – immediately apparent.
Jewel, the Director of the Heart and Vascular Institute at Renown Health, was able to apply the MHA online coursework to his job immediately. Hear more about his experience with the MHA online program by watching his video.
I’m Jewel Mohammad High. I am the Director of the Heart and Vascular Institute at Renown Health in Reno, Nevada. I had undergone my opportunity at the University of Nevada Reno to obtain my Master’s Degree in Business Administration. Took an internship in healthcare and wanted to see if I could better specialize in the field and get a degree that would add value to my career moving forward as well as just my knowledgebase and so I began researching programs throughout the country and boiled down to a couple of them, probably Seton Hall being my other choice and the University of Ohio. And I think a couple of things stood out. First was the history and reputation of the University, and secondly, I must give a lot of credit to Joan O’Malley, who was basically my advisor. She helped things be expeditious for me, explained and answered questions I had, and basically really made me feel a part of the university, being abroad, so I felt that it was a great opportunity and it was the right fit for me.
The program has been tremendous. In fact, it – I don’t know if it’s cliché or irony or maybe just the right fit but as I was going through, I worked in a number of areas early in my career within healthcare, and it’s been roughly about almost six years, and had the opportunity roughly two years ago to be involved with a very tumultuous situation at the organization I was at, and had the opportunity to start sitting down with our CEO and talk strategy in a service line that was very important while some litigation issues were ongoing as well as FTC issues, so I found myself either conducting work as far as the university program was concerned that was absolutely applicable to my job, or vice versa, so many a nights I would sit there and have great topics or things that I could study from on-the-job training or in fact, the other way around, so it was – it absolutely felt like a great fit from day one.
I think that that’s probably one of the most important things is the diversity that’s present within the program, and the fact that there’s so many modules and the opportunity to meet individuals and work with them distance-wise, I should say. I think that it challenges you to an extent as well as it gives you ultimately the greatest opportunity you have in the program in having people from different fields, exactly what you deal with in – within your work and life experience, in fact that it’s not always seeing eye to eye, and I think the fact that you’re not dealing with these people face-to face makes it a little more challenging but at the end of the day, I think it teaches you more and gives you the opportunity to grow.
I think that it’s probably, I’d say, at least a few hours a day at bare minimum. I want to venture to say, at least four hours a day on average, although it’s not split evenly. Most of it, of course, long nights and weekends, of course, fully dedicated, but if I had to put a number on it, I’d say it’s almost like a full-time job. You know, 30 to 40 hours a week that you’re dedicating, although condensed probably on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday sort of thing, but absolutely, hard work and dedication but well worth it.
I think that I enjoyed the challenge of actually not being at a university. For my undergrad, I attended a good university. I enjoyed it. Different time in my life, not having to balance as much in my career life but rather just focus on school. I think that the fact that I was able to do this while not being committed to going to a class at a specific time every day, but rather having to manage my own time, be committed to it, I think that that has not only helped me get to my goal, which was to finish and ultimately look at maybe furthering my education, but more importantly, add to my knowledgebase and allow me to take some of that and carry over into my professional life.
I think I would just say that I did some extensive review before I selected a program for my MHA, and like I mentioned before, I had already started my MBA. It was a big decision for me to have to basically throw away a year and a half without not really having anything commit to a new career path and educational path, but I think it was all well worth it. I think I would advise people that the program at the Ohio University is phenomenal. I have enjoyed it. I think that the modules are great. There were some changes along the way and I think all were for the better, so the last thing I would say is basically, I think it’s the best program in the country. I have enjoyed it. I think it adds plenty of value to anyone who wants to continue in an administrative career in healthcare.
Stephen is a Network Director for Occupational Therapy and has seen firsthand the changes in the health care field. Listen to his story as he talks about how the MHA online program impacted his life.
My name is Stephen Leonard. I’m the Network Director for Occupational Therapy. I work within the Health and Hospitals Corporation at Jacoby Medical Center in the Bronx.
I liked the format, the online format. It gave me the opportunity to be at home, at my desk in my office. I have a pretty busy life. Three high school-aged girls, so they take up a lot of my time. So the online format gave me the opportunity to go back to school. It’s something that I’ve put off for about 25 years, so –
Well, there’s a lot of change in healthcare. Healthcare reform and the Affordable Care Act, so a lot of things are impacting the job that I do within the city system. It’s a not-for-profit hospital, and the motto there is to do more with less. That seems like what’s been happening, and so just being able to think more strategically, giving me the tools to be more effective in my role as a manager.
I think it’s definitely worthwhile to taking the leap. It’s relevant to the change that’s going on in healthcare. I think the education is just ongoing, so I would definitely say take the leap and do it.
One of the things that I loved was the group format, so a lot of the assignments on a weekly basis, it was a lot of interaction between students throughout the country that had varied experiences and I think really helped me, where I lacked in areas again, like finance. I thought, “What did I get myself into?” You know, again, it was a dream to go back to school. I’m glad that I did it, but it’s definitely, I think, going to open a lot of doors for me. I’ve had several interviews already for higher-up positions, and I think the COO where I work has sort of taken notice, and he’s impressed with the fact that I’ve gone back to school, and so I’m hoping that it opens some doors.
Yeah, I mean I think the faculty- they’re – the expertise for the various areas. I’ve gotten really good feedback. Again, it’s helped me to think differently about how I approach certain topics. And I think I was surprised by the online format. You definitely have to be motivated and drive yourself. I thought it would be a lot easier than it was. It was definitely a challenge, but I’m glad, again, that it gave me the opportunity to kind of be at home and get through the material, where I could – there’s no way I could have done it in a class format, so, yeah.
Listen to Sarah’s story as she talks about all of the fascinating peers she met while in the online MHA program. Beyond new relationships, Sarah explains that the program has given her the confidence to keep taking steps in her career.
Well, I knew from a very young age that I wanted to continue my education. I’m a true believer in education, but I didn’t want to do it as a Nurse Practitioner. My background is I have my Bachelor’s in Nursing, so I really wanted to go into administration. And I was just researching it online, and honestly, I kind of stumbled across the program. And I just live in Lancaster, Ohio, so I was familiar with Ohio University, a little bit. I had a lot of friends who had attended here, and I heard great things about the program.
It has really strengthened my leadership skills. I started out as just a – I don’t want to say “just,” but I was a school nurse. That was my title for an entire district of over 6,000 students. So I was the only licensed health professional for the district, and having gone through the program, and learning different things, I was able to do a whole presentation to our school board and to our superintendent, and now I’m out of the union and I’m administrative exempt position and it’s just – you know – it’s that next step. It helped me take that next step into an administrative role while I was still working on my degree.
My background, before I got into the school or somewhat public health role, I came from an ER setting, and I worked in the ER for six years. And it was fascinating to see people from all – all fields. I mean, from X-ray to radio- to pharmacy to doctors. It was really interesting to get all those different perspectives, and especially collaborating on group projects. We all had our different perspective going into it. So it was – that was probably the most beneficial part to the whole program.
It was a commitment I made to get all the readings in and to stay on top of all the work, but what was nice was I did it around my schedule, so it wasn’t like I had to be on campus at a certain time. I could work on a project at 2:00 o’clock in the morning if that’s what worked for me that day, or work on an project for twelve hours straight on my day off and get the work done.
Number one, it’s given me a lot more confidence. You know, I know how healthcare works now, so much more in the United States and how to go into a hospital setting and really, I feel like, take on a major leadership role in a hospital. And I’ve just taken away that confidence and those leadership skills that it’s just – you know, nothing’s going to stop me. This is one stepping stone. I’m already looking to the next.
I really did enjoy the relationships I made. You know, you might think going online and not meeting people face-to-face, like, ugh! I really do have good friends and at the beginning of every module having to kind of do your little opening introductory discussion with – you might think that it’s the same people, but I reconnected with so many people through the whole course of the two years, I’ve really enjoyed that. And we’ve kept in touch and quick little emails here and there, but that’s what I’ve really enjoyed, that part of it. You do make those personal relationships that you might not think you would.
I think life is about networking, and you want to keep those relationships going, because you don’t know where your career path might take you, or what state it might take you to. You know, I have – one of the classmates that I’ve worked with, she lives in California. I mean, somebody I would never necessarily come across in my everyday, normal life and you know, OK now I feel like I kind of have a connection out in California. I have a connection down in Texas, now, so definitely, I’ll keep those relationships.
I would say honestly the professors that you got are really high quality and any questions I ever had, I could email them and they would respond, most of them almost instantaneously, but really within 24 hours. I was intimidated that – I’ll be honest- that first week, like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know if I understand what I’m supposed to do here.” And I really enjoyed the podcasts that were online. I just finished our – I just finished Finance this past semester and I really enjoyed the podcasts that the professors posted. That really helped me understand all the material better.
Kristi Barker is the Director of Health Information Services at Wyoming State Hospital and from a rural town. She would have had a difficult time completing an MHA degree if it wasn’t for the online option at Ohio University. The online MHA program helped her gain knowledge from several other areas of health care thanks to vast diversity of students within Ohio University’s MHA online program.
My name is Kristi Barker and I work at the Wyoming State Hospital. I’m the Director of Health Information Services.
At the time in my life, I just really needed something that was flexible. I never would have been able to finish up a degree without being able to have online access to my classes and things. So we just have a busy, busy life at home. We have a cattle ranch. We kind of live, you know, away from things and so it really wasn’t – it just didn’t work out for me to have to commute or move. We couldn’t do that either, so –
You know, I really liked each module because it gave me insight into things I could do at my job better, and also bring to our administration team at the hospital to kind of have some solutions and things like that. It really helped with the strategic management of things at the hospital.
You know, for me, it was really helpful mainly because the hospital I work at is full psychiatric, so I don’t really have the acute med/surg and other hospital environments. So it really was – it really was fun, and it gave me a lot of knowledge to talk to other people who had experience in different sectors of health care.
You have to have strategies. And looking back on it now, I really don’t know how I balanced that, but we made it through somehow. I have a small – a little boy. He’s three years old, so he’s a handful. You know, we do have that ranch that takes a lot of time and my work. But I was able to integrate my lessons into my work at some – with some pieces and so that really did help a lot.
It was a great opportunity for me, being someone who is rural. That would probably be one of my main themes, to get that out to those people who don’t feel that they can attain a degree such as this because of how far away they live from a main city or even a campus of any sort. It is doable. It’s just up to you to take the initiative to do it.
Princess is a recent graduate that chose Ohio UNiversity’s MHA online program because of the school’s history. She enjoyed the online MHA program because it presented her with career advancement opportunities and provided in-depth knowledge in so many other areas of health care.
I am an RN. Currently, I am an Assistant Nurse Manager at WellStar Corp. Hospital.
I was interested in doing health administration program, but not – we only have one online in Georgia, and I really – when I looked into the program at different schools, I found the one at Ohio here to be very, very – it’s broad and it’s an older school with lots of history, so that’s was what got me into the program.
Before I finished my core classes, I got the Assistant Nurse Manager position from being a charge nurse, and so it was a program that kind of prepared me ahead for that job, so it’s working out well. I got my reward before I graduated.
So, I work with my colleagues so that way, I kind of have some certain days that I don’t have to go to work, so those days, I just devoted to my studying, and of course, my weekends. Most of our assignments, I do weekends, so on weekends and two days during the week is when I catch up on all my schoolwork. And my family understands. It was hard initially but after a while, we know that it’s going to come.
It was the most flexible program for me. My biggest advice for them is if you decide that’s what you want to do, there’s so many hassles, you know, you just have to make up your mind that this is what you want to do and stay on it. I had one point that I withdrew from the program last year, but the faculty were very flexible. I lost my grandma, I had to travel, so I didn’t have time to finish my assignments, so I’m thinking when I got on the plane I would do it. Unfortunately, they don’t have wi-fi on international flights so I couldn’t do it. But when I got to Nigeria, I emailed my professors to what happened. They were very understanding. I mean, I didn’t get my grade for not doing it, but I did the second part, which you know, I still got my grade from that, so they were very flexible and understanding. Really, I appreciated the communication back and forth. The program coordinators are like your best – you should make them your best friend because they help you out when you really need help.
It was beneficial to me because, like, when we have our groups, we have like doctors, pharmacists and the program kind of takes me away from just nursing and see other fields and what they bring to the program, and when we would have our group discussion, we just get diverse group of people in the program, which is what I really like. When we do projects, you have pharmacists, you have respiratory therapists, it just opens you up to other fields and you know more. It’s like I’m learning pharmacist stuff, I’m learning respiratory therapy, you’re just learning a whole lot of different stuff from just what you think you know over the years.
It’s flexible. It helps your growth. And you can do so much with healthcare administration. That’s all I can say. You can do much with it, it just – windows of opportunities out there with the degree, MHA degree, especially from Ohio University.
What I enjoyed most about in the program is not just learning, acquiring your skills and also building up friendships with other people that I have never met from – not even from the same state, but the best part of the program is knowing that even though you’re not in a classroom, it still feels like a classroom because you have your professors available, you have all the students, you have access to the program coordinators, so whenever you have issues, so just that accessibility was the biggest asset to me.
Well, the only thing that I know that when we do the evaluation my first semester, where it wasn’t in quarter, my first quarter we did an evaluation and the way it was structured, I’m not sure if I’m the only one that said something about it but I noticed that in the later semester the professors in the program, they listened to us and they kind of changed the way the assignment was structured, so your opinion counts as a student, which is important that you feel like when you make a comment they do hear what you said. I think that’s good.
Dr. Brett Hicks, MHA online Professor
Professor Brett Hicks teaches the Introduction to US Health Systems course, Health Policy, and Research Methods and Epidemiology. He enjoys exchanging ideas with students from various backgrounds and hearing their unique real-world experiences. Watch the video to get his take on the online MHA program at Ohio University.
My name is Brett Hicks, and I teach the health policy course, the Introduction to US Health Systems, Research Methods and Epidemiology.
My background in Health Administration is actually from the military. I spent 20 years in the US Navy as a healthcare administrator, so I’ve gotten to do various levels of health care from one, working in the delivery phases as a medic up through middle management and up to senior leadership to actually guide policy and shape policy and how that’s interpreted in the hospital.
I think my enjoyment is just interacting with students. I think that’s my favorite part. I enjoy, you know, exchanging ideas with them and then the discussions and then the virtual office hours that we have. It’s nice to have some, you know, real-time, one-on-one communication, and the students ask terrific questions. They really get into the subject and ask me, you know, real-world questions like, “Hey you know, this week we were talking about this, and this happened at work this week.” Or, “next week, we’re taking on this project, whether it be, you know, looking at falls and trauma in the hospital and hospital-acquired conditions or whatever the subject means, so really to engage on a one-on-one level in real-time and talk through issues and share some of my expertise, and my – you know – what I did in those situations and hear their feedback is – that’s my favorite part. I enjoy working with the students.
I think the best way graduates contribute is they take those tools and they lead in healthcare. They demonstrate some of those. They master the tools that we gave them. I mean, we try our best in the short time that we have students to get them to a level of mastery, and obviously, each student reaches that level at different times, but we want them to continue that pursuit, continue their education, maybe take on additional certifications, maybe even go for another degree or a doctoral degree, but we really want to see them be leaders in the field, and maybe, some publications, things like that. I mean, nothing – for a faculty member, nothing makes me happier than to see a former student, you know, in the Journal of Healthcare Management or in a peer-reviewed journal that wrote an article based on some practice that they applied at their facility, or some success that they had, so it’s really good when they can use those tools, and you know, it helps from a marketing standpoint. If they – you know – “Where did they – you’re a very good leader or you’re a very good employee. Where did you get your education?” and you know, “I got my education at Ohio University.”
The key benefit to our program is that we’re going to give people that real-world experience in the class. I think that the courses are designed. The assignments, the professors’ teaching style is geared towards that. We want students – we want them to learn about health administration, of course, and we respect the academic part, but we also want to give them the tools and the confidence to apply what they’re learning right now, because we all agree that that’s very important for adult learners.
I remember in a particular case, I had a student that just really wasn’t – didn’t feel like she was ready to do graduate school. Certainly didn’t feel like she was ready to do it in a distance environment, so I had a lot of one-on-one time with her over email, and actually we ended up setting up a couple of phone conversations, where you know, I just – I coached her through it. I told her, you know, she’s going to be able to do it, to have some faith in herself, that she got to that point because she was a good student, she was intelligent, she had the skills, and that we were going to get her there. And then – and she did well in the course, and she emailed me, probably about six months later, so about two more classes into it and said, “You know, I’m glad I stayed.” Because she was kind of on the brink. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to stay. And she said, “You know, I’m glad I stayed. I’m loving the program. I learned a lot from your class. I’m using a lot of what I learned in your class and these other classes,” so it was good. It made me feel good that we- you know – we held on to her, but also that she realized that we helped her realize that she had – she had what it took to get through the program.
It’s a terrific program. I enjoy teaching and I enjoy being a part of the program.