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Forward-Thinking Models for PPE: Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

By Katie Kerr, EdD, RHIA, and Eric Nordgren

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will ripple through healthcare for years to come. It brought ongoing tragedy and fear, shifting our collective focus to a unique national and global lens while isolating us at the same time. We learned, adapted, persevered, and will continue to do so.

The pandemic also hit fast-forward on the development and adaptation of remote work possibilities and learning opportunities, alongside many other changes. In healthcare and in education, there is no going back to pre-pandemic workplace realities and lives. The future of the professional practice experience (PPE) component of the HIIM curriculum will serve as a bellwether for the long-term adoption of the pandemic-related changes that our industry implemented because this experience is the most direct connection between the pedagogical delivery of knowledge and real-world application.

Let’s identify a couple of specific examples that illustrate potentially influential components for consideration. Though some positions like coding had shifted to a remote workplace environment prior to COVID-19, most other HIIM functions moved remote with the employees during 2020.

As a result, there may be a trend of traditional facility-based HIM departments becoming a model of the past. With financial constraints, positions were cut and strategic realignment occurred across organizations. While HIIM professionals already occupied space in numerous areas, the variety of career paths to explore and understand has widened further within new reporting structures.

So how will the shifting environment affect PPE? Well, we know that the HIIM industry and professionals will continue to change, HIIM education and educators will continue to adapt, and the PPE will continue to be a profound and crucial capstone to the education that students receive. Flexibility will be key, and innovation will be necessary for institutions to continue to maintain strong relationships with industry partners while continuing to meet educational benchmarks. There’s a lot to think about!


Critical Questions
I would be interested in understanding how the pandemic has affected your PPE models. What have been your successes and challenges? How do we build toward the future of HIIM education? Let me know at this post on AHIMA Access.

  • What are the greatest challenges facing students, mentors, and educators in coordinating and completing successful PPEs?
  • What are the greatest opportunities for new learning and career preparation within the PPE?

Katie Kerr ( is assistant professor and academic coordinator of professional practice at the College of St. Scholastica.

Eric Nordgren ( is program manager at the College of St. Scholastica.

Note: Katie Kerr and Eric Nordgren will co-present “Forward-Thinking Models for PPE: Lessons Learned from the Pandemic” at AOE21 on Tuesday, July 27, from 2:50 pm to 3:35 pm.

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