Priscilla Latkin graduated from Champlain College Online in 2019 with her master’s degree in healthcare administration.
What was your motivation for going back to school?
My decision to go back to school for my master’s degree goes back a few years. I always thought about enrolling in a graduate degree program when I was working in other industries. Before working in healthcare, I had experience in public relations, marketing, and banking. An MBA program never seemed like the right fit for me, so I held off. After a number of years working outside of Vermont, for both personal and professional reasons, I decided to move back.
I ended up getting a job as an Internal Communications Specialist at Rutland Regional Medical Center (RRMC), which got my foot in the door in the field of healthcare. I have worked in healthcare for 11 years now, and as I have advanced into leadership roles during my tenure at RRMC, it became obvious to me that in order to grow personally and professionally, I would need to do some work on the education front. For me to progress from working as a manager to get promoted into a director position, I would need my master’s degree. Becoming a director was really important to me, as it meant having a higher position within my organization as it would expose me to a higher level of decision-making, participation in programs I would not have available to me otherwise, and more.
As I began researching graduate programs, Champlain College Online (CCO), specifically through their truED Program, seemed like the best fit for me. I had actually attended The University of Vermont (UVM) for my undergrad and knew of Champlain. I had learned all about how Champlain was at the forefront of online learning and never doubted that the curriculum would be nothing short of top-notch. Knowing Champlain’s substantial roots in delivering exceptional and engaging online programs, I knew the college would meet my expectations. Additionally, given that I was working full-time in Rutland, Vermont, I had limited options to pursue a graduate program that fit nicely with my schedule and location. CCO ended up being the best fit for my circumstances.
Tell us about your experience with your advisor, instructors, and/or classmates.
In my experience, the Champlain community was very welcoming, supportive, and engaging. My advisor changed about a year into my master’s program, but both of the advisors I worked with helped me map out my timeline to complete my program in 18 months. I followed their recommendations to help me stay on track and allowed them to select the courses I would enroll in each semester to ensure a more efficient learning experience. My advisors were supportive, responsive, and committed to my success. I am proud to share that I did graduate with a 4.0!
All of my instructors were wonderful as well. Some were a bit more rigorous than others when it came to how they wanted work submitted. I think about Professor Neil Groberg, who led my law class, in particular. Professor Groberg was very adamant about following a specific writing style and doing my due diligence to be successful in his course. I remember writing one paper where I didn’t follow his specific guidelines, and while I still earned a strong grade, he took a moment to explain to me why he wanted me to follow his preferred writing style in the future. Once I got into the flow of following his expectations, I quickly realized that Professor Grober’s style and approach to writing ended up improving my writing skills. I still follow his writing standard today, modeling what I learned from school in my daily work.
As for classmates, I had a very diverse experience with my peers. I recall one course where we were divided into groups to work on a case study. We worked together so well! Some of those classmates ended up being in some of my other courses, which served me well. Seeing fellow peers in discussion boards built a sense of camaraderie and I was very engaged in learning about their experiences. Our conversations were very enriching and led to a lot of reflection. Some of my classmates were in the same courses as me but taking the MBA program, which I found especially interesting. It was reflective for me to learn about their perspectives in their industries and think about how they were similar or different from my own. I do continue to chat with some graduates today, particularly if someone reaches out to me asking for advice about implementing educational programs in their organizations. Since that is my area of expertise these days, I can guide them and share knowledge in a helpful way.
What, in your opinion, makes Champlain unique?
Champlain is special in many ways, but what comes to mind for me, in particular, is the caliber of the professors and their methods of instruction. I received exactly what I needed out of my program. My instructors were challenging, they held me accountable for what I needed to produce, and encouraged me to earn strong grades. In today’s age of online learning, with many institutions having a reputation of delivering a less than impressive online college, I was impressed to see how challenging and engaging the caliber of my program was.
What do you do for work?
I currently serve RRMC as their Director of Training Education. I am responsible for leading nonclinical and clinical staff and providers, ensuring that they meet a set of required competencies. Some of these competencies are annual, or even quarterly, so it is my responsibility to ensure that RRMC offers the right educational programs to support our staff in meeting these healthcare standards. My team is also responsible for general orientation and onboarding travelers. Our programs are enlightening, engaging, and supportive and are created in service of RRMC’s mission, vision, and commitments to our community, patients, and employees.
My team consists of six clinical educators with backgrounds in nursing, two training specialists, and a training coordinator who work together to develop and facilitate our in-person and online learning curriculums. Our team collectively supports organization-wide training that has a clinical nature to it in support of our employees. Additionally, we coordinate and support student placements, internships, and clinical rotations to help facilitate their education and clinical experiences.
How did your courses relate to your work?
All of the courses I took while at Champlain relate to the work I do daily at RRMC. I found that my law course, finance course, and the courses that were specific to delivering healthcare in today’s current environment were especially helpful to me. Each course’s curriculum gave me a broader perspective on what working in healthcare and what being a leader in healthcare mean. I apply that knowledge every single day in my work in various ways.
What advice would you give to someone considering going back to school at Champlain?
When I started thinking about going back to school, I confided in a close friend of mine who worked as an online instructor. I will share the advice I received from her, which is: make sure you carve out at least an hour or two every single day to log into the discussion board, check your syllabus, and make sure you are on pace with the schedule. If you don’t stay on track, you’ll end up having a really tough time catching up. There were very few occasions when I fell behind and it took extra time to catch up on missed discussion posts and lecture readings. Whether you work full-time or part-time, allocate school time in your schedule seven days per week.
At Champlain specifically, I also encourage you to make a connection with each of your instructors. Faculty typically make a point to introduce themselves to you early on in the courses. Listen to their introductions, read their bios, and take a moment to introduce yourself to them in return. If you establish a rapport with your instructors early on, you’ll be in a better position if/when you have questions or need support later on. Having that open, connected relationship, especially in an online learning environment, will let your instructors know that you’re engaged.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your Champlain experience?
Whether you’re trying to advance your career in the field of healthcare with a graduate degree, or you’re just starting in the industry, one of the benefits of Champlain’s healthcare programs is that students learn a broad spectrum about healthcare and all of the various jobs out there available in this growing field.
Do your best to keep the big picture in mind. Be open-minded about the positions you’re looking at and avoid being too narrow. If you have a specific degree under your belt, that’s different. However, if you plan to work in finance but have even a slight interest in human resources or compliance, take advantage of job opportunities like that to get your foot in the door of an organization that you want to work for so you can learn their culture, mission, vision, goals, and values. Even starting in a different department of an organization, as I did, could lead to better internal opportunities down the road.
Priscilla recently participated in a recorded panel discussion hosted by Champlain College Online, "What's Next For Healthcare Administration Leadership Post-Pandemic?" Alongside program director Michael Zemany, MBA, FACHE and Champlain faculty members Donald Lewis and Neil Groberg, Priscilla discussed what the unprecedented challenges and opportunities from COVID-19 have taught us, and how up-and-coming healthcare leaders can take these lessons and prepare for their future careers.
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