Health Information Management student uses university and college to build a strong healthcare resume

Sarah Mandarano never considered college. As an academically strong student in high school with an interest in medicine, Sarah only ever considered university.

“My parents told me ‘you’re going to university.’ That was my path,” she explained. “I honestly never even looked at colleges because it was always university. There was no point in looking.”

Sarah left her hometown of Peterborough, Ont., after high school to study Bio-Medical Science at the University of Guelph. Sarah chose this major because she wanted a career in the biomedical field and Biology was her strongest high school subject.

Feeling homesick, Sarah decided to move back to Peterborough after first year and transferred into Trent University’s Biology program. She loved her experience at Trent, including the smaller class sizes and faculty.

“In high school I thought I’d be a doctor and then in university I considered being a physiotherapist, but around my third year of university I looked into the HIM program at Fleming and realized I would really love that,” said Sarah.

HIM, or Health Information Management, is a two-year diploma program where students learn to use technology to capture and analyze data, and create health information for healthcare delivery use, and financial and management planning.

Sarah was introduced to the program by her boyfriend’s stepsister and cousin, who both work at Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC) and are Fleming HIM graduates.

“I didn’t want to be hands-on, I didn’t want direct patient contact, but I wanted to use my expertise,” Sarah explained. “In this, you get to use a computer all day – and I’m from the generation who grew up on computers, so I’m good with that – and you get to use medical information.”

She finished her Honours degree at Trent University and then enrolled at Fleming College, using some of her university credits towards her diploma.

“I think my university experience helps,” said Sarah. “I was always studying at Trent and I had a high course-load, so I know how to prioritize time, and I think it helps having a degree long-term for my career. But I wasn’t getting a job I loved through my degree; and there’s lots of university graduates, but not a lot of jobs. I wanted my resume to stand out and I want a job I love. My program size at Fleming is small, it’s a specialized skill, and I know I will get employed from it.”

Sarah said she loves the HIM program at Fleming, especially the faculty.

“It is so interesting and the teachers explain things really well. We have our own lab with the two big screens and it feels really comfortable, and it feels like they’re preparing you for what your workday will be like,” said Sarah.

“I want to work at PRHC and it’s nice that our teachers also work there! One works in the Health Records Department, so we have connections and it’s nice to know we’re meeting people who can help us in our career,” she said.

Sarah is in her fourth semester at Fleming and has been recommending the program to her university friends.

“They don’t know what to do, so I tell them about this program and how it complements my university degree really well,” she said.