Most wouldn’t think of Disney World as an ideal place to work on college assignments, but Katie Carpenter isn’t like most people.
“My son loves to tell everyone about how I would do homework standing in line at Disney,” Carpenter said. “I would take the opportunity in the long lines to answer discussion board questions and respond to my classmates’ questions.”
As a wife, mom and full-time informatics specialist, Carpenter had to figure out how to balance her time when she went back to school to obtain her Master of Science in Health Informatics degree from Jacksonville University.
“I needed the flexibility to work around the needs of my family and my workplace, and JU’s online program allowed me the freedom to not lose the things I love to do,” Carpenter said. “I wanted a school with a solid reputation that I knew would help me reach my career goals.”
Achieving those goals seems within reach. Upon graduation, the Mayo Clinic offered Carpenter a promotion that came with a 38% pay increase. She is now a quality informatics specialist working in regulatory and strategic surveying. She helps make sure the clinic is compliant with Medicare and Medicaid mandates, as well as strategically surveying for improvement opportunities.
“We are in the process of transitioning EHR systems and the JU informatics program helped me understand the process of effective project management for a large transition in a healthcare organization,” Carpenter said.
While she was in school, Carpenter found several strategies that worked to help her create an effective time-management program. She had graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2005, so re-adjusting to a school schedule after a decade was challenging, especially an online one.
“The online platform allowed for a lot of freedom, but assignments still had due dates and I still attended live lectures. I scheduled everything down to 15-minute increments, and my husband and I spent time every Sunday making a plan of attack for the next week,” Carpenter said.
After a few classes, she realized she needed to ask for help because her family was living on take-out food due to her not having as much time to cook. She was able to have her mother help out by cooking meals and creating a meal plan for their family.
“My husband was thankful to have home-cooked meals for lunch and dinner, and having meal planning off my plate alleviated so much stress,” Carpenter said. “Over the last two years, I have learned my limitations and learned that it is OK to ask for help when needed.”
One of her fears when starting the program was that due to the nature of online experiences, she would feel isolated and alone. However, her experience was the exact opposite and over the course of the program, she made friends from all across the country. She even met up with fellow student, Jeanette Pascale, in person at Disney World with her family.
“Even though we have all graduated, we still check in with each other regularly through phone calls, text messages, email and Facetime,” Carpenter said. “I never thought I would make some of my closest friends over an online learning platform, but I am so thankful for their support and friendship.”
Carpenter encourages those who are thinking of going back to school to just do it, especially since it can help make a difference in the lives of patients.
“At first, I was terrified, but that feeling was quickly replaced with confidence and now I am considered an expert in my field. I just had to take the first step in enrolling,” Carpenter said.