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How Continuing Your Education Benefits the Cancer Registry Profession
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By Karen Mordarski, RHIT, CTR, Cancer Information Specialist

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the healthcare industry seemingly overnight, with Americans every day losing their lives to this devastating virus. On top of that, many Americans have been forced to file for unemployment or have lost their jobs altogether. These are indeed scary times, but despite that, this is a chance for us to rise as leaders in our respective healthcare fields and tackle the unknown head on.

For those of us working in the cancer registry, now is the time that each of us should take a long hard look at pursuing a higher level of college education that can improve the future outcomes of the cancer registry profession. I must admit this is not an easy path to undertake, but the rewards will without a doubt yield a return on your investment personally and financially, not to mention it will go a long way towards improving someone’s health and life as a whole. Continuing your education benefits the cancer registry profession in ways you might not think!

As certified tumor registrars (CTRs), we have seen a healthcare transformation occurring with technological advancements in data reporting and outcomes required by the Commission on Cancer (CoC). In 2018, the change started and is continuing with more detailed updates submitted in the 2020 CoC Standards and how CTRs must interpret and correctly capture the vital cancer data. CTRs find themselves having to understand precision medicine, genetics, artificial intelligence and biomarkers. One way to elevate our profession even further is by obtaining a bachelor’s degree that will coincide with the healthcare field. There are promising healthcare curriculums that many local universities offer that will enable you to make the right choice to turn your current work experience into a promising healthcare career. You now have made a conscious and inspiring choice to strengthen your skillset and will gain the empowerment of the cancer registry profession through high-quality data analytics that saves cancer patients' lives. Education is the best investment an individual can make to increase your professionalism within your career field.

For my studies, I chose to undertake a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration at Kent State University. This area of expertise will give you the transformative experience in data analytics, the conceptualized principles of micro and macroeconomics, provide essential knowledge in financial and managerial accounting to create an effective operational department budget and emphasizes the importance of human resource management to properly forecast your department’s strategic plan. With the added benefit of having a bachelor’s degree, it provides you with a clear understanding of how the healthcare business operates from both the hospital and for-profit entity perspective.

One might ask how does the above equate to cancer registry operations? That is an insightful question to ask! The transformation occurs when you provide concise data analytics to your physician’s special studies requests that reflect the answers to the questions posed in the study. This is illustrated through detailed graph charts or pivot tables created highlighting the clear-cut study analysis. Another example targeting the importance of human resource management within cancer registry operations is in building a cohesive cancer program. Networking is an integral part of today’s business no matter what profession you are in. The core of your hospital’s cancer team consists of administrators, clinicians and allied health professionals. The art of networking means taking the time to build strong communication ties with your healthcare professionals, as well as, your coworkers and know how to use your network to enrich your cancer program.

By knowing the fundamentals of financial and managerial accounting, cancer registrars have the knowledge to look at how they can affect the hospital’s cancer center return on investment. The most effective method is to streamline your processes which will increase your efficiency in time management and decrease overall costs in redundant procedures. Casefinding is very important to the cancer registry to capture all cancer diagnoses for your facility. The cancer registrar should review their casefinding process annually within their vendor’s software program to capitalize on the current technologies available through artificial intelligence.  The next step in cancer registry automation is natural language processing. By utilizing every part of cancer registry software, registrars will increase overall cancer data accuracy and improve your individual productivity measures on KPI scores.  

From a management standpoint, you will have the ability to showcase your abilities to your organization through effective communication and teamwork skills along with elevating your hospital’s cancer program efficiency.  I can’t stress enough that I am happy that I chose to continue my education, even though it was a long, hard road to travel for some time, but the investment is well worth it for me! It will certainly open many opportunities for you as well, opportunities like exploring new cutting-edge technologies that will increase your productivity and creativity of your workflow processes. Take the leap of faith and start your educational journey today. I promise you won’t regret it!

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About the Author

Karen Mordarski, RHIT, CTR