Accreditation process angers students

Donna Rane-Szostak, dean of Health Sciences and Human Services discusses the requirements for candidacy to students in the Human Information Technology associate degree program on Jan. 23 at the student informational meeting. (Cody Shoemake)

Kylie Corbett

Students may be rethinking the value of their last two years of courses under Saddleback College’s Health Information Technology (HIT) associate degree program, as the program is not yet accredited. The accreditation process can take up to two years once the program acquires candidacy.

Patricia Knuth has been taking courses under the HIT program for the past two years now, and is preparing to graduate.  Most students feel that the college failed to uphold its promise to have the program’s accreditation process finished by the time the first group of students were ready to graduate, Knuth said.  

Until the program is accredited by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), students that are ready to graduate from the HIT program will not be able to take the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) exam.

To take the exam, students must have an associate degree and come from an accredited program.  

“What started happening was we were in compliance when we started with the accrediting agency, but then some requirements changed,” said Safiah Mamoon, the current HIT program director.

While Saddleback was trying to have the HIT program accredited during its first two years, AHIMA’s requirements changed, calling for a full-time instructor.  This position however, did not exist at the college when AHIMA rolled out the new requirements, said Donna Rane-Szostak, dean of Health Sciences and Human Services.

Rane-Szostak met with students on Jan. 23, allowing them to voice their concerns.

“From my perspective, knowing that the position did not exist in the college, as a full-time position, that concerned me a great deal,” Rane-Szostak said.  “It was my integrity that wouldn’t allow us to apply until I knew that this position existed on this campus.”

Mamoon, was temporarily full time for a year and half, and is currently applying for the full-time position that now exists on the SOCCCD’s website.  The opening for the position is scheduled to close Mar. 25.

The accreditation process by AHIMA was discussed at this meeting. The college must first apply, and then must be accepted into candidacy.  

Currently, Saddleback does not have candidacy, but is ready to submit papers to AHIMA to begin the accreditation process.  The candidacy process takes up to 30 days.

The college has now realized what needs to be to be done, Mamoon said.  

“It’s moving forward.  I’m committed to the program, the college is committed,” Mamoon said.  “Everyone wants to move in that direction to apply very soon, and get it into candidacy.”  

The current students that are preparing to graduate the HIT program will receive all the credits for the courses they have enrolled and successfully completed over the last two years.  However, until the program is accredited, they will have to wait to take the RHIT exam.  

“You don’t start programs that you don’t anticipate doing well or the students going on and having it as their career, you want something that will work,” Rane-Szostak said. “If [any] of the [students] feel that [their time] has been wasted, I think [they] have gone through a really good program and that it will be accredited because now, we meet all the requirements.”

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