(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Kayla Halmon, of Harlingen, was glad to volunteer during a recent morning at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Primera that was hosted by Cameron County Public Health.
Halmon, a spring 2021 graduate of Texas State Technical College’s Health Information Technology program, input patients’ vaccine data into ImmTrac2, the Texas Immunization Registry maintained by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“I find it very rewarding to help the community,” Halmon said. “The Cameron County Public Health and the city of Primera have been kind to the volunteers. It is a lot easier for me to work and feel motivated. I feel appreciated for doing something meaningful.”
Bellanira C. Fuentes, a licensed vocational nurse for the county’s public health department, said the firsthand experience of documenting health data is beneficial to the students.
“These TSTC students have been awesome,” she said. “We only have so much manpower to do these clinics, so we’re grateful for the help. They treat the patients wonderfully.”
Beyda Ramirez, an instructor in TSTC’s Health Information Technology program, credits Jean Lashbrook, TSTC’s associate provost in Harlingen, for encouraging the Health Information Technology program to work with area vaccine clinics.
“One thing is for certain, our students always step up to the plate,” Lashbrook said. “It’s all about the patient, whether in the clinic setting or in the community. During this pandemic year, our programs have had a difficult time securing clinical sites. The vaccine clinics have helped the programs with hands-on experience, and the community has profited.”
Ramirez said a key for students’ success is getting real-world experience through practicums or volunteer work. Workers in the health information technology field play critical roles in the care of patients without directly interacting with them. Workers in the field are guided by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
“We are the ones that get the data and we take care of it,” Ramirez said. “We make sure it is accurate and is kept confidential. That is our main thing. With the medical information, we verify and make sure it is accurate and make sure it stays confidential. We also do billing and coding.”
Students in TSTC’s Nursing program also volunteered at the Primera event by giving vaccines to visitors. Patients drove up to a designated area, lowered the window to their vehicle, and TSTC students administered the vaccine.
In recent days, TSTC’s Health Information Technology and Nursing programs have volunteered at COVID-19 vaccine clinics in Harlingen and Raymondville.
TSTC’s Medical Office Specialist certificate and Associate of Applied Science degree in Health Information Technology are online programs. After students graduate, they have the opportunity to take the Registered Health Information Technician exam given by the American Health Information Management Association.
Registration continues for the summer and fall semesters at TSTC. For more information, go to tstc.edu.