A weekend of learning: An undergraduate’s perspective of the Healthcare Systems Process Improvement Conference 2013

By Jenn Badylak-Reals
Industrial Engineering 2013
UMass Amherst

When I first learned about the Society of Health Systems, it was about two weeks before the 2012 national conference in Las Vegas. As an undergraduate student I was right in the middle of midterms and projects and would not be able to spend the time away for my classes, even for Las Vegas. Thus I started planning for the next year to make room to attend the conference and figure out what the heck an engineer actually does in health care. Once I heard the 2013 conference was going to be in New Orleans, I was hoping spring break would be around that time so I could spend more than a workshop filled weekend in The Big Easy, but it didn’t work out that way and luckily too because it was only a high of 40s all week!

As a student my mission for the conference was to absorb as much information as possible from the ample number of workshops hosted by brilliant and experienced attendees. In the spring I will be graduating with 25 fellow industrial engineer students, and only three have had health care experience or exposure. Sadly this is the group from a university with 20,000 undergraduates. Fortunately for me, my phenomenal engineering career center and father have taught me the necessity of networking and to pay forward my effort and work to set myself up for a happier and more successful situation later on. Thus it was a no brainer for me, an industrial engineering student interested in the health care industry, to attend this year’s conference. Fortunately, once I left the beignets behind at the end of the weekend, I couldn’t have been happier with my decision to make the trip south.

The SHS conference epitomizes the concept of networking. Starting with the student welcome network session to the opening reception, I was surprised by the excitement and interest everyone was showing in sharing knowledge and meeting new people. These attendees sure know the importance of networking and have it down to a science: listening and helping others with anything, from the issues in the workplace to the best mountains to ski in New Hampshire. At the student networking session I was able to trade ideas of helpful course and locations of internships with fellow students. While at the full conference reception I was able to learn from industry leaders about current issues in hospitals and gather suggestions on courses, software and skills which will help me excel as an engineer in a health care setting. This was exactly the information I needed to complete my college career of knowledge.

Learning continued throughout the weekend with value packed workshops. The workshops geared toward students provided me information to excel in my current work while the other topics exposed me to the current issues and possible solutions to real hospital problems. Although I have experience from research of heath care technology integration and a hospital internship, it was eye opening to see all of the possible ways and problems industrial engineering can be applied to in a health care setting. Additionally these solutions gave me new ideas of ways to analyze data and processes in my course work and project. I was pleased to see some of the operations research, statistical, simulation and lean techniques I have been learning in school, applied to real world problems.

This type of learning is by far the best: through conversations with personable and intelligent industry leaders. Everyone I met was supportive and their passion for health care was evident in their conversations. I would be talking to the friendliest, most down to earth person and then later on find out they are a director of operations for one of the top hospital in the country! An additional plus was many attendees were looking to fill open positions in their institution or company. Nothing is better than learning from the best, staying in contact with the best, conversing with the best all in the Big Easy. I’d call that a value added event for my industrial engineering career.

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