University of Louisiana at Lafayette student Lani Thompson always wanted a career in health care. But when she began clinicals as a nursing major, she knew she needed to carve another path to her goal.
“I realized (patient care) wasn’t what I was aiming towards,” she says. “I wanted to be in management.
“I like helping people, but my demeanor is better suited for administration.”
Thompson soon learned UL Lafayette offered a bachelor’s in Health Services Administration — an online degree program.
The program prepares students for entry and mid-level administrative and operational positions in clinics, hospitals, and a number of other settings through an interdisciplinary approach.
It was exactly what she needed.
“It teaches you a lot about the ins and outs of how things are run, why things are done the way they’re done, the legal aspects,” Thompson says. “It’s very interesting to see that side of it.”
UL Lafayette bound
Thompson, an Erath native, began dual enrollment classes with UL Lafayette before graduating high school. Enrolling at UL Lafayette as a freshman in 2015 was a natural progression.
Since then, Thompson, now 22, has moved to Lafayette, started working full time at an urgent care clinic, and gotten engaged. Learning online, she says, has helped her manage the demands on her time.
“When you’re an online student, you don’t have to take the time to come to campus and break up blocks of your day,” she says. “With online, as long as you set time aside for school after work or before work, you can pretty much work any time.”
The hours Thompson spends outside of work or away from coursework are reserved for spending time with her family, fiancé Brad, and her cat Beau.
Thompson said her family supported her decision to enroll in an online undergraduate program that better suited her goals, personality, and other responsibilities.
“They know how I work, my work ethic. They were glad that I wasn’t so stressed,” she says. “They could see it lifted a weight off of my shoulders to have time for school and work, and they were relieved I was going into something more suited for me.”
A Passion for Health Care Leadership
Thompson says it took being on the patient care side to realize where her professional interest and aptitude lay.
Now she’s able to engage with courses and materials that align with those values, from emergency management to law, in order to prepare for the changing technology, demands, and regulations in health care.
“A lot of times people might be hesitant to do an online program because they’re unsure how the course load or the faculty works with students, but the faculty in HSA are great,” Thompson says. “Anytime anyone has a question, they answer it quickly and they’re very helpful.
“They try to make sure you’re meeting the goals you’ve set for yourself.”
Faculty members include the Department Head for Allied Health, the chair of the Louisiana Center for Health Informatics and two additional faculty members who hold endowed professorships.
Dr. Rachel Ellison, professor and HSA program coordinator, says the interdisciplinary program positions students for a critical role in health care.
“We need competent, educated people to manage and operate large health systems,” Dr. Ellison says. “The students we have now are going to be in the health force and will be educated on the right things to do.”
Online Learning Curve
Thompson says she blended her course schedule with online courses before enrolling in a fully online bachelor’s degree program so she had an idea of how to tackle online learning.
“You have to make sure you write everything down — what’s due, when it’s due. You have to be goal-oriented enough to sit down and do the work,” she says. “The professors give you a lot of information that helps guide you towards what they’re expecting, but you have to make sure you’re on top of things, doing work on time.
“If you procrastinate, it doesn’t work well. I had to learn to not do that.”
She says she takes a proactive approach to her coursework, using a written planner to block out time for school throughout the week.
“I try to get things done ahead of time so I’m not stressed,” she says. “I try to do things early so that just in case I do overlook something, I have time to take care of it.”
Next step: Graduate School
Thompson is in the final stretch of her online degree program; she expects to graduate in May 2020. But that doesn’t mean her college career is over.
Thompson says she’s looking at leveraging the online learning skills she’s developed into a graduate degree. UL Lafayette’s AACSB-accredited MBA in Health Care Administration Program online is an attractive option, Thompson says.
“That would meet my needs for the future. I see myself being in a hospital administrator role,” Thompson says. “That’s my longterm goal — to be in that type of position.”
Become a leader in health care through the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Health Services Administration online degree program. Request more information to get started.