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Alumna Andrea Romo is following the road less traveled

By Laurie Davies

If, God forbid, you suffer a medical trauma, the last thing you want to worry about is getting the wrong procedure because of a mistake with your patient identity. Andrea Romo (and people like her) makes sure that doesn’t happen.

Romo (Bachelor of Science in Management, 2021) works as a senior analyst for CommonSpirit Health®. It’s important work, and it must be done with the utmost care.

“We ‘merge traumas,’” Romo explains. “By that, I mean we make sure when someone comes in for trauma care, we’ve got the correct person. We validate Social Security numbers, make sure the identity of the person is correct and get the medical history under one medical history number.”

In other words, she protects patients against fraud and, in the long run, against care that might not be compatible with prior medical history. She is a guardian of patient safety, care and privacy.

From healthcare to IT

Romo was, in some ways, built for this job — even though it wasn’t her first choice. She grew up wanting to be a nurse but found her way into health information management instead. That work opened her eyes to the fact that she preferred technology to patient care. She is methodical and meticulous, qualities she brought to bear in the field of medical records before moving over to emergency identity management, or EIM. “I didn’t think I was going to stay here. I didn’t think it was for me,” she says.

Shelley Harward, EIM system manager and Romo’s direct manager, is glad Romo stayed. “Identity management is very detailed and can be tedious,” Harward says, adding that as efficient as electronic health records are (as opposed to the old-school paper version), they open up problems with identity.

“Patients are Andrea’s number-one priority,” Harward says. “She has a really big region that she oversees, and she has it cleaned up. I never have to worry about her. She’s independent and driven, and she has trained a lot of our new hires as well.”

The “ultimate prize”

Managing career responsibilities isn’t all that Romo has had on her plate during the past seven years of working in EIM. She’s also had school. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Management from University of Phoenix in October 2021 and is currently working on a Master of Information Systems degree. A single mom with kids ages 16, 11 and 5 — the youngest of whom has autism — she says her pursuit of a graduate degree is all about doing something for herself.

“You have to want it,” she says, acknowledging that going to school later in life is hard. A typical day involves eight hours of work, grocery shopping, cooking, helping kids with homework, cleaning and then finally doing her own two hours of homework. On weekends, sometimes she has to say no to the activities her kids want to do so that she can catch up on assignments.

“I’ve had many nights of crying, frustration, exhaustion and thinking, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’” she says. “But then I remember I’ve always known this is what I wanted.”

Earning that degree from a school that supports students with flexible online courses made getting what she always knew she wanted that much more feasible for Romo. And now, her MIS degree extends beyond personal goals into professional aspirations. She wants to advance within her corporation, and she feels an MIS may position her to better be able to do that. “Information tech is something I feel broadens my chances of doing more IT work instead of just patient identity work,” she says.

Romo acknowledges she looks forward to regaining free time once she has earned her master’s. A Northern California resident, she loves to take her kids on weekend trips through NorCal, Oregon and other Western states.

The end is in sight. She has eight more classes until she earns her MIS, and she’s on track to graduate in October 2023. “I was a mother at 20. I put education on hold for my children,” Romo says. “When I was 35, I decided I wanted to give myself the ultimate prize. That prize for me is education.”

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