Nelda Marcotte, M.S., RHIA
Thanks to a true Educator, I have come to understand the difference between a Teacher and an Educator. I have come to understand by my getting the great honor of meeting and getting to know Nelda Marcotte. The word “emeritus” refers to a retired college professor, minister, or high ranking official. When a professor stops teaching, she might be given the title of emeritus, which basically means she can still be remembered as a successful professor. The word emeritus, pronounced eh-MER-ih-tus, is Latin, originally meaning “veteran soldier.” Based on this definition, I consider Nelda to be an emeritus and a veteran soldier—maybe not in the same way that it’s used by others—but by the very fact of her 58 years as an HIM professional and veteran soldier in serving our profession as she has done her whole career. She is still teaching part-time at Phoenix College as an adjunct teacher for Medical Terminology and Medical Billing courses. Those that know Nelda know of her dedication to her students and how much she cares and wants them to succeed.
While the world needs both teachers and educators, true educators are in short supply. We are all teachers to someone—our kids, our parents, co-workers, friends, even acquaintances—but true educators, like Nelda, have given their whole life in some capacity, teaching and educating others because it is more of a calling deep within them. Education is the door to information and taking control of your future by acquiring knowledge in any area of life. Nelda imparts a gift of knowledge to anyone who wants to acquire an education in the career of Health Information Management. Let me tell you just a little bit about Nelda’s career of 58 years and why I wanted to spotlight and share her career path in this article.
Nelda has been an active member of AHIMA since 9/16/1957. That’s 58 years! She started her career in 1953 at College of St. Scholastia (CSS) in Duluth, MN. In 1935, St. Scholastia was the first college in the nation to offer a baccalaureate degree in what was then called Medical Record Library Science (MRLS). The program at CSS was fully accredited by the American Medical Records Association, now the American Health Information Management Association. It started out as a 5 year program. The program is now known as Health Information Management.
Nelda lived at the college while studying for her degree. During the summer between her junior and senior year, she lived with the student nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital while completing her clinical experience at the hospital. She recalls her most beneficial experience during that summer was in the Hospital Organization course where she got to go to every department in the hospital to see where a patient’s record started and how it made its way to the Medical Record Department. This experience included sitting with the pathologist while he examined and dictated reports of organs and slides of tissue removed in surgery. She also got to observe diagnostic testing in the x-ray departments. She also spent some time at the nurse’s station observing the unit clerk’s activities. All of the Medical Records students also had to observe two autopsies—one male and one female.
A valuable opportunity Nelda remembers from that summer semester was that she got to observe Sr. Loretta, the Director of Medical Records Program at CSS. Sr. Loretta was not only the program’s director but was also the Director of Medical Records at St. Mary’s Hospital. Nelda feels that her future comfort and security in dealing with physicians and department heads was due to Sr. Loretta’s treating everyone with respect as professionals and thus receiving the same treatment from the trainees.
Nelda’s first job after graduation was a three month stint at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. She and two classmates took the summer job doing backlog coding which was supposed to be done by Medical Residents. This experience made her feel very secure in her future years of coding in hospitals. While at NIH she and her classmates also got to visit the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.
After the summer job at NIH, Nelda started her first full time job as an Assistant Director in the Medical Records Department of a 200 bed hospital in Minnesota. This hospital, like many hospitals at that time, had a nursing program, an x-ray technology program, and a medical record technical program. By the end of the first year, Nelda was not only serving as the Director of the Medical Record Department but also as the Director of the Medical Record Technician Program. In addition to all this, she was responsible for filling all nonmedical supplies for the hospital staff. When there was a need Nelda would fill the gap and create whatever was needed. She developed a training program for medical transcriptionists by creating actual dictated tapes from physicians for them to listen to and practice on.
Nelda’s career journey from 1957 to 1977 involved her being the Director of Medical Records Departments in several hospitals in Minnesota and Wisconsin. In 1976, she received a grant from AHIMA to attend a teaching preparation workshop at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
From 1977 to 1980, Nelda worked at Viterbo College in LaCrosse, WI, in the Medical Records Information bachelor’s degree program. She was a part-time instructor and part-time coordinator for the development of a progression program from medical record technician to medical record administrator. She also has served as coordinator for medical record technicians and medical record administrator students during their clinical practice and clinical internships.
In 1980 to 1981, Nelda attended the University of Kentucky getting her Master’s Degree in Allied Health Education. Two main features of the program that she liked were (1) fellow students were all in either allied health fields or nursing, and 2) the final requirement for the degree was a comprehensive exam rather than a thesis.
Nelda moved to Arizona in the fall of 1981, following graduation from the University of Kentucky to get away from the snow, ice and very cold weather. Also, her brother and sister-in-law and their three children were living in Phoenix, so she had a place to stay until she found work in March of 1982 at Good Samaritan Hospital, now Banner Health Samaritan. She worked there for 9 years as one of the three Assistant Directors.
She has also worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital, now Dignity Health, for a short time and then Maricopa County Hospital, now Maricopa Integrate Health Systems, for 5 years. Nelda has worked for several years as Director of Medical Records for a former hospice, spent 6 months abstracting medical records at all the hospitals in the metropolitan area for a Head and Spinal Cord Injury study outsourced to the Maricopa County Health Department by the Arizona State Health Department. Throughout all her years working in hospitals, Nelda (or she) has planned and coordinated educational activities for health record technicians and health information administration student affiliates.
In 1985, Nelda began teaching Medical Terminology part-time at Phoenix College in the Medical Records Technology Department, now the Health Information Management Program, while working full-time at various health care facilities. After retiring from from full-time work, she has continued teaching part-time and going back to fill in for full instructors on leave of absence. During those years she also taught other classes. To this day, Nelda is still teaching two days a week as she prefers to teach face to face. She continues to teach medical billing and reimbursement which is now an online hybrid class.
When asked how she would describe herself, Nelda says she loves to teach and help her students be successful, not only in their studies, but also in their lives. Nelda is caring and compassionate, forgiving and approachable. Her favorite things to do involved helping develop her staff and working with the physician staff. She enjoys the medical-legal side of healthcare and always enjoyed going to court with medical records. Nelda is very much a caregiver in every way.
With all that being said, you can see that Nelda is a true HIM Educator Emeritus in every sense of the word serving for many years, not only students, but everyone she works with and meets. Nelda has the ability to see people for what they can become and not what they might have been. She sees the potential and good in everyone.
Nelda is not just a true educator but a life-long learner, she continues to this day to keep up with current regulatory changes with Medicare, she continues to go to St. Scholastic alumni meetings and to conferences to keep abreast of the topics she enjoys. Nelda is truly an Educator Extraordinaire deserving of the title of AzHIMA’s HIM Educator, Emeritus as a veteran soldier to the HIM profession.
Debra Beisel Denton, RHIA, CCS, CCDS
AzHIMA Coding Roundtable Coordinator