Alumna Michele Hillman Explains her Path from Bedside Care to Tech Director
January 25, 2021
Drexel alumna, Michele Hillman, DNP, knew, from an early age, that her calling was to be a nurse. The path to her current position at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), began with an associate’s degree and a position in acute cardiac care. “I had a desire to do community health and worked in the visiting nurse field for 18 years,” Hillman shared. Much of that time she spent in case management and parlayed that experience into a job developing and implementing internet-based software for hospital systems across the country to streamline the discharge planning process.
Hillman discovered she loved technology and took a position at CHOP 12 years ago when they were first implementing EPIC, the electronic health record system. “They needed folks who had a technology and healthcare background, so I joined their team to help with their process improvement and implementation strategy,” she explained. That evolved into multiple quality and strategic initiatives, eventually landing her, nine years ago, as the senior director, Case Management, Care Management and Clinical Documentation Improvement.
Hillman earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice and MSN degrees from Drexel University, specializing in Leadership and Management of Health. She joined Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professionals as an adjunct faculty member in 2014 and has taught in the graduate online MSN program.
We asked Hillman about her experience at Drexel, her thoughts on nursing and advice to those contemplating a nursing career.
Why did you choose Drexel?
MH: Our health care problems are so complex; it takes continual thought and knowledge to formulate solutions. Drexel’s DNP and MSN curriculums had all the components I wanted—strategic management, health policy and quality improvement. It was one of the best journeys academically—everything about the program was phenomenal all the way down to our practicums out in health systems.
How did you feel supported by your professors?
MH: The professors were always available —just a phone call or email away. They are dedicated and willing to support you in any way. The professors and chairs of the classes put an extreme amount of thought into developing their courses. They create the foundation for future thought leaders.
Professors don’t just stop being available once their classes are finished. Professor Cheryl Portwood, who taught various courses I took, was instrumental in bridging my experiences and what I wanted as a student into how I would teach as adjunct faculty.
Is there an interaction you had with other students that was impactful?
MH: When you start an online program, you always worry about the connections. We had 11 students in our doctorate program cohort. When we all met during orientation, we were strongly advised to form a support group. We did just that, and it carried us through the two years. One of us was always available, at any hour, to talk through a project or clarify an assignment. They became my school family; to me, that was the most impactful. Every single person in my cohort was there to support everybody else. For 11 strangers with very different backgrounds, to come together and be that cohesive, quite honestly, is amazing.
What advice would you give to someone considering a nursing degree?
MH: As a BSN, you may be thinking, ‘where will this take me?’ I’m here to say anywhere! Madeline Bell, the CEO at CHOP, started as a pediatric nurse; she actually held the position I have today.
You will have the most incredible opportunity to experience and go into a myriad of specialties—your nursing degree can take you anywhere that your imagination does. Nurses work in the technology sector, entertainment industry and Capitol Hill, influencing and writing health policies and pushing legislation.
The last piece of advice I will give is practical and for those who are fearful of biostatistics. If somebody asked me, “Would you rather swim with sharks who are really hungry at dusk and the water is really cold or take a biostatistics class?’ I would have replied, “How far is the shore and how hungry are the sharks?’ You know what? I’m here to say, biostatistics is not that bad. Believe in yourself, and you can do anything!
Written by Roberta S. Perry