It was serendipity that led Beth Fenske to a career path in health care. When she was in her twenties, she happened to see a job posting in the Rochester newspaper for a data entry position at the Mayo Clinic. She applied, got the job, and fell headfirst into health care. That little taste was enough to convince her health care was a field she could commit to for life.
“I feel very fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to live my passion,” she says.
Over the years, her enthusiasm and appetite to learn were so transparent that Beth met lots of mentors who took her under their wings. Clinicians and doctors took a liking to her, and she had the unconventional opportunity to gain experience above and beyond her various job descriptions. Beth learned by doing, developing legitimate skill sets in phlebotomy (lab tests and drawing blood) and pathology (studying body tissue samples). She moved around the country, working in clinics and hospitals in Minnesota, Kentucky, Ohio, Georgia, and North Carolina, gaining experience along the way.
“I’ve had amazing mentors, instructors, and coworkers that have guided me through my career,” she says. “I got to the point where I could be a full pathology assistant—dissection and dictation. I’m not certified because I never had the education, but I had all the on-the-job training and I’ve held the position in several places. I wouldn’t be where I am if someone hadn’t said, ‘Let me show you’.”
When Beth’s path circled back to her home state of Minnesota, she faced a harsh reality.
“I realized I was as far as I could possibly get without an education,” Beth says. “I was also at the point in my career where I didn’t necessarily want to be in clinical application anymore. I wanted to work in administration and management, putting my experience to work.”
An Education to Supplement her Experience
Beth had started and stopped her education a few times. Life always seemed to get in the way of completing a degree. But now that she was back in Minnesota, and at the point where an education was the only thing stopping her from rising into a management role in health care, she pursued an education in earnest.
In 2016 she discovered the Health Services Management (HSM) program and instantly felt that it was made for her. She loved the business and administration side of health care and saw that it was the piece that would truly supplement her experience.
“To me, my education is a job. I don’t get paid to do this job, but it’s going to pay off later.”
“To me, my education is a job,” she says. “I don’t get paid to do this job, but it’s going to pay off later.”
Her ambition in the classroom is palpable. Just as she was hungry to learn on the job, she’s been hungry to learn in the classroom. And that enthusiasm to learn has not only ensured that her knowledge base has grown exponentially, but it has also led her to expand her professional network.
“I value every minute and soak up every word in the classroom because I’m paying out of pocket. I work three jobs and I work hard for every penny,” Beth says. “My grades are really important to me.”
She cites classes like Health Care Finance and Health Care Law and Ethics as being especially excellent and eye-opening. The HSM program resonated with her because she was so steeped in real-world experience, and the classes are all taught by industry experts. For Beth, the closer she can get to experiential learning, the better.
Applying Her Education
Ever eager to roll up her sleeves and apply what she learns, Beth has found opportunities to apply what she’s learning at school.
A couple of years ago, she started a medical staffing business, and now her newly acquired business administration skill set is proving very helpful in navigating the ins and outs of that endeavor. The business was, in fact, acquired in late 2018 by a larger staffing firm. In the new structure, Beth is the Director of Nursing and is completing her HSM internship on the job there as well, exploring CRM options to improve communications.
“Being a student in the HSM program has caused me to go into my work with a different mindset,” she says. “I learn in the classroom, then I go out into the world and apply it. That’s how I understand and internalize material.”
She’s also become involved with the Minnesota Medical Group Managers organization and is a new member of the Women’s Health Leadership Trust. Her network grows everyday.
Beth will graduate in December, a colossal achievement that she’s dreamed about for nearly 30 years.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for this program. The instructors have been phenomenal; they’ve taught me so much,” Beth says. “I really feel that when I walk away from this, I will have gained a lot.”