MRA Thought of the Day–Growing Your Own Registrars: Tough Times Demand Creative Solutions

Nancy Hinchliffe, RHIA, CTR, Vice President of Cancer Registry Nancy Hinchliffe, RHIA, CTR, Vice President of Cancer Registry

By Nancy Hinchliffe, RHIA, CTR, Vice President of Cancer Registry, MRA

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 16 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer between 1990 and 2004. Not only are new cancer cases being identified daily, but patients are surviving longer thanks to new medical treatments and modalities. More cancer cases generate greater amounts of data. And that data that is used to prevent and control cancer, and improve patient care.

Cancer Registrars help meet the growing demand for cancer information. They are the first step in collecting and reporting cancer data. The information they abstract and report forms the foundation for cancer-related research, treatment advances, and prevention efforts.

The problem in the industry is that over the past decade there has been a significant drop in the number of credentialed staff to manage an approved cancer registry. While the National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA) is trying to help, they have also introduced new hurdles to qualification and passing the Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR) exam.

Here are My Thoughts….

1. Introduce other allied healthcare fields to Cancer Registry as a potential career choice .The National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR) in conjunction with the National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA) has developed a cancer registrar recruitment project. Presentations, brochures and a list of schools is available online.

2. Train qualified assistants that are on track to becoming cancer registrars. Registries could cover or supplement training costs as a recruitment or retention incentive. AHIMA offers an on-line cancer registry program in conjunction with the NRCA.

3. Mentor the next generation of Cancer Registrars by letting them work alongside CTRs, allowing them to get hands-on training as they take on-line classes.

Clinical coders unwilling to learn ICD-10 may be a good source of Cancer Registrar recruits. In addition, medical transcriptionists being outplaced by speech recognition and electronic health record (EHR) technologies may be interested in pursuing a new career.

The next generation of Cancer Registrars is out there. We just need to grow them! What are your thoughts?

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