PRACTITIONER PROFILE: CATHY HALTERBAUM
INTERVIEWED BY MARISA TAPIA SEPTEMBER 22, 2009
Introduction and Background:
I met Cathy Halterbaum 3 years ago when I began working at AORN. She has been at
AORN for 6 years. Her current role is that of an instructional designer. She has over 10 years
experience in instructional design. Her career evolved from High School teacher to
instructional designer. She graduated from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois with
a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology along with a teaching certificate. She taught science in
high school and was always fascinated with creating new methods to teach. Early on she
realized that technology would play an integral part of teaching, learning and attaining new
knowledge. This became a big interest for her as she began integrating “primitive” methods of
technology into her classes. It was the mid 1980’s and early 1990’s when there was very little
technology integration into schools but she incorporated slides, photos and video into her
classes. Cathy’s role inspired me to look into instructional design to further develop my skills in
this dynamic discipline. Cathy has 3 boys and as a result she later became a stay at home
When she returned to the work force she began working for Accenture creating scripts
and dialogue for television programs. It was here where she delved into the field of
instructional design. While at Accenture, she was immersed in a 6 month training program to
learn the field and become an “official” instructional designer. She worked fine tuning her skills
at Accenture and later moved on to AORN-the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses.
At AORN she is the lead instructional designer for AORN’s Periop 101 A Core Curriculum which
is one of AORN’s premiere programs to teach nurses how to become a nurse in the operating
room. The course is all online and provides the foundation for entry level practice in surgery. I
worked together with Cathy in creating one of our Confidence Based Learning module via
Knowledge Factor. It was a great experience and I believe that working with her on that project
provided me a great feel for what instructional design is all about and how it all comes
I conducted the interview over 35 minutes in one of our small area conference room-the
Summit Room-in the education department. The interview was very casual and the setting was
relaxed and non-threatening.
Having been out of the workforce for almost 10 years how did
you approach a career change?
It was fairly a smooth transition. The job required a teaching background and I felt that I
had a strong teaching background that could transition me into this role. What was very
interesting is that the job offered on the job training and a 6 month training course. Once we
completed the training course we were assigned a mentor for an additional 6 months. The
work we did was very collaborative and consisted of teamwork and working in teams to get the
courses done. I learned a great deal there and that helped me venture into instructional design
and the development of online content. It was a great new beginning.
What is your role at AORN?
I design, develop, manage and update all content for our Periop 101 course. It is very
cool. I work alongside SME’s to create new content for our course as well as work with SME’s
to update content. I manage over 150 hospitals that subscribe to our course and each hospital
will have anywhere from 3-15 new participants (RNs) that take the course. I troubleshoot when
the site is acting up too. That is something that I was not prepared for but we work very closely
with our IT department in order to fix the issues fast. This program is quite vast it includes 20
modules that build on each other. Whenever we get new updates we have to go through all
modules and update them to reflect current practice.
This program was developed in 2003 with a hard copy format as well as partially online
and in 2006 we went completely online with this program. It is quite intense. We make sure
that all aspects of “customer service” are addressed as well. Since this is one of our main
products we have to ensure all systems are a go in order for it to go without a hitch. Every time
new participants are enrolled I have to also provide the preceptor or mentor a course
specifically for the mentor to understand the process and the content and how it works.
Other things that I do here at AORN are provide support to the nurses who work here when
creating webinars and creating new templates for programs. My primary service line is the
Periop 101 program.
Another part of my role is to create the Periop 101 Newsletter to send to participants and
hospitals who subscribe to our programs. I will send you the website and you could add it to
your paper. This is very fundamental to my job, as I put processes together in a newsletter
format so it’s not so boring. http://periopadminnewsletter.weebly.com/
What credentials did you need for this position at AORN?
The ideal obviously is a master’s degree, but with my certification, my experience and
my training I was selected and hired. I belong to ASTD and that keeps me very informed with
the latest trends, latest technology and the networking for this association is quite large and I
have had several great leads to add to my knowledge base. Currently I am enrolled in CU’s
program in eLearning I am looking forward to finishing and I do like the program quite well.
Most employers looking for an instructional designer do want experience and a master’s
degree, so they are willing to take you on with the assumption that you will attain a master’s
degree within 2-3 years of being hired. So you are on the right track with getting additional
schooling, as this will put you in a different category.
Do you think a career as an instructional designer is
Yes absolutely, right now is a great time to be in the field and going into this field where
more and more education, training and instruction is online. Companies, schools and
technology industries will need instructional designers. Right now the big three where there
will be new jobs are healthcare, technology and education. Just think, we are working in an
organization where all three are within our reach. I think we are both entering a new era in
education and at AORN where the strategic plan is moving to more innovative and
technologically driven education.
What do you like the least of instructional design?
I would have to say the length of time it takes to finally get a program off to
participants. With that being said, I would also state that because our process is so intricate in
which we must validate all content, make sure it meets the desired goals, make sure that it is
working and in good standing-our success makes it all the worthwhile. I love what I do and I
love creating this program to create more nurses to work in the operating room.
Cathy is very instrumental in providing insight and advice when developing programs
and updating modules. She is very proactive in ensuring the success of Periop 101 at AORN.
Her experience and her ability to update this immense course consistently without pause
ensures that future operating room nurses have the most up to date information to provide
safe and effective care. I have observed Cathy over these 3 years and she carries the program
to reach even bigger and better outcomes every time there is a new list of participants. The
Periop 101 team effectively produces our department’s most successful program.
The best insight I received from Cathy was that in order for any education program to
succeed it takes time, collaboration, review and patience. Time is essential in creating and
developing, as well as providing a guide to what the final product will look like. Working with
her team and all the SME’s (subject matter experts) and finalizing drafts and proofing all the
work is essential in collaborating to build a course. Reviewing ensures correctness and patience
allows for the final touches to ensure the product’s success.