“Coding is WAY harder than I thought it would be!”

Coding and BillingNo Comments

despair keyboardI hear it every day: “Coding is way harder than I thought it would be!” I hear it from students new to healthcare and students who have years of healthcare related experience. I am here to tell you that just because learning medical coding is more of a difficult challenge than you expected, it is NOT something you should give up on.

Believe me, I was there too. Coding was very challenging for me. I had my degree and had even finished all the pre-med requisite coursework—including taking the MCAT. I felt like I had accomplished a lot with my education (no, I will not do your homework for you.). When I made the decision not to pursue medical school, coding looked like a great career option. When I started the coding program I was excited to be able to cruise through the biomedical sciences. Most of the terms and definitions were familiar. Then, I was humbled. I hit the coding modules like a brick wall. It was new and different with all the steps and rules. And the level of detail was astounding… completely unexpected. Don’t even get me started on my experience with Evaluation and Management!

My experience made me realize that learning medical coding is a different type of learning than I was used to. Coding is not just knowledge, not just terms and definitions—it is a skill. I began to understand that learning this skill was about learning the steps to a process; and there are many steps. These steps require the application of guidelines and rules that are not always immediately intuitive. Complicating things further still, the level of detail is combined with the complexity of applying the process to the immense variability of different medical encounters.

It’s common for students to say “I just don’t think I can remember all this stuff.” Again, I had a similar experience. The key is to keep moving forward. Make it a priority to learn to use your codebooks. You may not remember how to apply a guideline, but your book will tell you. Keep moving forward, and as you do you will get more practice. Practice is the absolute best way to learn this process and polish your skills. Keep moving forward and before you know it you’ll reach the part of the program where every page is practice!

It is also common for students to get to the point where they say “I feel like I’m starting to put it all together. I’m really starting to get this!” As a coding instructor, these are my favorite conversations, both because I love to see students succeed and because I’ve been there too and I know how great that feels. This feeling of accomplishment is why you should never give up on the course just because a concept is hard.

Remember your motivation and feelings when you started your medical billing and coding course. Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t even consider it! Keep moving forward. The challenge of working through difficult problems makes the successful results so much sweeter. Your persistence will pay off and, if you’re like me, you will discover that sometimes the hardest things in life are the things most worth doing.


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  1. bonnie hoopet January 15, 2015

    I agree!!! Even though I’m just starting out with the coding course, I had prior knowledge with the medical coding field. I never took a course, but I found the job to be quite challenging. I enjoy the detail work and also the medical aspect of it. Even though I never pursued medical coding, I find that in this time of my life I need to have something to fall back on in case I become unemployed. I do enjoy the medical field, but I like working independently. I wholehardly agrree with keep on pushing and preserve.

  2. Tyrone January 20, 2015

    Interestingly enough I feel like I’ve already begun to scratch the surface where I question rather or not I’m made out for this. It seems tough but im consistently giving it my all. Thanks for sharing this entry. It lets me know what I’m feeling is totally normal.

  3. Sharon January 21, 2015

    Thank you for posting this. I have a very similar background in pre-med education and years of working in the medical field, and I just hit the “brick wall”. I felt comfortable in the first part of the course because I was familiar with a lot of the content. When I started Block I of coding, I could not imagine being expected to remember all the rules and exceptions involved. I began to doubt that I made wise decision in choosing this new career path.
    Your message encouraged me.
    Thank you!

  4. Moonie January 23, 2015

    Would love to hear how long it takes the average full time worker without any prior knowledge in medical anything to complete this course. Would love to hear from someone who made it recently graduated and found a job right away without experience. That would be motivating to see. I hit the wall a few times…pushing on, slowly but surely!

  5. Career Step January 26, 2015

    Hi Moonie,

    It looks like the average student takes about 11 months to get through the medical coding and billing program. However, many of those students are working part-time on the course, so if you can devote more time you may be able to move through the material more quickly.

    We also have an entire library of graduate success stories to provide a little inspiration. You can see them all at http://www.careerstep.com/student-reviews.

    Best wishes!

  6. vinette January 27, 2015

    Thank you for this post it’s so encouraging. I was starting to wonder if I can do this, so much to learn. But now I know I can.

  7. Chrissy D February 05, 2015

    The man at the top of the mountain did not fall there!
    Thank you for sharing your encouraging story!

  8. CCrooms February 11, 2015

    I am just starting this program.  DON’T GIVE UP!  Within the next few years, as soon as ICD-10 is finished being implemented ALL of US will be in demand.  I worked for one employer for almost 26 years, so this is my second career.  I started on this journey 5 years ago.  I took and completed another medical billing/coding course through Everest.  Wasted $16K on a certificate that I could not get a job with. I graduated with a 4.0/4.0 GPA Summa ### Laude.  Right now I work for a Major Health system that just acquired three new Hospitals.  So I finally can see light at the end of the tunnel.  I started out volunteering- working with Medical Records, filing.  Then I was hired as a Claims Adjusted, Now as a Billing-Specialist.  I am not coding yet, but after I finish this course and acquire my Certification - I will be.  HANG IN THERE!  It takes time, but it is worth it.  My mantra all during the course and now during this one:  Failure is not an Option.

  9. Career Step February 12, 2015

    Thank you for sharing your encouragement, CCrooms!

  10. Tasha123 February 12, 2015

    Started program in October. Presently in the medical terminology section of coding course which really seems to go slow with writing all the definitions. Just wondering if everyone does all the definitions.Enjoying this section (retired R.N)  but slow. Would love to hear if I should be moving faster. Thanks.

  11. Career Step February 16, 2015

    Hi Tasha,

    We actually just put out a new blog post about that very thing! Check it out here: http://www.careerstep.com/blog/coding-and-billing/dear-coding-support-medical-terminology-help.

    Hope that helps, or contact your instructors at 1-888-657-5752 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for more information.

    Best wishes!

  12. The best way to begin is to ‘Think like a Coder’ - docs think like docs, nurses think like nurses, but sometimes coders want to think like them all. We should only be concerned about the documentation and the conditions, circumstances that helps with the code selection. See Amazon, Kindle , Barnes and Noble, for newly published book ‘Think like a Coder’ K. Bragg, CPC

  13. Kate Newman June 10, 2015

    I made it is through the course while having some of those omg this course is crazy hard moments but now I’ve learned enough to where I use my books or look up a word and then move right along. Don’t ever give up because you can do it! smile

  14. Career Step June 11, 2015

    Hi Kate,

    Thanks for sharing your experience and encouragement! Best of luck as you’re finishing up the course!


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