Graduate Spotlight: Ken Sloan
Deciding on a Career in Medical Coding and Billing
I started looking at the medical coding field for several reasons. I have a few health problems that severely limit the kinds of jobs I can do, so I brainstormed in-demand occupations that paid well and interested me. Medical coding made the list because I’ve always been fascinated by all things medical, I have a photographic memory (my brain is a sponge), and I also already had experience working in the laboratory side of the industry.
A career (not just a job) in medical coding would allow me the flexibility to work anywhere and also offered many opportunities for advancement. However, the most appealing aspect of this career was that I could help with the quality of patient care. I could help ensure the right patient got the right medication or treatment, the right diagnosis was assigned, and potential adverse reactions were avoided. Playing a role in the quality of patient care was a very appealing and potentially rewarding side of choosing this career. Through my research, I knew a career in medical coding was a perfect fit for me and was exactly what I was looking for.
Choosing Career Step and Working through the Program
I was aware of Career Step before I started researching medical coding, and I knew they were highly respected in the medical transcription industry. One of my family members took a course in medical transcription, which was very thorough and intense. I thought that if their coding program was anything like their transcription program, I’d be beyond prepared to get my foot in the door as a beginning coder.
After researching and reading online forums, my opinion about Career Step were reinforced. I ultimately made my decision when I learned I could work through the course at my own pace and that Career Step’s program is approved and recognized by AHIMA and AAPC.
When I decided to start the Medical Coding and Billing training program, I had just been laid off so the timing was perfect. I took advantage of my savings, unemployment, and a well-planned budget so I could focus 100% on the program. I approached the course as if it was a job and devoted 8 hours a day to studying and took the weekends off. Overall, that schedule worked great, but there were some days I only studied 2-3 hours where other days I would study for 10 hours—it just depended on when my brain started to turn to mush from information overload.
Even though I was treating it like a job, I still had more than enough time to enjoy life with hobbies, friends, and family. That’s the beauty of working at your own pace in this program. Do a chapter, go run errands, do a few pages, take care of some things around the house, do a chapter, go have dinner with friends or family. Even if it’s just 5 minutes of looking over flash cards, every little bit of time put in helped me progress through the course.
One aspect of studying with Career Step that was especially helpful were the online forums. I picked up many tips, had a lot of questions answered from people who had previously asked the same question, and felt a lot of relief when I saw others were struggling where I was. The instructors also provided great feedback and were excellent at explaining the “why” behind their answers.
Starting a New Career
From start to finish, it took me just about 6 months to complete the course. I began my job search by submitting my resume all over the place—I got a lot of interest and interviews, which felt promising.
I eventually began working with a medical staffing agency. Initially, I didn’t meet their requirements because I didn’t have the years of experience they were looking for, but I wanted to work for this provider, so I took a chance! When I interviewed on the phone, I impressed the interviewer so much she didn’t believe I was a new coder because of the way I spoke and the questions I asked. When I had my in-person interview, I dressed in a suit, was well-spoken and asked good questions—and as a result I blew away my 4 interviewers. I had to take a coding assessment, passed it, and got bonus points for pointing out some errors on the test. I was hired!
A month after starting my job, I was doing so well with E/M coding that they offered me a position coding pathology. They really needed someone who was proficient in pathology, and in the Career Step program I breezed through pathology and loved it. I’m now a full-time pathology coder for Oregon Health and Science University.
I worked hard, kept my nose to the grindstone, didn’t let their requirements stop me, and took a chance that paid off—and studying with Career Step paid off! I can honestly say I have never had a better, more fulfilling job with more amazing co-workers and an even more amazing boss than with this opportunity working for such an exceptional institution.
Through the intensity and thorough nature of the Career Step program I was more than prepared to set foot in the coding industry. I wholeheartedly, without a second thought, would definitely recommend Career Step to anyone. They more than prepare you for the industry through a program that familiarizes you with the information presented and prepares you to quickly and accurately find answers to questions. Working at your own pace allows you to still have a life while bettering yourself, preparing for your future, and helping you excel in the industry. Career Step isn’t a training program as much as it is an investment in yourself and your future.