Who Needs Certification?
Who needs certification? You do!
If your plan is to be a medical coder, you need to be certified. Credentials are important. The letters next to your name are not just to show off (ok, sometimes they are); they show you have the skills necessary to do the job.
The challenge of the sitting for the exams seems daunting. I recently took both the CCA and the CPC exams, and I am not a great test taker (which is the nice way to say it). Here’s my CCA adventure:
Signing up for the exam on the AHIMA website was strange. You actually pay for the exam up front without knowing your exact exam date and time. After paying the testing fee, I was emailed by Pearson Vue (they run the testing center) to schedule the date and time.
I purchased the official AHIMA CCA study guide to help me prep for the exam. I mostly did this because I thought it would help relieve some of my testing anxiety, but I quickly learned that it is an extremely valuable resource. Working through the study guide the first time told me 2 things:
- The coding scenarios were not as difficult as I expected. I found that I could locate the correct codes quickly and easily for the majority of the questions and effectively use the process of elimination for others.
- I really didn’t know very much about subjects like Medicare, NUBC, RBRVS, OPPS, Compliance, and Health Information Technologies. That list was way too long for my comfort level.
For the next 2 weeks I used the study guide and the online quiz builder that it comes with. It was invaluable study time.
On test day I woke up early and stuck with my normal routine. The sweaty palms started around mid-morning (my exam time was at 1pm). I had decided beforehand that I would resist the urge to cram before the test, which I think helped with my nerves a bit. The only thing I studied on test day was a short list of bulleted items I had made from the material in the study guide.
I arrived at the testing center early, and they actually let me go ahead of my scheduled time. They checked my code books and gave me a laminated sheet and a dry-erase marker to write with. I think the girl that checked me in could tell that I was nervous because she told me, “You will be on camera the whole time, and we will be watching you so you don’t cheat or pick your nose.” I laughed and told her I would be sure to pick my nose the entire time.
They assigned me to a cubicle with a computer and handed me a pair of those giant plastic ear muffs the guys working on the tarmac at the airport wear. Digging into the exam I found that the coding questions went very quickly. I consciously made an extra effort to pay attention to the details, specifically sequencing rules and instructional notes in the code books. I found that my 2 weeks of study from the study guide really paid off in the sections I wasn’t as confident in.
Going through the 150 questions the first time, I flagged 7 of them to go back and look at again. After I had answered those last 7, I submitted my exam with about 15 minutes to spare. I walked to the front desk and they looked up my score and gave me a print out that let me know I passed!
The moral of the story is that you need your credential. When you’re taking the cetrification test:
- Use the study guide
- Pay close attention to the details in the code book
- Use the process of elimination if you get stuck
- You’re on camera—don’t pick your nose