My Career Step: Karen Billings
How Would You Face an Unexpected Layoff?
For 14 years, Karen Billings worked for a large rental car company where she poured herself into her work as a dedicated employee. She was part of a specialized team of seven and found fulfillment in her responsibilities. As Senior Analyst, she implemented backup strategy and fine-tuned the job scheduler to minimize down-time. All was well, until rumors started around the office. “At first we just heard outsourcing might happen,” said Karen. “I really didn’t worry. There were only seven of us in my department, and our work was really profitable.”
In 2008 she was preparing to travel for a company disaster-recovery meeting. “We tested our backup strategies to see how long we could have a catastrophe and be back online,” said Karen. At those meetings her own career catastrophe hit: Karen learned her job had been outsourced to a leading technology company in another country. “I was devastated at first,” Karen remembers. “It taught me a job cannot be your life. That can’t be where you get all of your satisfaction, because if it is, you’re going to get let down.”
“A job cannot be your life. That can’t be where you get all of your satisfaction, because if it is, you’re going to get let down.” – Karen Billings
Already mid-career, Karen floundered for a while, unsure what to do. Try to find a similar role with another company? Start from scratch somewhere else? For kicks, she took a couple of career compatibility surveys. To her surprise, results said she was suited for a job in the medical field. “I was like, ‘Really?’ But I am analytical and I like to problem solve, so I could see where that came from,” said Karen. She explored the possibility, signing up for online anatomy and physiology classes. “I really liked it, so I knew that that was the direction I wanted to go,” said Karen.
New Home, New Career Training, New Job
Around this time, Karen and her husband decided to relocate to Brandon, South Dakota, a suburb of Sioux Falls, where they built a house. Karen learned about a nearby technical school, Southeast Technical Institute (STI). One of Career Step’s academic partners, STI is ranked nationally as the 13th Best Community College of 2016 by SmartAsset. When Karen enrolled in Fall 2009 in STI’s Inpatient/Outpatient Medical Coding course, she was learning with Career Step curriculum. Besides the initial in-person class, the entire course was online. “I have pictures of me sitting at the kitchen table in our new house with my computer, going through Career Step stuff,” said Karen. “And I loved it.”
“I liked all of the real-life scenarios in the training. It gives you real-life things that we run into coding all the time, along with the rationale. I love how they do that.” – Karen Billings
“I liked all of the real-life scenarios in the training,” she adds. “It gives you real-life things that we run into coding all the time, along with the rationale. I love how they do that.” She was learning new skills, which may seem bit scary after so long in a different industry. “Starting a new career does seem like a big leap of faith when you consider it, but you do it in baby steps, especially with Career Step,” said Karen. “The reinforcement you get from the course builds your confidence so much that at the end you really feel empowered, and it’s very rewarding.”
“Starting a new career does seem like a big leap of faith, but you do it in baby steps … Career Step builds your confidence so much that at the end you really feel empowered, and it’s very rewarding.” – Karen Billings
Karen graduated with Honors in 2010 and found employment a month after she earned her Certified Professional Coder (CPC) credential from the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). Her first job was outpatient coding for a South Dakota hospital. All the coders worked in a warehouse, in an offsite location from the hospital.
Education That Was Above The Rest
Medical coders aim for accuracy so the healthcare providers they work for will receive full reimbursement from insurance companies. Coding with her colleagues, Karen would often hear her peers ask questions about specific medical terms. “When we would talk in depth they would know the general term, but they wouldn’t know the specific term, especially for diabetes and heart disease and their complications,” said Karen. “That’s where you’re talking big differences in reimbursement when it’s not termed right.”
“Everybody at work would tell me what they did for education, and I just felt like mine was heads above the rest … Kudos to Career Step, because that’s where I learned it.”
– Karen Billings
Karen felt confident in her training, recalling what she learned in STI’s Career Step course. “Everybody at work would tell me what they did for education, and I just felt like mine was heads above the rest,” said Karen. “Kudos to Career Step, because that’s where I learned it.”
Breezing Through ICD-10 Training
In 2012, Karen began a new job as a remote employee with HCA/Parallon Business Solutions, a leading provider of healthcare business and operational services based in Nashville, Tennessee. Within a year she was promoted to Team Lead.
As the U.S. medical industry prepared for the transition to the ICD-10 code set, universal codes used to define patient conditions, Parallon offered training for Karen and her co-workers. “Imagine my surprise when ICD-10 training began and I realized to my great joy the training module was Career Step!” said Karen. “I breezed through ICD-10 and ICD-10-PCS, and it has been rewarding and exciting to put into practice the concepts learned through Career Step.”
“Imagine my surprise when ICD-10 training began and I realized to my great joy the training module was Career Step! I breezed through ICD-10 and ICD-10 PCS and it has been rewarding and exciting to put into practice the concepts learned through Career Step.” – Karen Billings
To stay up-to-date with the industry, Karen attends monthly AAPC coding meetings in Sioux Falls. As the nationwide implementation of ICD-10 approached, her coding peers were worried. “Some of the ladies were really concerned because they had not even had the basic ICD-10 training yet,” said Karen. “And with Parallon we already knew in-depth what was coming. I am very appreciative of HCA/Parallon Business Solutions for investing in quality training!”
No Looking Back
Karen shares how much she loves her job with others. She recruited her best friend who now also works from home for Parallon Business Solutions. Seeing Karen’s contentment working from home, others in her life have also considered changing careers. “Whenever I talk with someone thinking about making career changes, I recommend they look into Career Step,” said Karen. “Being laid off was a life changer—in a good way. I mean, if my former employer offered me a job today to go back and do what I was doing, I would flat turn them down.”
“Whenever I talk with someone thinking about making career changes, I recommend they look into Career Step.” – Karen Billings
Karen’s success in medical coding is an inspiration to her friends and has changed her life. She turned her layoff into a triumph and has never looked back.