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

I 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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10 thoughts on ““Coding is WAY harder than I thought it would be!”

  1. Carol Graham says:

    Thank you for this article!!! I too was prepared for a moderate challenge in learning coding– and this has been the ultimate challenge. I am now halfway through the first level of CPT and oddly, it seems a lot easier and more intuitive than everything else to date. But knowing that you guys have consistently pulled new tricks out of your sleeves to push the envelope, I have already “knocked on wood.” I am humbled, impressed and excited to finish this and get out into the world to use it in real life.

    • mbunderson says:

      Carol, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Good work pushing through the course–keep up the good work!

  2. peches says:

    Hi I am taking the class it it has me shaking in my boots. My class is moving very fast, we are on CPT now but I am not comfortable with ICD 10 any advice, I need to make it more interesting. I really want to pass the first time.

    • mbunderson says:

      Hi peches, my advice is to reach out to your fellow students in the forum or chat room. I bet many of our other students are feeling the same way, and connecting with others and sharing tips is a great motivator. You can find a link on your Student Login page. Good luck!

  3. Gemfish says:

    I just took the CPC exam for the 4th time and failed. I have done everything and paid lots of money and still I can’t pass the exam
    Not sure what to do now. I really thought I could do this. For those who pass it, hats off to you ,& congratulations.

  4. Sherry Loveless says:

    I am curious about something:

    If the “real world,” are some fields more difficult or easier to code for? Hospitals versus an office? Cardiologist versus podiatrist? Not those specifics, they were just examples, but I was just thinking about this and curious. If I want challenging, what type of practices would be most difficult?

    Which would be the least complicated?

    Thank you

    • learnerforlife says:

      From what I understand, outpatient coding is frequently a good place to start when you are just entering the field. I think as far as specialty practices go, it may entirely depend on the individual. There are some medical coding positions that tend to have higher pay, but I’m not certain if that’s due to demand or the challenges involved.

  5. Debee Sam says:

    I am previously a certified coder but never pursued it in the workforce. Now I am going for my associates degree in the field & too feeling a bit overwhelmed, but your article gave me hope.

  6. Sheila says:

    I am taking the CPC course. When I first started, I was totally confused. In Chapter 4, I’m just starting to get the hang of it. It’s a slow process to learn. I’d love to make contact with someone that we can work together, support each other, and get through the courses. Is that possible?

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