Meet Yulia Willoughby
Professional Medical Coding and Billing Graduate
Finding her first job in a new industry was challenging—especially since Yulia Willoughby was a native of Russia and new to the United States. She had to overcome barriers such as understanding the language, gaining marketable skills, and convincing an employer to take a chance on her. But she’s a determined woman who can’t be stopped when she has a specific goal in mind. This is the story of how Yulia used the training she received from Career Step to start a career as a remote inpatient medical coder.
Changing Countries and Careers
Yulia first immigrated to the United States from Russia in 2002. She moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan permanently in March of 2002. She came seeking new opportunities, and she found them. In Russia and for her first few years in the U.S., Yulia worked as a Russian-English interpreter, but as time went on she increasingly felt she needed a career that would provide a more dependable income. “Translating was very sporadic. There is not a great demand for Russian interpreters,” said Yulia. “So I decided to look for something more consistent.”
Yulia had worked with the international medical coding system used by healthcare providers to classify diseases, symptoms, and procedures (ICD-10) in Russia. ICD-10 was officially implemented in the United States in October 2015, though it had been implemented by other nations about a decade earlier. In her native country, doctors did the coding themselves, but Yulia had helped medical providers get familiar with it. Due to this medical background, she wanted her new career in the U.S. to be in healthcare, specifically medical coding.
“I looked into some schools, but they were extremely expensive and weren’t really what I was looking for,” she said. “They were more like medical secretary training with some knowledge of medical coding. I just wanted to code, not do secretarial stuff.” When she started looking online, she was drawn to Career Step. “I watched the Career Step promotional video, read the testimonials, checked the price, looked at what to expect, and I liked it,” she said. “So I signed up and started my career.” Yulia began the Medical Billing and Coding course in January 2014.
“I was looking for something to prepare me for the coding certification exam that wouldn’t break the bank,” Yulia explained. “I loved that the Career Step instructors were available. Whatever questions I had along the way, I could ask them. Either through the forums or from the instructors themselves, my questions were always answered.”
Since Career Step programs are self-paced, Yulia went through the training at her own speed and passed the final exam with honors in May of 2015. Because her training had focused on ICD-10, she was ready for the implementation that had been postponed until October, though she needed to get up to speed on ICD-9 so she could work in the months before the transition. Yulia chose to also complete Career Step’s ICD-9 for ICD-10 Coders course, finishing in June, and she passed the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) certification exam in August.
During a Career Step webinar, Yulia had learned about IOD Incorporated, an industry-leading health information management company. After she graduated from Career Step, Yulia applied for IOD’s Coder Development Program and was accepted. She then completed several additional months of training.
Finding a Job, Despite a Lack of Experience
One hurdle everyone must overcome is getting that first job with little or no related experience. After passing the CPC exam, Yulia had the Certified Professional Coder – Apprentice (CPC-A) credential. The Apprentice designation had to stay until she met the job experience requirements to become a full CPC. Yulia overcame her lack of experience with tenacity.
Yulia found the Career Step practicum to be a great introduction to real life coding. It even counted as a year of experience, so she could remove her Apprentice status after just one year of real working experience.
“It can be hard to find a job when you have no experience, but you just need to be persistent. Get your credentials, study as much as you can, and just keep applying for jobs,” Yulia said. “I was applying left and right. Again, I started local, then through the internet. In February, a month after I started looking, I was hired.”
Continuing to Build Her Professional Skills
It wasn’t just the training she received through Career Step that helped Yulia start her medical coding career—advice from other Career Step students and alumni in the forums boosted her confidence. She also got help from Career Step Graduate Services.
“I used the online forums a lot; mostly just reading. Posting some, but not much. There I learned about the graduation services and how helpful they are,” she said. “What helped me get the call back—and eventually the job—was my resume. I hadn’t received my certification yet, but I got a call from the first place I applied to right away. They were very impressed with my resume, which had been revamped by Career Step graduation services. It made me even more motivated to get my certification and keep looking for job opportunities.”
Now, Yulia works from home as an inpatient coder, with fixed hours she chooses herself. She loves the freedom she has in her job, and continues to develop her professional skills, recently passing the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) exam. Looking back at the last two years, it is clear Yulia’s tenacity is a big reason why she’s been successful in building a work/life balance she enjoys in her chosen field. She said, “When I set my mind to something, I just want it to be done, and Career Step helped me get here.”