Thursday, September 17, 2015

Reflections of a Coder Coach: Ready to Get Back to Normal

A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that my job hasn't been "normal" for the last six years.  Right around this time six years ago is when I first went to AHIMA's ICD-10 Academy and earned my status as a trainer.  Creating and presenting ICD-10 training materials came soon after that and it wasn't until recently I realized that my job hasn't been normal for the last six years.  And since I've only known my husband for four years, one could argue that he's never known me when I'm normal... er.. at least when my job is normal!

As I look around the articles and social media related to coding, a lot has changed in this industry in the six or seven years that I've put myself out there as the Coder Coach.  When I first started blogging and meeting once a month with coding students and wanna-be's, there weren't a lot of people out there looking to mentor coders.  Now, my voice is one of many as people who never heard of coding before ICD-10 jump on the bandwagon to get a piece of the action.  There have been questions about certifications - which ones to get and how to make sure ICD-10 certification requirements are met.  There have been questions about how to code things we never had to think about before - initial vs. subsequent encounters for injuries and poisonings and root operations based on procedure intent.

I have to be honest and say that in my abnormal day-to-day life as a coder over the last few years, I've had trouble finding my voice and giving advice as a coding mentor.  I no longer feel qualified to tell a coder how to break into the industry because things are so different than they were 20 years ago when I got my start and coding is something that many people are now aware of - not something that people kind of fall into anymore.  Since I fill my days adding to my own intellectual bank by researching procedures and learning how to explain them - and how to code them - I wonder what it is that new coders need right now.  And for everyone who is trying to learn coding, I just want to reach out and give them all a virtual hug because this is, in my humble opinion, about the hardest time to learn this industry.

This week I am working on something I haven't done in years.  I'm reading the Final Rule for the 2016 MS-DRG changes.  That is something I used to read and summarize every year for my clients.  And even though the codes are different and there are some new sections to read in this super long file, I had a moment of realization, a sigh of relief if you will, that this... this is normal!  After we flip the switch on October 1 and everyone starts using ICD-10 (because I have pretty much zero faith in our congressmen to accomplish any earth shattering legislation in two weeks when they're so focused on Donald Trump's run for president), I'm sure there will be a few things that don't go as planned.  But for coders, it's a time for us to return to "normal."  I miss having a general confidence in assigning codes (although this has gotten better as I train more coders!).  I miss code updates!  Oh, how I miss those code updates!  We've had frozen ICD code sets for four years!  I've been following the recommendations made to the Coordination and Maintenance Committee and I can't wait to see which changes they decide to adopt on October 1, 2016.

And maybe when the dust settles a bit and we see how many people really want to stick with coding in ICD-10, I will find my voice again as the Coder Coach.  I sincerely hope so, because I miss meeting people with a passion to learn about my passion and giving them little nuggets of wisdom to help them make a difference in this industry.


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  3. Your honest and you tell the truth about coding and coders. I decided to attend college at the age of 51 last Oct. and I graduate next April. I don't know if I'll find my niche in this billing and coding world or not. I liked what you wrote about don't limit yourself to coding jobs, search on the code sets. I thought this was great advice. I chose this because or some reason I thought it would be a rewarding career! It does'nt bother me a bit to sit and write, read or type for hours, and ehen you said it takes concentration, I'm good at that. I lvoe to read, write, concentrate on all of the above. I've managed to maintain a 4.0 since I started and I am on the Dean's List, however there are times I wonder how, because I knwo myself it's going to take me years to remember all of the information in my textbooks, and all I have absorbed. The school I'm attending starts new courses every 5 weeks, no breaks! Will I land a career in this, I don't know, what I do know is I love learning about everything I have learned and that I am going to learn! It's awesome! I can sit and read my textbooks for hours and sit there in awww saying this is amazing stuff! Thanks for writing and thanks for being honest. I typed in health care blogs and yours was the first! WIth my graduation 11 months away I figured "It's probably time I start networking" as you said and try and see whats out there career wise. I do hope to work from home, but! I'm not that nieve think it's going to happen right away. I've always wanted to study health care, I'm just glad I finally got the opportunity. This has to be a very rewarding career. Who knows I may hate it! Visit my website sometime if you like, it's new launched last month! Take care and keep writing, great stuf you've got here, you may as well put it out here, AND BE HONEST! I love it! I'll keep reading! Thank you! Vicky