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

despair keyboardI 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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