Frustrated by the Coding Practicum?

You just got through the coding modules. E/M coding almost killed you, but you survived. Now you’re looking back and wondering if you remember anything from the last four modules. At the same time, you are looking ahead at the giant pile of reports to code in the practicum; you may have even coded a few of them. You may feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and possibly astonished at the work it takes to learn medical coding. From someone who has been where you are now, allow me to offer a few words of advice…

PERSPECTIVE
Learning to use your books and apply guidelines has been the focus of the course thus far. Now you get to work on developing a new skill—abstraction. The practicum is composed of authentic medical charts, dictated by actual physicians in patient care situations. This means you will be reading physician-level writing and abstracting the pertinent info for code assignment. Abstraction is definitely a skill unto itself. A huge part of going through each of these charts is learning to identify key words and phrases and turn them into the right codes—this takes A LOT of practice. Don’t expect to be able to get all the codes right immediately!

GRADES
Your scores on the practicum reports are not considered when we determine your eligibility to take the final exam. You need to attempt every report, but you do not need to get an 85% on them like you do on the Unit Tests and Module Exams. This gives you the opportunity to learn from each report by going through the documentation and coding what you can, submitting your codes, and working backward from the codes you missed. This is a valuable way to learn abstraction while simultaneously gaining indexing skills and learning which codes are appropriate for disparate report types.

The practicum component of online medical coding training takes a lot of discipline, but hopefully with these ideas in mind you can move through the reports with a little less stress and, instead, focus on learning from each report.

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59 thoughts on “Frustrated by the Coding Practicum?

  1. Jennifer says:

    I’m trying not to beat myself up when on cases I don’t even know where to begin. I know this is a skill that has to be learned with a lot of practice so I’m trying to keep that in mind and not get too discouraged.

    • Lana says:

      I’m right there with ya! I’m hoping it just will click!! I think I’m getting it then forget some codes from the beginning ???? I do feel better not to be the only one! Thanks for posting!

  2. Ashly Provorse says:

    I beat myself up when I can get two in a row right, and then the next one will take me six tries before I finally figure out what to code! Glad to know there is frustrating people with me!

  3. Anna B says:

    It is so frustrating cause I feel like I need to make 100 on all of them. It is taking me to much time getting through them this way I was glad to read that I don’t have to have perfect scores on them all ugh

  4. angela says:

    It is frustrating for sure. I read and reread and there are times I still miss something that needs to be coded. The explanations do help me learn from my mistakes though. I can then pinpoint those situations that tripped me up in other reports.

  5. Kimberly says:

    Seeing everyone’s post is reassuring to me. I thought that by this point I was supposed to be coding almost every question right one the 1st try and I felt like I was the only one struggling. This really helped. Thanks everyone good luck to all of you

  6. Liz says:

    Struggling hardcore as well guys…sometimes it’s a simple mistake like coding order, and others it’s just entirely the wrong code alltogether. Super frustrated, but I keep trudging along. Keep it up. We got this!!

  7. Stephanne says:

    I am on the first portion of the medical coding and billing. I have completed everything with an 85% or higher and it’s still telling me the course is incomplete. Can anyone help me understand?

  8. Lori says:

    This was such a blessing to read! I also thought that I should be getting these all correct. The coding order trips me up too! Feeling a little less overwhelmed reading this 🙂 I like the online course, but sometimes it would be nice to just be able to ask an actual person why something is coded a certain way!

  9. Suzanne says:

    I’ve never experienced so many highs and lows with something until I was introduced to coding;-) Comforting to see we are all having similar struggles! Really skeptical about the CPC exam! I am about to start the Neurology section in the practicum, if anyone else is close to that section and wants to work together let me know….without the help in the chat room, that has added another level of frustration as well!!

  10. Stacey says:

    I wish i had seen this when i started the practicum. Lol! Just started the neurology section as well and have been frustrated this whole time. I am glad I am not the only one. 🙂

  11. Briana Hill says:

    I’m so happy I’m not alone in being frustrated and completely terrified to finish and take the CPC exam! I’ve been doubting this idea wayyyy too much lately because of this practicum. I feel like I’ve forgotten wayyy too much stuff!

  12. jodie drouin says:

    oh thank gods I’m not the only one who feels like banging my head on the desk!!! now I feel less discouraged going into the practicum!!

  13. Barb says:

    I hear all of you! ????. Ever since I started the practicum, I’ve been asking myself man did I learn anything? Check, recheck and check again. I’m determined! I will pass this exam even if it kills me.

    • sheron budhram says:

      I am so happy I came to this blog. I’m in my practicum too at Cardiology. And I was asking my self the same question too. Sometimes I got it correct 100% and sometimes I have to try 3 or 4 times. I started to pray and I found this page. I will pass this exam too. Good luck everyone and thanks for all the information this really help.

  14. Teresa R. says:

    Thank goodness for all of you!!!! I’ve always considered myself an intelligent person. HA!!! Am currently on cardiology in the practicum and feel like I haven’t remembered a thing. So frustrating…..

  15. Ginger says:

    I’m so glad to know that I’m not alone in my frustrations with this course! Some of the things I code don’t necessarily make sense from what I’ve learned, and some appear contradicting. I’m hoping like the rest of you that it’ll just click with me eventually. I’m almost halfway through the practicum and still find myself struggling.

    Is there an active chat for our coding course so that we can pick at everyones brains and get more of an insight into the course?

    I’d love to pass the course and state exam the first time around instead of prolonging this pain lol

    • mbunderson says:

      Thanks for your feedback, Ginger. Keep your chin up! Be sure to reach out to your instructors at support@careerstep.com or 1-888-657-5752 if you feel you need any help or even just a little encouragement. That’s why we’re here! You can connect with other students and graduates in the Student and Graduate Community where you’ll find a medical coding forum. Just sign up with your Student ID (if you can’t find that, just shoot us a quick email at support@careerstep.com and we’d be happy to look it up for you) at http://community.careerstep.com. You might be surprised at just how much it can help to have other students to connect with. 🙂 Best wishes.

  16. Ashly Provorse says:

    So I completed everything, and took the final exam! Wow got my results back and about lost it, if anyone is having same trouble, sure could use some help studying again, before I have a melt down!

    • Ginger says:

      About how long did it take for your post to be published? I still haven’t seen mine pop up yet and I’m not sure why not.

      How did the final exam go for you? I may not be the best study partner, but if theres a chat group in career step Id love to be apart of it and perhaps we can all pick each others brains for what they know and help us more

      • Angie says:

        I too am concerned. I am struggling with this practicum. I feel like they expect us to be able to code like we have done it for years after taking this program. I am scared to take the final. They say it should take 7-8 hours which for me means I will have to take the full 2 days. very discouraging.

  17. Jo Anne Chacon says:

    I’m so discouraged. I felt really good about things before I started the Practium. I have 99 pages left and I’m not sure of anything anymore. I’m close to quitting and throwing all material away. I hope I’m not the only one.

  18. dylan says:

    I am at Internal Medicine and skipped 2 records on cardiology because what the heck was that.. i know it wasn’t advised for us to skip any page but i just could not handle it and feeling really depressed i might have submitted the page more times than I can count.. still dont get it. Glad to know i am not the only one going thru this stress.

    • Kristi says:

      Cardiology was a nightmare for me as well. I put in a couple of them into the Instructor Chat and RichB noted that cardiology was difficult for everybody. 😛

  19. Ginger says:

    I now utilize my student chat room, and instructer chats and I can say with certainty that it’s made a tremendous difference since my last comments. I highly recommend utilizing them and asking any and all questions you have!

  20. Jacque says:

    Thanks for the post. I nearly had a STROKE, and almost had to purchase a new laptop. I was so frustrated it seemed that I could not get anywhere. I code everyday at me current job but these samples have me beat to a pulp!. I have calmed down not that I know someone out there feels the same. Plus I can afford another laptop.

  21. dawn petty says:

    i’m frustrated that i will have gotten the code correct other than i’m one number off at the end of a code, or i get them in the wrong order. last njite i FINALLY felt like i had the codes right, then 2nd guessed myself and changed the order only to learn i had them right to begin with
    aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    • Kristi says:

      I can’t count the number of times I’ve done that!! I’m just relieved to know that the scores don’t count. I still want to know what the correct answers are, but I won’t go back and input the correct answers now!! ????

  22. Lisa says:

    I have been so frustrated by the practicum!! I will be honest and say I have walked away a few times just to clear my head. I use to do abstraction in my old job and what I am picking out and what they want is different sometimes ( I just want to scream).. Thanks for the insight in the article because it helped me to refocus and know there are others with me.

  23. Shelby says:

    Seeing this post helps, however; I am confused as to what needs to be an 85 or higher now. This course is nothing like I was told, it has been an uphill battle from the start. (It didn’t help that I had a rough pregnancy and now an infant in the middle of trying to take it.

    • mbunderson says:

      Shelby,
      First, congratulations on your new baby! Second, I’m sorry this program has been a challenge for you. I’m glad this blog post could help. Please make sure you reach out to our Student and Graduate Community! (You can find this community at http://community.careerstep.com. You’ll need to create an account to login; if you’re not sure what your Student ID is, just shoot us an email at support@careerstep.com and we’d be happy to look it up for you.) Many of our students find it helpful to connect with other students who are going through similar experiences.

      Best of luck to you!

  24. Angie says:

    This program is very thorough perhaps too thorough. It is a lot of information to take in and learn. I can appreciate that they want us to be prepared for the real world but it is a lot. It would’ve been helpful to know that the grades don’t matter in the practicum. It should bein the notes at the beginning of the practicum I shouldn’t have to come to a blog to find that important information out. I am trying to stay the course but am frustrated.

  25. Kari says:

    I am so glad to know it isn’t just me! I get so frustrated, I cry. I am so afraid I won’t pass the final or the CPC and I need this. I did coding years ago and medical billing but it seems so foreign to me now. Also, never got certified years ago. I have taken forever to get through this course too, going on two years now as I am a single parent and work fulltime. Half of the reports I get half wrong or I can’t for the life of me figure out how they got the codes they got. It is stressing me out. I feel like if I can’t get this, then how will I ever pass the final or CPC. 🙁 I am not giving up but sometimes I want to. I am almost to the Encoder part.

  26. Sam says:

    Can someone please explain to me why I can’t access my final exam? I am confused because I went back and checked I have 85% or higher on all modules and exams, but for the coding practice it is saying I need 85% on all of them. I’m confused because reading this it states you don’t have to have 85% on everyone.

    • mbunderson says:

      Hi Sam, I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve had some trouble getting in touch with your instructors! Are you calling our Student Support team directly at 1-888-657-5752? Even if you can’t get through when you call, be sure to leave a voicemail—we try very hard (and are usually quite successful) at returning all calls within a few hours during normal business hours. We also reply to emails (support@careerstep.com) within 1-2 business days. You can also use our Ask-an-Instructor chat option in our Student and Graduate Community (http://community.careerstep.com). This lets you chat with an instructor in real time. Hope that helps! Best wishes. 🙂

  27. Stacey George says:

    I am completely STUCK on the Orthopedics 10 in the practicum! The only code I have been able to get right is the Z code. I have been able to get through all the other so far but this one has me totally stumped. I cannot even get the diagnosises correct.

    • mbunderson says:

      Stacey,
      I’m sorry you’re having trouble with your course. Our instructors are here to help! You can contact them at codingsupport@careerstep.com or you can call 1-888-657-5752 and select option 1 then option 2. They can help you make sense of it all! (Just as a heads up, our coding instructors can sometimes be hard to get a hold of immediately. If you call and can’t get through, be sure to leave a message. We try very hard, and are usually quite successful, in returning all calls within an hour or two.)

      You can also connect with other students in our online Student and Graduate Community http://community.careerstep.com — you’ll need to create an account to login. Our students are great at helping each other.

      Best of luck in your studies!

      • Kim Scribner says:

        I’m at the beginning of the Billing & Coding, I mean at the beginning; I haven’t even received my books yet. It’s 11:30 pm, so after completing my studies for now I thought I would go look around at what’s available to us, as students. I checked out the Blog and was feeling good about the support that’s available there…until I kept reading. I’ve got tears running down my face! I’m 61 and I don’t think I have a chance in this if the younger people (you know the ones with the newest brains), were sharing things like burning up their books, sabotaging their success or even quitting. I’m sure not all the posts are from young people, but I do imagine they are from many that are younger than me. This is the 2nd time enrolling in this course and I am already considering withdrawing again! I just don’t think my memory is good enough to get through the modules like Neurology! I read so many posts from students who were afraid and/or frustrated during that module. My Advisor didn’t call this afternoon as we scheduled. That didn’t happen so now (after posting about how important prayer is), I’m not so sure that this is the best avenue to take to help me during my retirement, in the upcoming years.

        • mbunderson says:

          Kim, it sounds like you’re really struggling with this course. I’m sorry to hear that. We have a variety of students at Career Step who come from different backgrounds and experience. You might be interested in this video review of one of our students, Devi, who decided to change careers later in life. https://www.careerstep.com/media-library/devi-chitrapu-testimonial-video

          Or you can read Karen Billings story. She decided to change careers and become a medical coder and biller: https://www.careerstep.com/grad-stories/karen-billings

          As always, you can reach out to other students in our online Student and Graduate Community http://community.careerstep.com — you’ll need to create an account to login. Our students are great at helping each other.

          You can also contact our instructors at codingsupport@careerstep.com or you can call 1-888-657-5752 and select option 1 then option 2. They can help you decide if this is right for you! (Just as a heads up, our coding instructors can sometimes be hard to get a hold of immediately. If you call and can’t get through, be sure to leave a message. We try very hard, and are usually quite successful, in returning all calls within an hour or two.)

          Best of luck to you.

  28. Jackie Hamm says:

    I want to know all the reasoning behind the correct codes (that I don’t get correct) , But I do not have time to slow down to catch them all……. My time is tick tick ticking !!!! I have learned a LOT and know that once Im out in the real world and practicing daily…….It will. get easier…….I BELIEVE !!!

  29. Season says:

    Is there anyone that would help me out on a few questions with in the Infectious Diseases and Cardiology sections. I’m going crazy. Everything I thought I knew seems to be blown out the window with these two particular questions!

    • mbunderson says:

      Hi,
      I know some of these can be tricky. Many of our students find it helpful to connect with other Career Step students in our online Student and Graduate Community. You can find this community at http://community.careerstep.com. You’ll need to create an account to login. If you’re not sure what your Student ID is, just shoot us an email at support@careerstep.com, and we’ll look it up for you.

      You can also contact Coding Support at 1-888-657-5752 and select option 1 then option 2. They can help you make sense of it all. (Just as a heads up, our coding instructors can sometimes be hard to get ahold of immediately. If you call and can’t get through, be sure to leave a message. We try very hard to return all calls within an hour or two.)

      Best of luck to you!

  30. Kimberly Palma says:

    I finally made It half way through the coding practice and omg wow. I felt so good about the course and getting 100s on practically everything up until the coding practice and now I’m like what I’m confused and feel like I don’t know this and maybe I bit too much I could chew. But I’m staying strong and determined to finish this. I can see the finish line but my brain is so overwhelmed with all these codes and rules and motifiers lol.

  31. Taylor says:

    Is this blog correct about the grades?
    “Your scores on the practicum reports are not considered when we determine your eligibility to take the final exam. You need to attempt every report, but you do not need to get an 85% on them like you do on the Unit Tests and Module Exams.”

    I read that you have to score 100% on the practicum but this blog says you actually do not have to have any set score just as long as you attempt them all?
    Which is correct?

    • mbunderson says:

      Hi Taylor,
      Thank you for your question. This blog post is correct, we are not requiring the 85% or higher for the practicum. We only require that you have attempted every case and show a score higher than 0% on all 256 cases listed within it.

      Some of our academic partner colleges that use our program for their students do require the higher scores on the practicum. You may have seen posts from students who are enrolled through a partner school that does require higher scores on the practicum.

      I hope this helps.

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