MY CAREER STEP: LAUREN LYERLA

Lauren LyerlaWhen I decided to make the move from part-time medical transcription to full-time medical coding, choosing a school was a no-brainer. I had done my medical transcription training through Career Step in 2010-2011, so I already knew it was a quality school and that I could be successful with Career Step’s self-paced distance learning approach. 

As my son entered his teen years, we found that our family no longer needed the flexibility that a work-from-home, part-time transcription job provided—what we were going to need instead was a college fund. Medical coding seemed like the logical next step for my career, and the timing seemed good as well because of the industry’s planned move from ICD-9 to ICD-10 coding, which is adding lots of projected growth opportunities for coders.  I would train in ICD-10 and be poised for the future!

My Career Step Education

I started the Medical Coding and Billing program in September 2013 and cranked through the early sections pretty well.  The terminology, anatomy, and physiology were a breeze after not just studying medical transcription but also working in the field for a while.

Then came the April 2014 vote to delay ICD-10 for another year.  That really knocked me sideways for a while.  I felt really discouraged, and I don’t think I did any studying at all for at least a couple of months.  What good was it going to do me to learn ICD-10 if it was just going to be postponed over and over again?  But Career Step came through with a plan:  Depending on where you were in the program, you could elect to continue studying ICD-10 and then do a free “ICD-9 for ICD-10 Coders” mini-course, or you could go the other way and study ICD-9 and do a quick ICD-10 course at the end.  I pressed on with my ICD-10 emphasis, but I was grateful to know that I would also have the opportunity to learn ICD-9.  I would be ready for anything!  I got back to work.

Those months of doing nothing did cost me.  Once I got going again, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to finish in a year.  I bought an extension.  Even with those extra months, it was still going to be a struggle.  So in October, I put in my notice at my transcription job so I could focus full-time on my studies.  I graduated with Honors in early January 2015, 15 months after I started the program, and I finished the ICD-9 mini-course in late February. 

Getting Certified as a Medical Coder

After I finished my studies, I got to work on revising my resume, beefing up my LinkedIn profile and contact list, and working toward certification. I joined a bunch of coding-related groups on Facebook and LinkedIn and checked out job listings on Indeed.com and Simply Hired. Most places wanted certification or experience or, ideally, both. I figured there wasn’t much I could do about the experience part, but I could definitely do something about the certification!

I took and passed my ICD-10 Proficiency exam through the AAPC right away while my training was fresh in my mind.  I signed up for the next opportunity to take the CPC exam on April 4, and 6 very long days later, I learned I had passed the exam and was officially a CPC-A.

Starting a New Career

In the meantime, I had started going to the meetings of the local chapter of the AAPC. I went to the March meeting and met some great people with lots of experience in the field. At the April meeting, the chapter vice president suggested I contact an orthopedics clinic that was looking for a coder.  She’d actually spoken to them about me, and they apparently liked that I had a background in transcription. I sent them my resume the following day, interviewed with them that Friday, and came back on Monday for a second interview. They offered me the job half an hour after I left the offices, which included a competitive salary and good benefits and the clinic seemed like a nice place to work!

Then I got the word that one of the board members of the local AAPC chapter was moving, and they needed someone to step into her role. I volunteered, because it seemed like a great way to get really immersed in my new field. So in addition to having a new job, I am also now the Education Officer for my chapter.

My Career Step training gave me a solid base of knowledge on which to build. In the near future we will start doing some dual coding with both ICD-9 and ICD-10. This will help us get the practice we need before ICD-10 is finally adopted this October.  It will also allow us to help our doctors learn what documentation they need to be providing so that we can code accurately and completely. I’m really excited to be part of the team that will be helping to implement ICD-10 in our practice.

Recommending Career Step

It’s definitely been an adjustment as this is my first full-time job in 14 years, but I’m enjoying it so far and things look very promising. It’s been an excellent transition for me, and I am grateful for the outstanding training I received from Career Step including the support of student services answering all my questions, the student forum providing camaraderie and encouragement, and graduate services helping me with my resume and more. I’m also very grateful to my local chapter of the AAPC and cannot encourage new graduates strongly enough to get involved as much as they can. You’ll meet great people, learn a lot, and earn those CEUs—and maybe even find a job!

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