INA, Ill. (May 22, 2014) – As a member of one of the first graduating classes from Rend Lake College’s new Medical Coding certificate program, Valerie Henderson wasn’t sure where her education would take her. After graduating from the program last week, Henderson has already found her place as a part of the medical coding staff at Harrisburg Medical Center.
The McLeansboro native said it was only a few weeks after her clinicals ended when Harrisburg Medical Center contacted her for a full-time position in the coding department. Though she hadn’t yet graduated, Henderson said it was thrilling to have an employer approach her with the offer.
“I did my clinical work there and it was a great experience,” said Henderson. “While I was there, I sat with the coders and learned the department and the flow of information in their hospital. I visited a few different departments where I would do some coding under supervision. It was a great, real-world experience for me.”
The Medical Coding program started last fall at RLC, aimed at students who wanted to work in the medical field, but who preferred to avoid hands-on patient care. Medical coding is the process of converting descriptions of medical diagnoses and procedures into universal medical code numbers.
“I knew that the program was new, but I also felt that if Rend Lake College was creating this new program, then there was a need for the profession in the area,” said Henderson. “I was working as a dental assistant before, but I quit to go back to school full-time, and it’s already paid off.”
Employment of medical records technicians is expected to increase by 21 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As a coding professional, Henderson must possess a thorough understanding of diagnostic and procedural phrases in order to translate the information into coded form. Medical coders must also be familiar with the laws and regulations relative to disclosure, confidentiality, maintenance, and retention of medical records.
“It’s a challenging program, and I don’t think everyone understands that,” said Henderson. “I think people get the impression that, because it’s a certificate, it’s going to be a cake walk, but there’s a tremendous amount of information to learn in one year. In the first couple weeks, I kept thinking, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ It was great to learn from Lora Phillips, and I know I came out of it with a great education and a long-lasting career.”
Phillips, RLC Medical Coding instructor, added she thinks Henderson and the two other Medical Coding students who received job opportunities immediately after graduating this year will do well as they take the first step into their new career.
“In class, Valerie was eager to learn, and was always asking questions. She was able to understand coding quickly, and showed a passion for it,” said Phillips. “I think she’ll do a wonderful job.”