*If you are interested in only reading the list I have put together, keep scrolling as my introduction is a bit lengthy*
I started my journey into the Medical Billing career field after graduating from high school in 2007 and immediately attending college that fall.
Unfortunately, my high school didn’t offer much in terms of college counseling or any assistance in what my next steps could possibly be after graduation. As a matter of fact, I had absolutely no idea that I was even supposed to be applying to colleges in the beginning of my senior year, and only realized it when I heard classmates talking about what schools they had been accepted to. I remember thinking to myself, “oh shit, what am I going to do?” I had never even taken the SATs, nor did I have any idea of the importance of taking it or why I should even take it at all.
I applied to one school and was accepted. It was a private college and the one school I knew it was unlikely I would see many people at who I graduated with, which at the time was my ultimate goal.
My parents gave me a check for the $30 application or admission fee, and my dad and I went to the school together and got me signed up for the fall semester. It is one of my best memories with my dad, knowing I was doing something to make him proud. We joked about how I could become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company one day, sorry dad…
My first major was in business marketing, but with the economic crash in 2008 I figured it may be best to change my major. I had never considered the medical field as an option. Honestly, I thought the medical field was only doctors and nurses, and I definitely didn’t have it in me to peruse such a path.
By 2008 my best friend had joined me at the college and had started her major in Human Resources. I had told her I had decided business just wasn’t going to work out, and I wanted to see what my other options were. So, we picked up the college catalog, looked into what would probably be the most attainable degree in the medical field and decided on Medical Billing. I vividly remember going into the admissions office together and the officer telling us, “I don’t even understand why this is a degree program, all you need is a certificate to do medical billing.”
Oh, my, how the times have changed.
I’ll spare you the rest of the dirty details of college life, pre-algebra, and Saturday morning anatomy and ICD-9 coding classes. However, I will tell you it took me FOUR YEARS to complete an associates degree in applied sciences due to the inner workings of the college, classes only being offered at certain times of the year and having to switch my program for a third time.
I competed a two-year degree in applied sciences with a concentration in Health Information Technology in less than a year by going to school year round and taking 17 credit hours per quarter in an accelerated program and of course working my ass off.
Once I finally had that degree in my hands, it was 2012. The whole class of Health Information Technology students got absolutely screwed by the school after the director of the program retired and had nowhere to place any of us for the internships required to complete our degree. I ended up doing two different internships, one at a nursing home in the Medical Records Department and the other at my uncle’s chiropractic clinic.
Of course, no one wanted to hire me after I got my degree due to no real on the job experience in the field. I took odds and ends jobs, selling Avon, working at Kmart, and as a one on one student aide for an amazing little boy who had Autism in an elementary school.
At this point I decided I should probably get back into gear and get my bachelors degree, so back to college it was. The friend, that I had mentioned earlier, and I had parted ways for nearly three years and on my first day in creative writing class whose name do I see on the sign-in sheet…
Every day I dreaded going to that class. I didn’t want to face her, I didn’t want to talk to her. How could I? What would I even say?
Halfway through the quarter during some downtime in the class I see her in my peripheral vision walking towards me, she sat down and started picking up where we left off nearly three years prior, and we became friends again.
Luckily for the both of us, she had landed a medical billing job and had become the leader of the department. I never asked her for a job, not once, I thought that would be extremely tacky and besides she didn’t owe me a thing, certainly not a career.
However, two weeks later, she offered me a job. I was finally going to get my foot in the door as a medical biller on November 12, 2012, and I have been ever since.
Admittedly, in the nearly ten years I have been working in the Medical Billing field I have had many roles and positions-from the nobody to the director and then back to nobody again.
Recently, due to my Medical issues, the company I was working for had enough of dealing with me and my problems and gave me an ultimatum-resign or go on a performance improvement plan and if you don’t meet our quota by the end of May you will be terminated.
I decided I wasn’t going to be backed into a corner, and I was going to go on their performance improvement plan and see if their goals were achievable-they weren’t, and I ultimately decided to resign.
Luckily, I had an offer on the table with an awesome company that is rapidly expanding, going back to my roots of professional and facility billing with a higher pay grade than I had ever made in my career. So here I go again, on to a new chapter.
The past few days I have been reflecting on my time as a medical biller and the companies I have worked for in the past and have compiled a list of the dos and don’ts of having a “real” job.
So, my gift to you, a comprehensive list of things I wish I would have known going into the workforce. This list applies to any chosen career field, not just medical billing, and is a cautionary tale of my own career blunders.
Lessons I’ve Learned In My Career Field After Ten Years
Keep A Copy Of Your Companies Policy ALWAYS: Of course when you start a job you have to read through the company policy book and sign a paper ensuring your compliance, but do you actually have a copy of that handbook still? Probably not. Always make sure you save a copy of your company’s policy book in a safe place. You never know when you may need to access it for crucial information regarding attendance policies, paid time off, FMLA, or literally anything else that may come up in the future. That way, you have the information handy before you have to start asking questions. For example, I had quit a job in the month of January when my paid time off had started over for the calendar year. My employer refused to pay me out my vacation time, and I had to go to the State Of Michigan and file a complaint. I had a copy of my company’s policy stating that they do pay out upon termination of employment, and I was sent a check for a week’s pay. Even though the company tried to fight it- it was clear as day that it was in their policy that they were to pay out employees earned paid time off. Always make sure you have that policy and procedure book in your grasp, you never know when you are going to need it.
Keep Your Own Daily Record Of Productivity: Most companies are very number driven, especially if you are working in the Medical Billing field. The amount of work you are doing is your bread and butter. Usually numbers are ran on a weekly or monthly basis, and you always want to make sure you have your own productivity recorded to ensure that your numbers match up with what management has in case there are discrepancies. Regardless of your quota, always remember to never compromise quality over quantity.
Be Transparent: Transparency is key with your employer, whether it is struggling with your job duties, mental or physical health, and or with anything that could be affecting your job performance, make sure to let either a manager or your Human Resources department know before it becomes a problem.
Ask Questions: Never be afraid to ask questions. Even if you have asked the same question ten times before and the answer is still not clicking with you-ask again. Sometimes it just takes asking one more time, maybe from a different source, for the mental pieces to fall into place. Although it may seem like you are annoying your manager or trainer, companies appreciate it when an employee asks questions until they fully understand before making a detrimental mistake or creating a habit of doing things incorrectly unknowingly.
Keep Good Records: Make sure to keep a good record of all emails, screenshots, and or things that could come back to haunt you in the future. If something doesn’t sit right with you, or you have a feeling that you are being told something that is incorrect, keep all pertaining information given in a safe place just in case it comes back up in the future.
Work-Life Balance: Life is not work and work is not life, make sure you are taking care of yourself mentally and physically. Take those breaks and lunches that you are entitled to daily, you need them and when it’s time to clock out or log off for the day mentally take yourself away from work, watch a movie, do a craft, go for a jog or walk, do something you enjoy, work will be there waiting for you tomorrow enjoy your “me time” and mentally check out when you are done for the day.
Keep It Professional: Work relationships and friendships can be amazing, trust me, some of my fondest memories are working in a dumpy little office with my coworker listening to 1980s love songs on Pandora and dancing to Motown when no one was watching us. I have even made lifelong friendships with past managers and bosses who I’d become close with over the years. However, it is very easy for work friendships and or relationships to turn sour, quickly, especially when promotions and other factors are involved. I know I said transparency is key with your employer and even your coworker friends, but always make sure you remain tight-lipped when it comes to certain information, especially about yourself and other employees. Trust me, this has come back to bite me in the past, giving too much information to sources that were untrustworthy or giving your boss a little more information than they should realistically know. Go with your gut instinct, use common sense, and just be smart with information you decide to share about yourself or others.
Know Your Worth: Listen closely, I have left jobs, taken $3 pay cuts and went back to the bottom of the barrel when a very high paying job broke me down to nothing. I remember being so physically ill, dry heaving and vomiting when I would have to be on phone calls with the doctor who owned one of the practices I was employed at. I would be called into his office every Friday only to be screamed at and verbally abused until one day I came home so broken down I laid on the floor of my living room and sobbed. I knew that I didn’t deserve that disgusting treatment after four long years of dedicated employment trying to prove myself worthy to a “top physician” who didn’t give two shits about me. So, I got out, I took the pay cut, and it wasn’t pretty, but I knew my worth, and it wasn’t being treated like a doormat. Regardless of that dollar amount you are being paid, your life and mental health is worth so much more.
Ultimately, I hope someone will take advice from this list and apply it to their own journey, as there are a lot of people who may or may not be out to get you if they don’t care for the cut of your jib.
Proceed, always, with caution, and make sure you know your rights as an employee and know how to protect yourself in case of an unfortunate event that could leave a blemish on your personal record.