• Finding Your Dream Job

    By Regina L. Kraus, MSA, RHIT, CPHQ
    AHIMA-Approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainer
    Kaplan University School of Health Sciences

    So, you are attending university in preparation for obtaining a positon in health care. It may be medical assisting, health care administration, or perhaps medical billing and coding. How do you go about looking for a position? Where do you start? How do you begin?

    The answers to those questions are varied and it depends. 

    For instance:

    • When will you graduate?
    • Are you currently working in the health care field or another area?
    • Do you know anyone working in the field?
    • Does your program of study require an outside externship or practicum?

    The process of looking for a new position has changed somewhat over the years, though the basic process is the same. Instead of mailing your resume and cover letter, most organizations offer, and may require, the applicant apply online. Many times the interview does not even take place face to face, which most people feel is an advantage, though the skill of answering questions and engaging in the interview process is the same. In this article, we will be concentrating on positions in medical billing and coding, but the skills and process of preparing and applying for a position can be transferred to many health care positions and careers.

    Do Your Research 

    For health care billing and medical coding, including insurance and medical office management, you need to educate yourself on the type of positions are available and the requirements for the position by education, training, and experience. Knowing what you can apply for is usually the first step in the process. Consider the following questions:

    • Are you interested in a remote position (working from home)?
    • Do you meet the qualifications?
    • Can you relocate if need be to obtain a particular position?
    • Do you feel you are ready for an interview?

    Some experts say it is good to participate in an interview periodically, just to keep current on your interview skills.

    Start by reviewing various medical billing and coding associations and their respective websites for credentialing and certification requirements along with posted job banks. The two "main" medical billing and coding associations are the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), which concentrates on coding certifications (though other certifications are offered in the health care arena), and the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC)  which offers certifications and training resources in both billing and medical coding. Both associations have great training tools and resources available for members and non-members alike. 

    AHIMA also has a "Mentor Match Program" and will assign a student to a qualified and seasoned health care professional that the student can use as a resource. You can also sign up for their job listings and email "blasts"-you'll need to complete their required information in order to receive notifications of the particular positions that interest you. It especially important to indicate the state you are located in, especially if you cannot relocate, and if you are interested in remote positions. 

    Take Advantage of Job Search Tools

    In addition to "trade associations" there are many job-search related tools and websites available. The National Center for Competency Testing, the Advanced Healthcare Network, and the Career One Stop Resources are all good job search resources and offer trainings and information on certifications. Are you a member or eligible to be a member of a state or local association? For instance, AHIMA has required state associations in each of the 50 states plus Puerto Rico. Most states have a number of associations organized by regions (groups of counties) in each state. Students are always welcome to join the associations and may be eligible for discounts, reduced fees at conferences, and the advantage of networking. LinkedIn™ and school club associations are also good networking resources. For example, you can use LinkedIn™ to search for a job or internship.

    Build Your Resume and Relationships 

    So now that you are "connected" and informed, are you ready to apply for a position(s)? Do you know how to write a job application cover letter and personal resume? If you need guidance and tools, look again to the organizations listed above, many of which have career prep tools, information and guide sheets on writing cover letters and resumes. Begin by dusting off a current resume, or if you do not have one, review the guide sheets on the typical resume styles and start from scratch.

    One of the big issues that many billing and coding students face is the lack of job experience. If you do not have any health care billing and coding experience, do not wait until graduation to think about your options. Build relationships and build your resume. The need to network and to know other people in your chosen field is incredibly important and one aspect that many students underrate or overlook. If your program of study has an outside practicum or externship, make connections. Offer to volunteer anywhere in the health care organization. Join local associations and volunteer to be on a committee-for instance, you can offer to help out with conference events.

    You might also be interested in job shadowing a particular position that may interest you or conduct an informational interview with a professional in the field. Not only will you learn more about the position, but it gives you the experience of the interview process (except you are the interviewer not the interviewee!).

    Lastly, be prepared. Know what each type of position entails and what the qualifications are for the role. If it is coding: practice, practice, practice. Most health care organizations, especially on the inpatient side, will require a coding proficiency review as part of the application process. Look again to the organizations already discussed for practice reviews, practice exams, and mock exams. Most coding instructional textbooks offer a coding self-test(s) with access to the answers. Document your scores and, again, practice, practice, practice. Show your potential employer how committed you are to your profession and how you are working at accomplishing your goals.



    Regina L. Kraus, MSA, RHIT, CPHQ, is an adjunct faculty member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.

    Kaplan University cannot guarantee employment or career advancement.

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