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Would becoming a nurse coder/auditor be a good choice for a former NICU and OR nurse to pursue?

Wednesday March 19, 2014
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Question:

Dear Donna,

I have purchased your book, “The Ultimate Career Guide for Nurses,” and I am doing my homework as you suggest. I am writing down all the things I like to do, what I would want to do and how I love to learn new things. I have had the opportunity to work in the NICU and as a circulating nurse in the OR for adults and children.

What are your thoughts about becoming a nurse coder/auditor and why a hospital would want to hire and pay a RN coder or RN auditor instead of paying a non-RN coder/auditor as non-nurses earn
less money?

I have called the American Association of Clinical Coders and Auditors for more information several times but have not heard back from them. As I want to open my own business someday, would it be helpful to have coder/auditor credentials under my belt?

Considering Coding

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Considering Coding,

If you are not getting any information or contacts from related professional associations by phone or email, then take another approach. Attend local chapter meetings of those associations as a guest. Network with attendees and ask those doing what you want to do if you can contact them for an informational interview at another time. To find out how to get the most from an informational interview, read my article “The scoop on informational interviewing” (www.Nurse.com/
Cardillo/Interviewing).

You also can find nurse coders to speak to by doing an Internet search and contacting them about doing an informational interview as well. It is important for you to research on the specialty in this way before investing time and money in coding courses. And when there’s something you’re considering doing, it makes sense to first talk with those successfully doing it.

RN coders get paid more because they have a broader skill set and more in-depth understanding of the medical record, disease process, care management and even the communication skills to interact with physicians, other nurses and care providers. They don’t just do the coding and billing. They also look for ways to improve charting/documentation and more; many have the title of Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialist. Coding is not ‘easy” but it isn’t any harder than anything you’ve already done; it’s just different. It is very detail oriented and you will have to keep up with changing regulations. That goes with the territory.

Would coding training and certification help you going forward? Possibly. It all depends where you wind up working. And you certainly can build a business around this specialty as many other nurses have done.

Keep in mind this is only one possible direction for you to move, and there are so many other options to consider. Be sure you are getting out to career fairs, nursing/healthcare association meetings, conferences and conventions to meet nurses doing various jobs and to fully explore all options. If there’s any way you can attend my Career Alternatives for Nurses seminar, you would get much valuable information about various employment and self-employment paths for nurses. To find out more about the event, visit http://www.nurse.com/events. The program also is available in a home study version (http://ce.nurse.com/Professional-Development).

Best wishes,
Donna


Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://www. Nurse.com/Events.