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Top Characteristics Needed to be a Happy, Successful Medical Coder

Posted by PCC Institute for Health Professionals on September 07, 2016

Characteristics needed to be a successful medical coder

Updated Nov. 23, 2021

Medical coding is a field you may not have looked into, but it’s one of the best fields in today’s job market for keeping your skillset relevant and adapting to a new career. If you’re detail-oriented and enjoy the variety of working both with teams and independently, then being a medical coder could be the right job for you. But why else should you become a medical coder?

On a high level, medical coding involves the transformation of healthcare diagnoses, procedures, services and equipment into universal medical alphanumeric codes. They’re needed in healthcare facilities of all types and sizes, especially hospitals across America. It’s an in-demand professional with many great benefits, so if you’re looking to re-boot your career then you’ll definitely want to know how to become a medical coder.

By now you may be wondering, what do I need to become a medical coder? We recently sat down with Jan Gollihur-Davidson, the lead instructor of the AAPC Medical Coding program at PCC Institute for Health Professionals, to talk about how she became a medical coder, and to uncover some of the top characteristics of medical coders that make them successful in the field.

Medical Coders Need Self-Motivation

In most cases, medical coding doesn't involve extensive interaction with a manager or other personnel who can look over your shoulder regularly. That being said, Jan advises that medical coders need to be able to solve puzzles and problems on their own. However, there are some added benefits to that setup.

“Self-motivation is crucial as a medical coder because you work from home a lot,” says Jan. 

However, Jan also cautions that working remotely isn't the same as being in an office with a manager. Self-motivation is essential for getting work done as a medical coder, along with the ability to focus for long periods of time.

Curiosity and Problem-Solving Skills for Medical Coding

Medical coders handle a lot of technical information from physicians and other medical staff from day to day, and then they have to be able to translate that information into a code. Being able to do this in the long term requires problem-solving skills and attention to detail, along with a heavy dash of curiosity.

In the interest of accountability, these reports from medical staff entail almost every detail of a patient's visit, down to the smallest of steps taken to prevent infection.

“You’ll read reports that are operative, for example, from scrubbing of a patient, through the surgery all the way to the end of them getting stitched up,” Jan says. “You’ll then have to translate that language into something more understandable which requires the ability to think abstractly.”

Ability to Work in a Quiet Environment for Long Periods

While your workplace setup will vary depending on the organization for which you work, in most cases medical coders work remotely. However, Jan notes that some organizations prefer to have coders on-site at least a few days every week. Some even work from the office full-time, depending on the size and capacity of the organization.

While that setup is preferred for the introverted among us, most coders don't start out training remotely. Jan notes that for up to eight months, medical coders just starting their role may be in the office until they demonstrate the work ethic and knowledge they need to work remotely.

>> Learn more about our Online Medical Coding Program

Capacity to Solve Problems with Doctors

While most of a medical coder's work is done alone, extracting work from the doctor's notes is a puzzle. Making things more complicated, there can often be one description for multiple types of codes. This puzzle is complex, and there's no singular way to solve each one in all cases.

This is where interacting with physicians comes in. Most doctors are cooperative in helping the coder solve the puzzle involved, but Jan notes they can be hard to work with. Doctors have their own, jargon-filled language they work with, and some have difficulty explaining things to non-doctors. There's also the issue of responsiveness, depending on a doctor's patient load and other factors.

Ultimately, the best way to make sure you can get this information consistently is to build a good working relationship with the physician and medical staff for whom you're coding.

So if you’re someone who is self-motivated, enjoys solving problems and works well with others, then becoming a medical coder could be the right step for you. If your career turns out anything like Jan’s, it will be highly interesting and rewarding. To find out more about how to become a medical coder, talk to our staff at the PCC Institute for Health Professionals today.


Topics: Healthcare, Entry Level Healthcare Careers, Medical Coding

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