Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Medical Coding--A Deaf Professional Manages a Team

(Left: Julia Anderson, right: Cathy Smyth)

Ask Julia Anderson about her job and she'll tell you she "loves it!" Julia is a Clinical Data Coordinator at Advocate Christ Medical Center/Hope Chidren's Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois. She graduated from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) in 1991 with a degree in Medical Records. She went on to obtain certification as a Registered Health Information Technician and Certified Coding Specialist.

Yes, she's been coding for 16 years and still loves it.

Julia communicates in American Sign Language and utilizes interpreters for meetings. On the job, she had to come up with innovative ways to communicate with her co-workers. "I do not use the phone," says Julia. "Email is my main source of communication. The associates in my hospital who I work with know that email is the best way to contact me.

"I use paper and pen to communicate with co-workers, Julia continues. "Sometimes I will use a computer or laptop as well. If co-workers have questions, they will sign, fingerspell or email me."

Julia, along with another coordinator, supervises a staff of 24 medical coders and 4 unbilled staff. Julia's path to becoming a coordinator was not an easy one. Back in 1999, while working as a coder, Julia applied to become a coordinator. She didn't get the job and was quite disappointed. The job was given to Cathy Smyth, who happened to have a sister who was hard of hearing. As it turned out, Julia completed her internship years ago with Cathy's sister at Advocate Christ Medical Center.

In the beginning, Cathy and Julia communicated via paper and pencil. Cathy learned to fingerspell and slowly picked up signs. Today, Cathy and Julia communicate fluently in American Sign Language. Several other co-workers are learning sign as well.

When the coordinator job opened up again four years ago, Cathy encouraged Julia to apply. This time, she obtained the job and continues to enjoy it today. "In my personal opinion," Julia reflects back, "the director at that time did not think I was capable of doing the job due to the communication barrier.

"I ended up proving her wrong when I got the second chance at the coordinator position."


Jessica said...

Awesome! One good story to share and show what Deaf are capable of doing for employment. I will forward this to the local vocational rehabilition agency.

Dennis said...

There's nothing better than a positive story about success.

Congrats to all, and thanks for posting.


Mad goat lady said...

Thanks for letting us walk a day in your shoes...what a fantastic post!

sweetypearose said...

I wanted to share with you that I myself am medical coder for outpatient for 18 years. Now I am working for Fairview Health System in Minneapolis. Certified as for RHIT and CCS in 1997 and 1999. Congrats on your accomplishment!


~Mommy~ said...

Wow! That's inspiring!

kellypea said...

Amazing. Several family members on my husband's side have had multiple surgeries to help their hearing -- bony growths? Not sure, but hearing aides are in order. No one uses ASL at this point. This is an uplifting look at how adaptable people are, and how their determination helps them shine.

Thanks for stopping my my site! I had my "equipment" removed a few months ago, so I can't use PMS as an excuse any more. The ice cream is beyond any chocolate dessert I've had.

Dawn Colclasure said...

Yhis is great, Karen! :) I am not familiar with what medical coding is but I applaud what Julia has done. It's always good to hear these positive stories! Bravo!

Anonymous said...

any deaf can do it!

Celeste said...

How encouraging!

groovyoldlady said...

Sounds like more of us who hear need to learn a second language... :-)

kathryn said...

above the article "medical coding--a deaf professional manages a team there is a heading deaf jobs but when i went to that site those jobs were not for deaf people.
I have been an RN for 23 years and have slowly been losing my hearing for the last 13 years. I am on my 4th set of hearing aids. I am about to take courses to become a medical coder due to my hearing loss but am getting conflicting opinions about the difficulty of the job such as stress level and that if you "code" something incorrectly you can get into real problems. I was very excited about taking these courses but now am very unsure if it would work out for me. I have applied to Nashville State Tech (Tennessee) to start classes in August. Does anyone have any encouraging things to say about a career as a medical coder for a nurse who is losing her hearing at a steady pace??
thanks for reading,

Barb said...

This is great! I wish I knew. I was sitting right next to her at IAD Conference. I am interested to get myself involved with the same job as her. Can I have her email addy so I know where I can start???

sarah said...

wow! great success story! who could have thought that medical coding can also be for the deaf. i've been in business for some time now and this is one of the positive stories on being a medical coder.

thanks for the post!
regards from Medical-Coder.com