(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."