Project Xtern Frequently Asked Questions

Coder Questions and Answers

Q: Who do I call if I have general questions about Project Xtern?
A: You can email the Project Xtern program manager by clicking the link on the Project Xtern page or you can call 1-800-626-2633. Please note that each Approved Official Extern Site (AOES) is an independent facility and will only have information about how the AOES is operated in their company.

Q: Do I have to be an AAPC member to get an externship from AOES?
A: Yes, the students applying for an externship must be current members of the AAPC in order to be placed at an AAPC-AOES facility.

Q: Do I get paid for the externship?
A: Normally externships are not paid positions. Project Xtern is set up so that the AOES provides hands-on mentoring. In the event that the AOES is willing to provide compensation of any kind, please know that it would be between the AOES facility and the member. This question is most appropriate when asked at an official extern interview with the prospective member and AOES facility.

How do I know if there is a facility in my area?
Log in at AAPC.com and go to our Locate Xtern Site page (under the Job Section).

Q: What are the requirements to participate?
A: CPC-A®, CPC-H-A® or CPC-P-A®.

Q: Can my time spent as an extern go toward my required experience time to remove my apprentice status?
A: Yes, but all time must equal a year. If you are working for 3 months at your externship facility; your apprentice status will not be removed, but can go toward the year of experience, leaving 9 months left until you have 1 full year of experience.

Q: What information do I need to provide the AOES when applying for an externship?
A: Please provide your resume and proof of current AAPC membership. The AOES will notify you if they need any additional items for the specific externship you are applying for.

Q: What if there are no available externships in my area?
A: Please contact our Externship department with a list of surrounding facilities in your area that you think may be interested (name, address, phone). We will work to contract with them.

Q: If I receive an externship, can I work remotely?
A: Externships require hands-on involvement and cannot be done remotely. Externships depend on direct, face-to-face communication to ensure a quality experience for the extern and the AOES.

Q: Can I work evenings?
A: The externship typically functions during normal business hours. Exceptions may be made by the AOES, but under most circumstances evening hours are not available.

Q: How many hours a week do I work?
A: Externs can work anywhere from 10-40 hours per week. This is decided on an individual basis as determined by the AOES.

Q: Will I be hired by the AOES site?
A: This program is not designed for you to be hired directly by the AOES. It is at the sole discretion of the hiring facility, their employment needs and whom they chose to hire. Most members completing an externship hope to be hired for employment at the conclusion of the externship.

Q: What if I cannot find an AOES in my area?
A: You can encourage a facility in your area to apply to be an AOES. The facility simply completes the AAPC-AOES application. Upon approval and as a bonus for you, you are awarded $50 AAPC Bucks.

Q: Is the AOES a coding school?
A: No, the AOES is typically a billing and/or coding service that will mentor you while you code actual narrative reports (i.e., operative reports, office notes, radiology reports, hospital admission records, etc.) and gain exposure to industry-specific companies and their work flow.

Q: My current school requires me to complete an externship prior to graduation. Do I contact the AOES or my school’s extern coordinator?
A: When the school requires the student to complete an externship prior to program completion as a mandatory part of the student’s studies, the school’s official extern coordinator must contact the AOES and facilitate the student’s interview. If the AOES decides to place the student at their facility, the “extern coordinator” will make all of the necessary arrangements with the AOES.

Q: How will my school know about the AOES facility for my extern placement if they have never used that site for student placement in the past?
A: You should direct both your school’s program director and extern coordinator to the AAPC website for Project Xtern information. Inform your school of your interest to be placed at one of the AOES sites if one is listed as available in your local area. Remember this is an AAPC member benefit only.

Q: Do you have any tips for getting and succeeding at an externship?
A:

  • Prepare or update your resume and references
  • Network with your local chapter, friends, and family. The more people who are on your side the quicker it will be to find an externship/job
  • Volunteer to assist during vacations and breaks
  • Communicate
  • Have a good attendance policy. Show up when you’re scheduled to work.
  • Go to in-services, meetings, and any other function that would apply to coding/billing
  • Gather resources for yourself (find the materials you need to be efficient)
  • Evaluate yourself and ask to be evaluated by your supervisor (What experience have you gained? Where can you improve?)
  • Be outgoing and tactful
  • Remember externs are advised not to share with others information that may have been disclosed by other externs or employees at their externship that may be privileged or confidential
  • Our Approved Official Extern Sites (AOES) are volunteers and businesses. Please treat them professionally and understand they are volunteering their time and money to help you gain work experience

Q: I do not have a required externship as part of an educational program completion requirement. Can I still be an extern?
A: Yes, you would be a volunteer extern. You would contact the AOES in your local area and arrange an extern interview. This externship is done through you as the member and the facility.

Q: If the AOES facility does not hire me then how do I benefit from completing a non-paid externship?
A: The biggest benefit of an externship, either paid or unpaid, is the experience the extern gains from hands-on experience in the industry. The need for experience is paramount when being considered for any position in the medical coding and billing field. The other key factor to remember is that this is the time to impress the facility who has offered you the position. An employer who is impressed by your positive attributes and skills will be more willing to offer a permanent position if in the event there is an open position available.

Q: Is this program only for student AAPC members?
A: No, Project Xtern can only be utilized by newly certified members. This program assists all members who want a new experience in a new specialty or to those who may have just relocated to a new area and are unable to find employment.

Q: Do I call the AAPC for placement in an AOES?
A: No, the AAPC is not a placement agency. The AAPC acts as a third party in the project and is a resource only to our members. Please contact AOES directly for placement as AAPC cannot directly perform the functions of placing externs. All of the contact information for each facility is found on the AAPC website and is listed as a resource only.

Q: Does the AAPC recommend that the student signs a waiver of liability?
A: The AAPC encourages each facility to check with their risk management and or administration faculty for appropriate waiver verbiage. The verbiage may be different from state to state. The AAPC has a sample general waiver of liability on their project extern website. This is a sample only and is not to be used prior to clearance with the facility’s risk management team, legal department or administration. It should also be noted that when a student is placed at a facility as part of a program requirement prior to graduation, the educational institution typically covers all liability for the extern while they are completing their educational requirements at the facility.

Q: How will the student know about the facilities who are part of the AOES?
A: AAPC members will receive a tips sheet in their new member packets. All members will continue to hear about the program each month in the Cutting Edge and at our various nationwide events. All of the Project Xtern information leads members to the AAPC website where they can access all necessary information, including a list of facilities that have agreements to accept AAPC member externs. Your facility along with your contact information will be listed on the AAPC website under the appropriate state.

Q: Our facility sent in our agreement but we are not listed on the site yet, why?
A: The AAPC website is updated and the AOES facilities once a week. If you do not see your site listed within two weeks of faxing your signed agreement, please contact Project Xtern Program Manager Heidi Larsen at heidi.larsen@aapc.com.

Q: Does the AAPC give any benefits to facilities for signing on as an AOES?
A: Yes, the AAPC rewards facilities by providing them with one free webinar a year for every year they are an approved facility. The reward will be included in the facility welcome packet with your certificate and welcome letter. Thereafter the free webinar certificate will be mailed to you at your anniversary sign-on date. It will come in the form of AAPC Audio Bucks. This is just our way of saying thank you for giving back to our AAPC medical coding and billing community.

Q: Can we provide Xternships for other colleges/schools, or are we required to only use the AAPC Project Xtern program?
A: Yes, you may provide Xternships for any other college/school or program that you desire. We only ask that when an AAPC member contacts you with regard to Project Xtern that you follow our limited program rules as outlined on the AAPC-AOES agreement form. We encourage you and your facility to participate in as many mentorship programs that you are able to.

Q: How long is the Project Xtern Mentor Program?
A: This is up to your facility. Most programs have a window of six to 12 weeks of required externship.

Q: Is there an evaluation form that we can use or should use to evaluate the Xtern?
A: Yes, you will find it on the “Project Xtern” web page located at www.aapc.com. This form should be used at the end of the Xternship and a copy should be provided to your Xtern.

Q: Will the AAPC be tracking how many Xterns we have assisted each year and if they were hired or not?
A: Yes, we are currently developing an online tool that will be accessible before the January 2008 anniversary date of Project Xtern. We will require all AAPC-AOESs to complete this form online at the end of each year. This form will tell us three things: 1) Your Xtern AAPC member name, 2) if they completed or did not complete the Xternship with your facility, and 3) if they were hired or not. Keep checking the Project Xtern web page at www.aapc.com for this form.

Q: How many Xterns does the AAPC-AOES have to place each year?
A: This is determined completely by the needs and availability of the AAPC-AOES. We understand that some facilities will be able to have more Xterns at their facility based on need and mentor availability. Some AAPC-AOESs will only place an Xtern when an job opening becomes available and may use the Xtern program as a training mechanism. The AAPC appreciates the the AAPC-AOES involvement at any level.

More Questions?
Contact Project Xtern Program Manager:
Heidi Larsen
heidi.larsen@aapc.com
800-626-2633 x 147