Perseverance Pays Off in Job Market

AAPC certifications changed my life and supported my career advancement.

By Melody S. Irvine, CPC, CPMA, CEMC, CFPC, CPC-I, CCS-P, CMRS

Life is tough and so is the job market. Making the best out of the cards you are dealt and looking for educational opportunities when they arise can make the difference between success and failure. Here is the story of my career path and credentials I carry to show you that when one door closes, another one opens.

1980: Getting a Foot in the Door

I just had my first child, but I couldn’t afford to be a stay-at-home mom; I had to find a job. I did not have direction or a career path, but I was fortunate to find employment as a hospital operator. I worked the 3-11 p.m. shift on weekends and holidays. The hours were not the most convenient, but it paid well, had benefits, and I did not have to pay for full-time daycare.

1981-2000: Gaining Practical Experience

Over the next nine years, I had another child and held positions at the same hospital in admission, data entry, and the billing department. I built a reputation as a hard worker and was offered a position with a local physician group of six family physicians. Little did I know at the time that I was at the start of an amazing career.

Over the next 15 years, I worked in nearly every position in the physician’s office, from scheduling, front desk, medical records, and referrals, to billing and coding. I learned all I could from each position, and I never said, “No, that’s not my job.”

In 1993, I was raising two young boys by myself. I had reached the level of billing/coding supervisor within the first five years with this physician group, but advancing within the organization looked bleak, and I wasn’t sure how we would survive on my current wages. My self-esteem and self worth were at an all-time low. I didn’t know where I was going in my life and career; all I knew was that I wanted to provide for my sons the secure and bright future they so much deserved.

2002: Seeking Certification to Further Career

My physician group joined with several other multi-specialty groups to become a large physician practice. During the reorganization, an administrator approached me about the possibility of advancement. They wanted me to be their director of coding; however, I had one missing criteria to meet: I had to be a certified coder. Fortunately for me, I was hired for the position and given one year to obtain my certification.

I acquired my Certified Professional Coder (CPC®) credential in 2003. The certification gave me confidence, boosted my self-esteem, and gave me a feeling of value. I was asked to help develop the compliance plan for the practice and was promoted to director of the practice’s urgent care facility.

After reaching these goals, the physician group informed me I had to learn evaluation and management (E/M) auditing—I hated E/M codes! They were confusing and very intimidating, but I didn’t have a choice. I was lucky to work for a fantastic physician who understood E/M coding extremely well, and he volunteered to guide me. We took all of the classes together and learned more about auditing.

As the years moved on, so did my career. I left my position with the physician group and was hired to develop and implement the medical billing and coding curriculum for a technical school. Later, I decided to open my own school and consulting firm. With hard work and good fortune, I have been successful.

30 Years and Seven Credentials Later

I now have seven certifications, five of which are from AAPC. I worked very hard to obtain them—none were easy to earn, and I’m not fond of tests. People ask me, “Why so many certifications?” It’s not because I want to have all of these acronyms behind my name, it’s because each certification shows expertise and advanced knowledge in a specific area. Each credential made a difference in employment and my career path. Employers have told me they are hiring me specifically because of my certifications.

My career has been 30 years in the making. It took many hours of hard work and sacrifices. My career was at a dead end until I decided to make some changes. AAPC certifications made a difference in my life and career. Don’t let anyone tell you, “You can’t do it.” I’m proof that you can.

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Melody S. Irvine, CPC, CPMA, CEMC, CFPC, CPC-I, CCS-P, CMRS, is co-author of the CPMA curriculum and soon to be releasing her second auditing book. She served on the AAPC National Advisory Board from 2009–2013 as Member Relations Officer.

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