Don’t Let Your Credentials Slip Away

Don’t Let Your Credentials Slip Away

You earned them and have worked way too hard to give up on your dream.

There are many reasons why an AAPC member may consider letting go of his or her hard-earned credentials. Sometimes it may seem like the best choice, especially if the member is out of money and hasn’t found a job in his or her field. Other times, the decision is made because a member fears taking and failing a proficiency exam. Whatever the reason, it’s never a good idea to give up and to sell yourself short. It puts you at a disadvantage when marketing yourself in the industry, and it’s a burden to get back into the business side of healthcare without credentials.

Before you pack your bags and hit the road, consider the consequences of giving up your credentials.

When Letting Go Seems Like the Only Option 

If you’re at the breaking point and think your credentials aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, consider your actions carefully before you let your credentials lapse. Former AAPC Chapter Association Chair Brenda Edwards, CPC, CPB, CPMA, CPC-I, CEMC, CRC, said she knows members who have let their credentials expire, and they have had nothing but regret. “These are members who may or may not use their credentials in their current careers,” she said. It’s not only a bad career decision for a credentialed member, but it also hurts the teacher, according to Edwards. “I have taught a lot of students in the PMCC course and it hurts to hear they have not kept their credentials current,” she said. Edwards says her students are like her kids. “I have watched them learn and gain experience, and then to find out after all of that, they let them go for whatever reason — it’s upsetting,” she said.

AAPC Chapter Association Chair Barbara Fontaine, CPC, said she doesn’t know anyone who let his or her credentials expire and who didn’t keep current with required education or membership fees. She does know, however, someone who considered it. “I know a member who was not going to keep her credentials because she was afraid of the ICD-10 Proficiency Assessment,” Fontaine said. The good news is that the member decided at the last minute to take the proficiency, and passed it on the first try. “When the member finished the assessment she said that she thought back on how difficult it had been for her to obtain her CPC® credential and decided she wasn’t going to let all that time, money, and effort be wasted,” said Fontaine.

Advantages of Holding Tight to Credentials

“Credentials prove that you have the basic expertise needed for any particular job,” Fontaine said. She coded for years before becoming certified. When Fontaine became certified, she said, “It was like the whole world of coding and billing opened up for me.” Since receiving her credentials, she has been sought out for several positions. Although she is happy at the job she has, she said, “It was really flattering to be considered and pursued based on my credential and my experience.”

Although Fontaine already had her foot in the industry door before she obtained her credentials, it was not the case with Edwards, who always considered coding as her first career choice. Her credentials were a tool she used to land a job and advance her career. Edwards said, “I started with no experience. … To advance in my career, it has been important for me to always be current on my skills. A lot of hard work and time has gone into each of my credentials.” Edwards says if she was to let any of her credentials go, she would be failing herself and failing her career. “I believe that credentials aid in credibility with providers, coders, and my students when I teach,” she said.

Edwards’ take-home message to members is “Credentials are attainable. If I can do it, you can do it.” When obtained, credentials should be kept with pride because you earned them and they are marketable.

Employers Will Overlook You

Coding Manager Pam Brooks, MHA, CPC, COC, PCS, at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital (WDH) in Dover, New Hampshire is responsible for a team of coders and for hiring new coding candidates. She said, “Most hospitals (including mine) and larger healthcare organizations require that coders obtain and retain their coding certifications.” Brooks says letting your credentials lapse could put you at a disadvantage when looking for work. She has had potential employees ask about job openings but, she said, “When they told me they had let their certifications go, I had to tell them that they were not qualified for the job.”

If You Start Slipping, There’s Help

There are options if you can’t financially keep up with membership dues or Continuing Education Units (CEUs). Here are ways to get free and low-cost CEUs:

  • Local Chapter Meetings/Local Events – When you attend CEU-approved local chapter meetings and local events, you can earn one CEU per hour and enjoy networking with other professionals and possible future employers. Some chapter meetings are free or only cost a few dollars.
  • Test Yourself – Healthcare Business Monthly offers an online Test Yourself quiz (www.aapc.com/resources/publications/healthcare-business-monthly/archive.aspx). All you have to do is answer the magazine’s questions and you’ll receive one free CEU per issue. There are 12 archived Test Yourself exercises available at a time, so you can earn up to 12 free CEUs per year.
  • Write for Healthcare Business Monthly – You can earn 0.5 CEUs for every 500 published words you write in the magazine, with a maximum of 1.5 CEUs per article.
  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) – Medicare Learning Network has several web-based programs where you can earn CEUs for free at: www.cms.hhs.gov/MLNProducts (click on the “Web-Based Training (WBT)” to the left on the webpage).

Michelle A. Dick is executive editor at AAPC.

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Michelle Dick
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Michelle Dick

Executive Editor at AAPC
Michelle A. Dick has been executive editor for AAPC for over seven years. Prior to her work at AAPC, she was editor-in-chief at Eli Research and Element K Journals, and disk ad coordinator, web designer/developer, and graphic artist at White Directory Publishers, Inc. Dick has a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design from the State University of New York - Buffalo State and is a member of the Flower City Professional Coders in Rochester, N.Y.
Michelle Dick
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About Has 134 Posts

Michelle A. Dick has been executive editor for AAPC for over seven years. Prior to her work at AAPC, she was editor-in-chief at Eli Research and Element K Journals, and disk ad coordinator, web designer/developer, and graphic artist at White Directory Publishers, Inc. Dick has a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design from the State University of New York - Buffalo State and is a member of the Flower City Professional Coders in Rochester, N.Y.

11 Responses to “Don’t Let Your Credentials Slip Away”

  1. Razia I. Asghar says:

    Is there a discount membership fee for Retired AAPC members who are no longer working but still want to maintain the AAPC credentials

  2. Kaylene says:

    I’m not sure why a coder who has let their credentials lapse would personally hurt or upset an instructor.

  3. PAULA says:

    I agree with this article, however the other to consider is the lack of CEUs for a specialty credential. The ceus for CIRCC are few and far between and make if very difficult to keep up the required ceus. For example I have completed all the available webinars from the AAPC and there aren’t any new ones available. None of the newsletters have been approved for CIRCC ceus. So I ask where does that leave those of us with this credential?

  4. Erica Rose Ellis says:

    When financial issues arise, like myself who has obtained and kept my CPC-A and my COC-A for fours years now. I haven’t been able to use my education. So when I read this and realize no metion of the AAPC hardship option I’m curious as to why it is not posted. August is coming fast I have four kids I raise alone after a divorce the same year I got my certifications. $125 a year is so hard to come up with… but thankfully they provided my 2015 coding book and paid for my $60 ICD-10 fee. I really don’t know if I will be keeping my certifications even though its my dream career…. some mention of the Hardship program shoild be in this article.

  5. Sally Huber says:

    I was also fearful of ICD 10 since I have not pursued a coding position yet. I ordered the test but did not take it in the allotted time so I believe I have already lost my credentials. If there is still some way I could still take the test and reinstate my membership please let me know. I have not looked for a position using my coding skills, did keep up with with my CEU’s and unfortunately the ICD10 test wasn’t something I had anticipated. It has been difficult to justify the additional expense of ICD 10 books.

  6. Lori suarez says:

    I don’t know why I’m receiving this email. I have completed all theCEU’s I need to keep my credential current. I was instructed not to submit them until after 2-28-2016. They are listed in my CEU tracker.

  7. Aleshia Sterland says:

    I received my cpc 1 year and two months ago. I can’t find a job. I have at least 12@ years of corporate business and experience, 3 years on an ambulance crew and have my CPC and my ICD10 . All I ever get is you don’t have any experience in medical coding. We won’t hire you. Now no work. I have an associates degree in business and am all current on my credentials. I have asked for help from AAPC… No answer

  8. Karen Foster says:

    I enjoyed reading your article, I recently qualified for proficiency in ICDS-10. But I am considering letting my credentials lapse. Four years ago, I went back to school to be able to qualify for my certification. I’d been told that it was a lucrative career with many job openings. I graduated with a 3.85 GPA and was told I would have no problem getting a job, leading to a career. It is now 4 years later and I’m still not working in my chosen field. I have dutifully kept up my credentials, but it gets harder to justify the expense without any prospects. I am angry with the college for seemingly leading me on to get my tuition fees. I’m always told that I can’t get a job without experience, but I can’t get experience without a job. The eternal Catch-22. It seems to be a losing cause to continue spending money that I struggle to earn, to keep up credentials with little prospect of getting any return. I understand your reasoning, and it’s valid; just maybe not for all of us. Thank you for your time in reading this reply
    Karen Foster

  9. Theres says:

    THIS ARTICLE IS DIVINE INTERVENTION FOR ME BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN A Cpc-A since 2014. I passed my 1st attempt. Worked from 2000-2009. As a CMA and patient registrar. My mom gets ill, I take a few years off. IT HAS BEEN VERY DISAPPOINTING TO NOT HAVE A JOB BACK IN HEALTHCARE YET. I WAS GOING TO LET IT EXPIRE IN DEC. IF I STILL DID NOT WORK IN CODING..HECK I HAVE EVEN APPLIED FOR FRONT OFFICE POSITION THAT I AM QUALIFIED FOR. I WILL NOT GIVE UP. IF MARYLAND DOESN’T WORK OUT. I WILL PUSH MY RESUME AND MOVE WHERE THE JOB IS. HECK I’LL MOVE TO OREGON IF I HAVE TO. THANKS FOR THE ARTICLE
    THERESA WHITE , CPC-A

  10. Laurel Trent says:

    I can’t seem to pass the ICD-10 assessment, I’ve taken it twice and don’t know what I’m missing. Not sure what I need to do to get a better understanding of ICD-10 and don’t know if there is time to do anything.
    If you could help I would appreciate it.

  11. Vicki Hegyi says:

    I have been looking for a coding position since I got certified in October of 2013. The A the AAPC attaches to a newly certified member doesn’t help them, it hurts them because it points out that you are newly certified and may not have the experience they are working for. Also raising your membership fee to $150 doesn’t help either. EVERY position in my geological area are looking for 3-5 years experience. I am desperate for work but may be forced to take something other than in the coding field. Any suggestions? I go to my meetings and hear of all of these positions, but still nobody is willing to take a chance on me. Experience is all they are looking for.

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