Examine Your Definition of Professionalism
By Deborah M Cooper, CPC, CPMA, CFPC, CGSC
There are ways to represent professionalism, but what does it really mean to you? Is it:
- How you dress, where you work, the places you go, or the people you associate with?
- The level of education you’ve accomplished, the school you attended, or the number of credentials behind your name?
- How much education does it take to be a professional? Is professionalism complete at a bachelor’s degree, or even a master’s degree?
- Do you magically become a professional when you obtain a certificate that says you attended school for a stated number of years?
Let’s examine what it means to be professional.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines professionalism as “the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person;” and it defines a profession as “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.” Being a professional is potentially a combination of acquired education in addition to a few other qualities. Not all professionals have the top degrees in their field of expertise; however, these individuals have dedicated many hours of time and effort to master the knowledge they need to be successful and they recognize the importance of sustaining that knowledge by keeping it up to date. For example, Certified Professional Coders (CPCs®) seek ways to earn continuing education units (CEUs) to maintain their credentials and to keep current with medical coding changes and healthcare regulations
Another important step to professionalism is to look the part that you are trying to emanate. This means portray your outward appearance in the best possible light. Dress for success does not always require a three-piece suit. It just means to be polished and dressed appropriately for the environment you work in.
Being a professional not only requires a specialized knowledge, but also the highest level of competency. You can depend upon a professional to accomplish the task set before them. They hold themselves accountable for both word and deed, and they do the right thing for the right reason. They have learned the secret of forming good relationships by treating others with the same level of respect and dignity they desire to be treated. They recognize that we’re all in this game called of life together, and they thrive on the ability to help others succeed. They know that when they lend a helping hand to someone else, it’s one step closer to their own success.
Professionals exhibit qualities such as honesty and integrity. They are true to their values, even when it means taking the road less traveled.
Being a certified medical coder provides the opportunity to achieve professionalism every day. We learn from each other; but even more importantly, there’s always a chance to pass what we have learned on to someone else. We demonstrate excellence in how we relate with others, as well as how we perform our responsibilities. We recognize teamwork as an important component of our professional conduct. We show diversity that enhances learning and knowledge which is so important to professionalism
Medical coders succeed even through the most difficult obstacles because we are determined to identify as professionals. Although being a certified medical coder is only one of many professions, all professions have their own criteria to demonstrate professionalism ― but the root definition of professionalism in each one remains consistent.
Deborah M. Cooper, CPC, CPMA, CFPC, CGSC, has 30 years of experience working in medical coding and auditing. She has worked the last 10+ years for the Quality Audit Department for Duke University Hospital System where she is the team lead. Cooper’s local chapter affiliation is the Durham, N.C., local chapter.
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