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Thread: How to Impress during an externship?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2007

    Default How to Impress during an externship?

    AAPC: Back to School
    I'm about four weeks from finishing the classroom portion of my health administration course. Then, I'll have a three week externship.

    I am really hoping to land a job from the externship and wanted to know, what helped you get your first coding job?
    I also have my CPC certification exam scheduled for two weeks from now... Does it look good for someone who's just starting out (no professional experience coding) to enter an externship with certification?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Oklahoma City, OK


    I think for an externship, the certification is less important than it will be when searching for a job later. Usually externship sites know that you are in the process of getting certified and have little/no experience. The key to impressing at externship is being a model employee-- be at work on time, have a great attitude and be willing to accept any extra responsibility. My externship was in an optometrist's office, and I was asked to dilate some of our patients and give field vision tests-- not exactly what my coding title implied! It was a great way to become important enough to the office that, while a permanent position wasn't available there, I ended up with a fabulous reference for my job search.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Grand Rapids, MI


    Show them your best! Be on time, courteous, and enthusiastic. Know that you are free labor to them so your are not always going to be doing exciting things, but whatever task you are given, do it eagarly and to the best of your ability. It will show them that you are thinking about their company, not just yourself (which is what you'll be doing in a job anyway, right?). When you can, interject your knowledge and show that you are aware of how what you're doing fits into the big picture (Oh, look, they had an ECG when you see an ECG code, for example) but don't be bragging or lecturing. You need to be humble, but not invisible. Ask appropriate questions. This shows you are paying attention and that you are interested in knowing more.

    I was hired in from my externship. While I was there, another student from my school was transfered to my site halfway through the externship. She complained about the type of work they were asking her to do at her other site and at one point flat out refused to do something that they asked of her. Don't be that person!

    Good luck!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Dover Seacoast New Hampshire


    Besides the comments above, I can offer advice on what not to do....based on some unfortuate issues with externs we've had in the past.

    Be willing to do whatever you're asked. And if you're not asked, offer to help.

    Stay out of the office politics. If you unwittingly place yourself in the middle of an unpopular issue, you might not be asked back. If anyone tries to suck you in....act noncommittal and keep quiet.

    Dress appropriately; conservative is best, or at least follow the lead of your manager.

    Don't smoke. This is a big one. Even if you take a break during your assigned lunch or breaktime and go out for a cigarette, you advertise that you are a smoker....something that some managers (me included) don't want to have to police.

    Ask questions when appropriate. Everyone's busy and might view your over-enthusiasm as peskiness. Unfortunately, externships can be viewed by exisiting staff as 'having to babysit'. A good manager won't allow that attitude, but it does exist.

    Be prepared to do the 'scut' work. You're not going to be offered the corner office, but at least you'll get an idea of the kinds of things that bog the rest of the team down. Think of solutions and workarounds to make things easier. Your suggestions might impress someone.

    Don't ask questions of the regular staff that are none of your business.....'how much do you make?' for example. Your questions should be entirely work related.

    Admit if you're in over your head, or if you don't understand something. Nothing burns your bridges faster than the staff having to clean up after you when your externship is over.

    Pay attention to your environment in regards to the level of office noise and atmosphere. Remember, coders are often head-down and deep in thought. Your running commentary of your two-year-old's birthday party last week might not be what everyone wants to hear about.

    Shut off your cell phone, or put it on vibrate. If you take a non-work related call, leave the area. Any personal details about your life are best kept to yourself. You wouldn't want to share anything that might suggest you have personal problems that a new employer might not want to have to deal with.

    I don't mean to suggest that every extern is as clueless as the examples above, but you'd be surprised what's out there! (or maybe not). Everyone wants to make a good impression, but sometimes we aren't realistic about the things we do that might hurt our chances.

    Good luck!
    Pam Brooks, MHA, CPC, PCS, COC
    Coding Manager
    Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
    Dover, NH 03820

    If you can dream it, you can do it. Walt Disney

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