When Your Coding Career Meets a Roadblock: Choosing Your Response

When Your Coding Career Meets a Roadblock: Choosing Your Response

by Rebecca Harmon, MPM, RHIA, CCA

We’ve all encountered the ROAD CLOSED sign on the way to work, or as we were running late to an important function or meeting. Even if we left a little early, this kind of surprise can throw us for a loop and when it happens, we have a choice that will determine how the rest of our day will unfold.

Option A: we can get angry, honk our horn, do an impatient U-turn in the middle of the road, wave our arms at other motorists and then call someone and complain all the way to work about the inconsiderate jerks who decided it was smart to close off that road when people need to get to work.

Option B: we can take it in our stride and understand that these things happen, and focus on our two duties in a situation like this. Duty 1 is to find an alternate route and Duty 2 is to not take it personally.

We get to choose Option A or Option B. They both eventually lead us to work, but if we descend into the misery of Option A we will experience a lot more stress. We also run the risk of making things worse with a fender bender as we angrily put our attention on what happened earlier instead of placing more calm attention on the current moment. And there’s always a chance that someone we know saw us not acting our best. Option B promises a better start to the day, and doesn’t put our reputations in jeopardy.

Our coding careers can sometimes travel a similar path. We researched and chose the right path in terms of our education and credentials. We faithfully keep up with our continuing education and participate in Coding/HIM activities in our facility and community. We even volunteer for things at work that no one else wants to do. So, everything ought to proceed smoothly, right? We’ve paid our dues, and when we want to move ahead and advance our careers, we’ve earned the right to do it!

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes the familiar and well-traveled route that we have taken to advance our career is suddenly shut down. A big ROAD CLOSED sign is erected in front of us, and like that same sign on a morning commute, the ROAD CLOSED sign in our careers can cause a lot of stress.

My advice for career ROAD CLOSINGS is similar to the advice I give for the re-routed morning commute: these things happen, and the tasks in front of us are to find a new career path and not take it personally.

It can be easy to get caught up in rehashing the “fairness” of a decision – especially when we feel that we were treated unjustly and in a manner that has consequences for our career. Whether we are reeling from being passed over for a promotion, reassigned into a role we don’t like or even downsized: the choice on how it impacts our outlook is ours and ours alone. And the better we respond, the more quickly we’ll return to business as usual in our careers.

It can feel unfair on Monday morning that we’re going to be late for work due to someone else’s actions, but when we get miserable about it, we’re the only one that suffers. The same applies when the detour sign is erected in the middle of our career.

In my previous blog I wrote about the importance of establishing a habit of lifelong learning because it helps keep us agile, sharp and ready for changes that may come our way. Lifelong learning and making the choice to stay positive can help us pivot to an attitude that will work for us, not against us. Staying positive will lead us in a direction that can open doors to more interesting and lucrative paths and change our lives in a way we may have never seen if the ROAD CLOSED sign had not appeared.

When we choose to navigate the potholes, detours and ROAD CLOSED signs along the way with an empowered and positive attitude we will feel less stress, more peace and have a better perspective from which to reevaluate our options – whether it’s a different route to work or a new and improved career!


Core Coding Skills for the Hospital Coder provides the essential workforce training necessary for an entry-level hospital coder. Learn the primary coding systems used in hospitals (ICD-10-CM; ICD-10-PCS; and CPT) plus hands-on, real-world practical experience in accurate and complete coding.

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About the Author

Rebecca Harmon, MPM, RHIA, CCA
Rebecca Harmon returned to HIM practice in a leadership role after spending many years as an HIM educator. Tapping her broad history of diverse healthcare experience that began with a tour of duty in the US Navy, Rebecca writes regularly and speaks on education, workforce issues, management and life. An energetic and engaging speaker, Ms. Harmon enjoys sharing her unique perspective with student, faculty, professional and community groups.

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