by Angela Lima, BS, CCS, CDIP, COC, CIC, AAPC-Approved Instructor
I will never forget my mentor. She was contracted to mentor the coders at the small community hospital where I worked twenty-eight years ago. There were two inpatient coders and three outpatient coders. I was so young then and I hung on every word she said. She seemed to have every guideline and Coding Clinic memorized, but it was more than that. She taught me about coding ethically and with integrity. She taught me about seeing the patient’s story in the codes. She taught me how to love coding. It was never just a job for her and I admired that.
So what was it that my mentor did for me? She reviewed my charts every day and gave me personal feedback. Over time, we formed a trusting, professional relationship which allowed me the freedom to ask questions without feeling like I should have known the answer or that I should have known there was a Coding Clinic that addressed that issue. My mentor challenged me to improve my skills, grow as a professional, and try my hand at increasingly complex records.
Another important aspect of this successful mentoring program was that it leveled the playing field among all members of the coding team. I was the new kid on the block but even the coder with ten years of experience was going through basic training again. We were all in this together and we supported each other. It was great. What we discovered is that everyone had something to learn. Every Friday afternoon during lunch until closing time, we had our “Faye Brown” session, and individual case discussion. We covered the whole book and every guideline. We had homework, the works. We were able to apply what we were learning practically in our everyday coding routine. What an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to work as a team!
As a result of this intensive, one year mentoring program, the coding skills of all team members improved as demonstrated by increased productivity, better compliance with coding guidelines, and fewer external audits that went against us. The intensive training positioned me to earn my CCS and set me on my way to a career in coding.
The bottom line is that a mentor does not review a coder’s work just to point out errors or show the “missed opportunities,” but rather a mentor comes alongside to provide feedback, guidance and information in such a way that the coder is left feeling confident and empowered. That was my mentor’s legacy left behind for me. I hope that is the legacy I leave behind for my students and those I have the privilege of mentoring in the future.
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