by Betty Stump, MHIA, RHIT, CPC, CCS-P, CPMA, CDIP
November 10th, 2017
Coders, auditors, even physicians, and other healthcare professionals recognize their career paths will require ongoing education. For those with certifications or other professional designations, continuing education units (CEUs) are a routine annual requirement of credential maintenance. Even for those new to the profession and who've yet to sit for a certification, the need to stay informed and current with industry trends, emerging or changing regulations, or exploring potential growth and development opportunities requires education.
Opportunities for education span a wide array of settings and formats including conferences, meetings, live and recorded webinars, and even learn-on-your- own formats. Formal conferences, such as the NAMAS Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, can be one or multiple day events. Association chapter meetings and/or webinars are generally 1 to 2-hour events, often scheduled during lunch hours or at the end of the business day to avoid cutting into productive work hours.
I've had the great opportunity to attend and speak at multiple educational conferences and I've recently experienced a revelation that I believe is an overdue reminder to everyone who attends education opportunities. There are always new, updated or previously misunderstood things in healthcare about which we can and should learn. For those who've been in the field for many years, it's all too easy to look at education sessions as a social event and opportunity to reconnect with friends and associates. Networking, checking possible new job opportunities and visiting exhibitors in the exhibit hall are all part of the experience, but it’s important to not treat the actual education sessions as secondary concerns, often sitting in the back of the room where we can comfortably answer emails without paying much attention or listening to the information being presented. Or, we attend sessions we've heard three times before because we enjoy the speakers' style and delivery and we can count on being entertained during the session. After all, we know what we're doing and we're only there for the necessary CEUs, right?
My epiphany regarding the value of paying attention to education came during a session on teaching physician guidelines. I've coded, audited, and provided education for teaching facility providers and felt confident my level of understanding was more than sufficient. You can imagine my great surprise when I realized the presenter was covering information I'd never heard previously! I stopped what I had been doing (reading through e-mails) and began listening - really listening, to the material being covered and quickly realized some of my knowledge on teaching guidelines was outdated, insufficient or, plainly inaccurate. The speaker did a tremendous job in providing education further supported by clear citations, references, and examples to support her position. I realized at that point I'd been taking for granted opportunities for continuing education and truly wasn't appreciating the value available to me. We're all lifelong learners and failing to understand this may result in inadequate job skill competencies and attitudes that are outdated, inflexible, and unable to adapt to the rapid changes of the healthcare industry.
Don't think that continuing education is simply a requirement of certification! I encourage you to challenge yourself to attend sessions covering new or emerging topics. Don't rely on the familiar, but rather look for speakers affiliated with organizations you admire or topics pushing the boundaries of traditional services. Consider new or emerging opportunities in coding, auditing or other areas such as risk adjustment, clinical documentation improvement, or compliance. Listen carefully to the information being presented and compare that against your current knowledge base. If the material coincides with what you already know, take this as a validation of your expertise. If the information conflicts with what you know, consider the source or sources of information - is the conflict due to inaccuracies on your part or the presenter? You might consider privately and respectfully questioning material you feel inaccurate or insufficiently supported by following up with the presenter via e-mail or post-presentation conversation to better understand the speaker's point of reference.
Developing and maintaining a mindset that values voluntary lifelong learning, including the ability to identify individual and practice-specific professional development goals can be a challenge; however, failing to capitalize on education opportunities, well that's just foolish!