Nearly a year after graduating from Rend Lake College, Ashley Gockel of Valier completed the next step in her career as a medical coder.
Gockel joined a selective group after passing her credentialing exam this past March. The 2020 alumna is now a certified coding specialist, and the special certification ensures professional medical coders are in complete compliance with regulatory procedures.
Gockel, who is from Valier, took some time off to make sure she was completely prepared for the test. She hit the books for a couple hours on the weekend that fall.
Gockel knew she wanted to work in the medical field. It was not until a friend told her about the career, she did not know that it was an option. Another random meeting at a family friend’s Super Bowl party gave her the chance to talk with a former medical coding program director.
“After that, I knew that I wanted to pursue this degree,” Gockel said.
Gockel works as a coder at Franklin Hospital in Benton. Because it is a smaller critical access hospital, Gockel has the opportunity to handle other duties other than coding, including clinical documentation improvement, charging and billing as well as release of information.
“This is a smaller hospital so as a medical coder here, so I do a lot more than coding,” Gockel said. “I can honestly say I learn something new every day and I enjoy my job.”
Gockel said her time at RLC gave her a firm foundation of what she was going to need for her profession.
“All the courses for the program prepare you in different ways,” she said. “It is impossible to remember everything you learn, as you take in so much information in a small amount of time. Through the classes, you get familiarized with medical terminology, disease processes, reimbursement, Microsoft office, and more. Learning these things will make your job as a coder much easier. I continue to study and learn even though I am finished with school and have passed my exam. Our job as coders requires a lot of internet research and things are constantly changing.”
Lora Phillips, RLC’s Medical Coding and Health Information Technology instructor, said students enrolled in the medical coding program are given a foundation of information and then directed to choose the field that they would like to work in.
“Typically in January, I tell them to select a credential and then start studying for it,” Phillips said. “Some may like [obstetrics] coding and would like to work with Heartland Women’s Healthcare. We help them to learn the basics of coding and teach the tip of the iceberg to give them a foundation.”
Gockel advises anyone interested in the credentialing exam to be patient and learn as much as you can before the exam.
“Do not rush to take the test. Take it when you are ready,” she said. “Be sure to study your coding guidelines and I suggest buying the exam prep book, as it also has online content that was extremely helpful for studying at any time. Try to get your foot in the door of a local hospital, even if it is not in the Health Information Department, just to familiarize yourself with the workings of the healthcare field.”
Ashley Gockel is pictured here with her fiancé Austin and sons Cayden (13) and Avery (3).