Everyone in the health information management (HIM) and coding industry knows how difficult it is for a new coding professional to get their first job. It’s that proverbial, and sometimes mocking, Catch-22—how can a coding professional get experience if no one will give them a job?
New coding program graduates are often encouraged to apply for anything they can in an HIM department in order to get their foot in the door. “Anything” can include everything BUT coding, such as release of information jobs, file clerk, answering phones, etc. The rationale is if a new position at that organization suitable for the new graduate opens up, and they have shown they can work, they might be able to move into the coding role. Meanwhile, as they wait they lose valuable information gleaned in school because they aren’t applying coding practices in the real world.
More often than not, these new coding graduates live on low salaries while waiting for their dream job to appear. Many have questioned if this is an appropriate way to encourage new coding professionals to enter a profession that cries out for experienced coding professionals, but is unable to take on and train new, bright, and enthusiastic coding program graduates. The answer to this issue could be apprenticeships.
During a presentation at Tuesday’s AHIMA convention, the AHIMA Foundation’s Bill Rudman, PhD, RHIA; MedPartners’ Marci Wilhelm; and Trinity Health’s Debra Boppre, MSN, RHIA, CCS, CCS-P, FAHIMA, shared exciting news for recent HIM and coding graduates during the session “AHIMA Foundation Registered Apprenticeship Program: Managing the HIM Talent Pipeline.”
The AHIMA Foundation is responding to the growing industry shortage of experienced coding and HIM professionals by unveiling an apprenticeship standard and initiative along with succinct guidelines certified by the US Department of Labor (DoL). The apprenticeship program will help non-experienced, educated health information and coding program graduates gain employment through the use of a paid apprenticeship that paves the way to full-time employment. The AHIMA Foundation will be a liaison between sponsors (employers) and apprentices as well as the DoL’s Employment and Training Administration. Four types of apprenticeship roles have been developed to help mobilize the workforce with new and enthusiastic talent: Hospital Coder/Coding Professional, Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialist, Business Analyst, and Data Analyst.
The AHIMA Foundation also recently received a joint $7.1 million award from the DoL’s Employment and Training Administration that will be used to help fund apprenticeships in health informatics, HIM, and health information technology. The AHIMA Foundation, American Hospital Association, American Medical Informatics Association, and the National Center for Healthcare Leadership are part of the Healthcare Workforce Consortium that together will use the grant to help provide apprenticeships for traditionally underrepresented populations and encourage and support demographic diversity. This includes single mothers, veterans, people with autism, and people with disabilities.