When you find yourself in an unpredictable industry working a job with a shaky future, what do you do? You can either stay and see what happens or move on. Tom Spriggs chose the latter.
Spriggs had a job in the mortgage industry but lost confidence in the long-term viability of the field. It was 2009 after all, and the U.S. economy was struggling. He also didn’t see his employer, Edward Jones Mortgage, providing the job security he sought.
So at age 53, with two degrees in finance already under his belt, Spriggs decided to become a health information technician (HIT), enrolling in the program at Rasmussen College’s Bloomington campus. His research showed him that the healthcare industry was stable and, in fact, growing.
It turned out to be a wise choice – Spriggs left Edward Jones Mortgage in 2011 and the company closed two years later.
Finding a HIT job
Though some people find the process of searching for a job a long one, Spriggs’ job at the Mayo Clinic came quickly. After graduation he took the necessary exam and became a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT), which is one of the four required credentials for Mayo Clinic coders. Spriggs went above and beyond the RHIT requirement and then passed the Certified Coding Associate exam in November 2011. He started searching for jobs the very next day. He saw the Mayo Clinic job right away and it was the only one he applied for.
“I immediately viewed this as a rare opportunity,” he says. “I applied right away and was accepted about a month later.” Spriggs’ 3.5 GPA in his coding classes was likely one of the reasons he was seen as a good candidate for the job.
Next, Spriggs embarked on the intense four-month training program necessary to become a coder at the Mayo Clinic. A medical coder typically works with patient medical records, reviewing them for accuracy and entering data for billing and research purposes. A coder’s exact duties depend on what type of coder they are and where they work.
Spriggs was a hospital outpatient coder at the Mayo Clinic for a year and a half before moving on. When he took the position he assumed he’d eventually be able to telecommute from the Twin Cities, but the Mayo Clinic stopped the practice before he could take advantage of it.
Moving to Rochester, Minn., wasn’t a part of Spriggs’ plan, so he was soon on the hunt for a new job. Previous experience and well-developed HIT skills once again proved Spriggs’ job search to be an easy one.
“I experienced a lot of interest from prospective employers,” Spriggs says. “Coders with experience are in demand.” In fact, the HIT job market is expected to grow by 21 percent through 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Use coding as a way to gain healthcare experience, Spriggs says.
“Coding is a great way to enter the HIT field as you are involved in the revenue cycle and are provided very clear accuracy and production goals,” Spriggs says.
Spriggs became a coder at the University of Minnesota Physicians specializing in cardiovascular coding in June 2013. He enjoys working closer to home and finds that he enjoys the face-to-face interaction with his co-workers, something he wouldn’t have had if was telecommuting.
Advice to HIT students
Internships are often thought of as a gateway to a job, and it’s especially true in the HIT field. Spriggs says it’s crucial to make time for a HIT internship because healthcare employers are reluctant to hire those who have no experience working in the field.
“I was fortunate in finding the Mayo opportunity but programs like that are rare,” Spriggs says. He estimates that at least half of his colleagues in the Mayo Clinic’s training program started out as interns at the clinic.
If you’re looking to the HIT field as a second career, Spriggs says it can be helpful to talk to people already in the field to get an idea of what the job is like and where the field is headed – a strategy he used in 2009 before earning his degree.