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My Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) Exam Anxieties

Graduating from college and taking a national certification exam is a stressful and overwhelming experience—even for the best student. When a student has doubts about his or her abilities, it only makes the process more painful and more overwhelming. In some cases, the student doesn’t even consider taking the exam due to the certainty of failure. Read on to hear about one student’s journey from self-doubt to self-actualization.

exam anxietyIn September, 2009, I began the final quarter of my Associate Degree in Health Information Technology at Rasmussen College. As I began my Heath Information Technician (HIT) practicum online I was impressed by the fact that the college I attended was going to pay for the students’ first attempt at the RHIT exam. It was a wonderful idea for some students but, I decided, not for me. The closest I had ever come to interacting with an actual medical record was when I had thumbed through my son’s birth records many years before beginning my education. I had absolutely no experience in the field. Going to school with fellow students who had worked in the field for years was intimidating enough…was I truly ready to sit for the same exam? I thought not.

During the practicum, students had the option of submitting the required information to register for the exam or to write a letter explaining why they have decided to decline the opportunity. In my letter, I explained that I had no experience in the field, believed that the six month time limit for taking the exam would not be enough time to prepare and that I hoped to volunteer in a facility to gain the experience I felt I was lacking before sitting for the exam. My instructor, Katherine Hogenson, strongly urged me to reconsider. She stressed the points that the exam would be paid for by the school, my education was meant to prepare me for the exam despite my lack of experience and, if I failed, I would at least be aware of how I scored and my areas of strengths and weaknesses. Thanks to her encouragement, I completed the application process and scheduled my exam for four months after my graduation. I was convinced, even then, that I would fail the exam but knew that it would give me a foundation of which areas I needed to focus on to prepare to re-test.

To prepare for the exam I relied on the Professional Review Guide for the RHIA and RHIT Examinations book provided through the HIT practicum. Roughly two months before the exam, I began studying from the book several times a week. I would study one section at a time—never for more than two hours. I wrote my answers on notebook paper and checked myself before beginning the next section. The only writing I did in the book was to circle the numbers of the questions that I missed (marking the correct answers in the book would only make studying the same questions too easy later). For each section, I selected a specific number of questions to answer (odd numbers, even numbers, first half of the section, second half of the section, etc.) After completing a section I would review the questions that I had missed. A week before the exam I focused primarily on the questions that I had missed (and there were a lot of them).

The night before the exam my anxieties hit me so hard that it took me hours to fall asleep! No experience, no classes in over four months and the mass amounts of information that I knew I had forgotten! I was never going to pass the exam! I finally fell asleep only after deciding that failing the exam was NOT the end of the world!

Despite all of my negative self talk, and the fact that I had zero applied knowledge in the field, despite the time that had passed since graduation, despite the information that I had certainly forgotten and despite my endless self doubts…on April 26, 2010 I passed the RHIT exam on my first attempt! The RHIT Exam Candidate Guide available on the AHIMA website helped me to feel familiar with the testing procedures and what to expect from the computerized test itself. To my amazement, many of the questions that I saw on the exam were very similar to the questions that I had studied in the review guide. As it turned out, my education at Rasmussen College and studying the materials that were a part of that education were all the experiences I needed to successfully sit for the RHIT exam and receive my credentials! The biggest lesson that I had forgotten from my education: I have to believe in myself, my abilities and the fact that the primary goal of my education was to prepare me for the RHIT exam! My best wishes to all of you future RHIT professionals!

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