After spending a few years as a reporter for an Iowa weekly newspaper, Tessa Moser returned home to Wayne to start a new chapter in her life.
On Wednesday, she signed on as the first apprentice at Providence Medical Center under the new Apprenticeship USA program offered through the Nebraska Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Moser is one of four current PMC employees who will take part in the program, with the other three starting either later this year or in early 2018. She will be trained for inpatient coding and will be able to take the Certified Coding Specialist exam.
“I enjoyed my time in journalism and what it taught me, but I wanted to get more involved in health care and I found medical coding to be right up my alley, so I’m really excited and I think it’s a great opportunity,” Moser said after the news conference in the hospital’s main lobby that drew about 50 hospital employees and community leaders to the ceremony.
Moser’s work is the go-between that allows insurance companies to know exactly what doctors are doing with their patients. She codes the information a doctor enters on a patient’s chart in the hospital, allowing insurance companies to know what work is being done, what tests are being run and what medications are being given so that the can pay the hospital.
“I go into the patient’s chart, read the physician’s diagnosis and apply it to the claim,” she said in explaining her work.
The apprenticeship program is the result of a 2015 federal grant received by AHIMA to support and expand apprenticeships in the health care industry, according to Barbara Glondys, apprenticeship navigator with the American Health Information Management Association.
AHIMA will provide technical training in coding, providing about 360 hours of training to Moser and other apprentices who participate in the program.
“We realize that quality coding contributes to the strength of the entire health care profession,” Glondys told those in attendance. “It is used for billing and recording, reporting statistics hospital sends to state and national health statistics, and is also used for recording services for billing and reimbursement. We want to thank Providence Medical Center for supporting this initiative. We need more employers willing to work with apprentices and this is new for promoting apprenticeships in health care.”
Jim Frank, CEO of Providence Medical Center, said rural hospitals like Wayne’s face a number of challenges when it comes to finding qualified candidates for certain skilled positions like coding.
“Recruitment and retention is one of our most difficult issues in the health care profession and it multiplies in rural areas,” he said. “Some of the challenges we face include scarcity of qualified employees, employees who are job candidates do not have the technical skills needed for open job positions for advancement, baby boomers are retiring by the thousands per day and we need to be prepared to replace those in our health care organization.”
“An apprenticeship can assist in keeping talented employees in our small town,” he added. “The beauty of the apprenticeship model is that it combines work-based learning with related classroom instruction using the latest industry standards, and apprenticeship programs help companies diversify their work force.”
Frank said that Kathy Jasa, director of patient finances at the hospital, suggested that Providence Medical Center enter into the apprenticeship program. They are the first rural hospital in Nebraska to do so, with the Albion hospital also set to start a program.
“She discovered and pursued this opportunity, and without her initiative and persistence we would not be a part of this apprenticeship program and reaping the benefits going forward,” Frank said.
Dean Guido, regional director for the Nebraska Department of Labor, said at the news conference that the people of Wayne will appreciate the benefits of the apprenticeship program in years to come.
“Apprenticeship is a time-tested training and certainly there are great advantages to the apprenticeship system,” he said. “The real advantage as I see it is the partnership with PMC, not only for the hospital and the employees, but for your patients. When you are developing the training and producing some of the best people, it’s a great system that I think you will believe in and you will see great progress with, combining the on-the-job training with the schooling makes for great employees. I think, over time, you will become the champion for apprenticeship in your industry in Nebraska.”
Three other Providence Medical Center employees will take part in the apprenticeship program. Jasa and Tammie Thomsen will be in the program to train in clinical documentation improvement and will be eligible for certification as a Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialist, while medical records clerk Stephanie Smith will participate in the program to help her earn certification in data analysis.