Coding Coffee Shop: August 2017 Another One Bites The Dust


I had been clock watching since finishing my ham salad at dinner and finally it was 5pm.


It was Clare’s last day with us at the Trust – she had landed a clinical engagement lead role at another hospital on a band 5 - the third ACC Coder we would lose in just six months: Mandy left to take up a new role working for the Classifications service and Benjamin left to chase the paper and go contracting. Earn the top dollar! 


Clare’s last day had fallen on a Wednesday and I had been given the task of organising her leaving get together. I didn’t have many options with it being a Wednesday night; no one wanted to go out for drinks because there was still a two day stretch to go before the weekend. I had considered ice skating but seeing as a Department we were 112 hours a week down, I didn’t fancy my chances of someone breaking a bone and needing time out to recover.

I suggested the coffee shop that I go to with the girls and it went down a treat with everyone. Conveniently the coffee shop was just 10 minutes away from the Hospital.

Brian had decided to get his wife Doreen to drop him into work so he could take a hip flask filled with whisky so he could make his own Irish coffee! (He was old school and didn’t believe a leaving do was a leaving do without featuring some alcoholic substance!

Most of the team had left early, but some of us stayed behind to get changed after work and put a bit of make up on. The last thing I have time for in a morning is making myself look ‘glam’. I’m lucky if I’ve had time to squeeze in a coffee before leaving the house so I’m always envious of those that make it into work looking like they are fresh out the hairdressers and sporting a full face of make-up. I try and make myself feel better by thinking of the good I am doing by giving my skin a rest from make-up and all its toxins. In reality, I just appreciate that extra 15 minutes in bed far too much.

Finally, we were ready!

Polly, Jason & I spilled out into the now near empty car park like school kids at the end of the day. The heat hit us - just like when you step off the plane when you reach your holiday destination. Even at 5pm it was scorching hot. I could feel the sun’s rays seeping into my bare limbs. “Wowzers! Let’s get a sprint on! I’m going to end up with third degree burns if I’m out in this long with my pale skin”

I know I said the coffee shop was 10 minutes away from the hospital, but we made it in a record 6 minutes - on foot! I’m not sure if it was because we were desperate for a drink or because we didn’t want to miss out on any of the leaving festivities. The coffee shop bell tinkled as the three of us scuttled inside.

“Heyyyyy guys” I waved to my fellow Coders’ who were occupying practically the entire shop.

Polly & Jason had never visited this place before and already were drooling over the cake counter. I tried not to make eye contact with the cakes - it was just four weeks until my Summer holiday and I could not risk locking eyes with any of Margaret’s homemade Mississippi mud pie. I kept reminding myself of my new swimming costume.

“Black coffee please – no sugar” I quickly ordered with the devilish smell of fresh cakes wafting up my nostrils.  I wanted to get away from the counter sharpish.

“Not tempted by a slice of cake Sweetheart? You normally come here with two other lassies for coffee and cakes don’t you? One of them’s pregnant”

“That’s right, I normally come here with Stef and Charlotte, once a month we normally come, it’s our little bit of time out to catch up – and yes Charlottes just had a little boy. Lovely little thing he is. No cake for me this time though, off to Indonesia in four weeks and need to get bikini ready” I rolled my eyes as I picked up my black coffee from the counter and headed over to join the Team.

“What a place you’ve picked here, its perfect! The brownies are to die for. Cheers for organising my get together Louise” Clare almost crushed me, she squeezed me that tight. An anaconda-squeeze kind of tight.

“Aaaaaaaaah I’m just glad you like it. I love it here, it’s like being in your Grandma’s kitchen” I looked around for an empty seat and there was only one left. Next to Brian.

“How’s the coffee Bri” I sniggered. Brian was surrounded by three empty cake plates and crumbs, looks like the place was a winner with him too.

“Can’t beat a good Irish coffee lass.” he chuckled, opening his blazer and tapping his hip flask lovingly. He took his glasses off and polished them on a floral napkin. Brian was the only person I knew that could bear to wear a blazer in the heat of the summer. Thinking about it, I’d never seen him wear anything other than a tie and blazer combo. He also owned some rather rascal ties, my personal favourite being his Christmas tie with the dancing turkeys.

“What do you think then Bri, think we’ll make deadline this month?” I quizzed, twiddling my pony tail nervously into a tight curl. around my index finger

Brian inhaled then let out a deep sigh. “This happens Louise. I couldn’t tell you the amount of staff I have seen come and go in this Department through the years. I’ve forgotten all their names there has been that many. We take on trainees, they get up to speed and the ACC under their belt and after a few years they move on to bigger things. It’s just the way it works. Its different nowadays, kids come in wanting a career. Not like in my day we got given a set of coding books, there wasn’t a reference book, (well there was but we never looked at it). We had half a day’s training and off you go, we were thrown in at the deep end. But that was all before coding was how the hospitals got paid. As soon as that happened BOOM! Everyone was interested in coding.” He took out his hip flask and took a huge swig, neat.

After an hour of over indulgence and swapping holiday tales, Brian prompted me to give Clare her leaving gift and card from the department’s collection, as people were wanting to make tracks for the evening. I eye-balled the shop for an empty space so that I could stand.

“Clare, we want to wish you all the best in your new job, you are going to make a fantastic Engagement Lead and we are all so proud of what you have achieved in five years. We just wanted to give you a little something to remember us by in your new job.” I gave her a big squeeze and handed over a gift box.

Clare fumbled at the black velvet box and removed the lid. Immediately her cackle filled the coffee shop. She held up a framed photo of the Team at a fundraiser. I’d customised the frame with ICD-10 codes – I48.0, R11.X, S00.8 + W19.9.

“It will have pride and place on my new desk. I’m going to miss you guys. Hey, we should all meet up here once a month, it would be so good to keep in touch” Clare wiped a tear from her eye as a mascara river started to flow down her crimson cheeks. Everyone huddled in like penguins for one last group hug.

“Lets! That’s such a good idea, now that everyone is going their separate ways. I’ll drop Mandy & Benjamin an email and see if they want to come next month – see how they are getting on. Right guys, I’d best make a move. I’ll be in at 6am if anyone’s coming in for overtime in the morning. Clare – keep in touch hun” Home.Bath.Sleep.


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