“I’ve been there - stuck in a job I hated…” – Lauren Saxton ACC
It was the first post-Christmas get together with my girlies since we had all gone back to work. My friend Stef is a nursery nurse and she HATES her job. She works long hours and receives the minimum wage. She works for a private nursery and the manager isn’t a very nice lady (to be polite). “Today’s my first day back and I am already so depressed” she whinged. My other friend Charlotte is a cashier in a bank, she doesn’t mind her job but says it bores her as it is the same every day. Charlotte soon jumped on the band wagon “Don’t even get me started, you’re lucky you had time off over Christmas, I only had the bank holidays off”. We had all started our healthy eating and were participating in dry January so I couldn’t decide if this was why they were both in such bad moods – but I was on rabbit food and water too and I didn’t feel the same way.
The truth is, I love my job. I love my job that much that my friends tease me and my fiancé cringes when we meet new people and they ask ‘so what do you do for a job?’ as he knows that an hour later I will have finished explaining exactly what my job is. I am a clinical coder working at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield and have been since 2013. I achieved my ACC status in 2015 and the novelty still hasn’t worn off. I am naturally a nosey person, so coding is probably the ideal job for me! Unlike my friend, Charlotte, no two days are the same and each set of patient case notes is different. One case could be a 9-month stay rehabilitation patient recovering from a stroke, and then the next could be a day case wisdom tooth extraction under general anaesthetic.
I know that not everyone who reads the IHRIM newsletter is a clinical coder, so I will try and explain my job (in less than an hour)! I’ve heard people in the past describe clinical coding as being like being a detective and it’s probably the best way to describe it! Clinical coding is the translation of medical terminology which is written by a clinician(describing a patient’s complaint, problem, diagnosis, treatment or reason for seeking medical attention) into codes that can then be easily tabulated, aggregated and sorted for statistical analysis in an efficient and meaningful manner.
We have two volumes of books to help us do this. They are called classifications and each has an alphabetical index and a tabular list – ICD 10 (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Health Related Problems) and OPCS (was initially the Office of Population Censuses and SurveysClassification of Surgical Operations and Procedures (4th revision),and retains the OPCS abbreviation from this now defunct publication and now known as OPCS- Classification of Interventions and Procedures). ICD helps us turn a diagnosis or problem into a code (e.g. R11.x = Nausea and vomiting). OPCS helps us code operations, procedures and interventions (e.g. M47.9 = Insertion of urinary catheter). I remember my first day in the office listening to my new colleagues speak in ‘code’ and I was hooked. I wanted to be part of this secret club and speak this language!
The data produced from coded clinical information has two major uses – clinical use and statistical use. Clinically the data is used for clinical governance, clinical audit and outcome and effectiveness of patients’ care and treatment. Statistically the data is used for payment, cost analysis, commissioning, aetiology studies, health trends, epidemiology studies, clinical indicators and case mix planning.
I decided to write this article because in a previous job I was that girl stuck in a job I hated and now I appreciate how lucky I am to have a job which makes me look forward to waking up in the mornings. I am a Clinical Coder!