Medical Coding Interships – Where to Find Them and What to Expect

More and more people are enrolling in medical coding programs, both online and in academic institutions. While that speaks well for the profession, it does pose a challenge for prospective students and career hopefuls, as education pertaining to the field is less of a competitive advantage than it once was. An excellent compliment to a degree and/or training program is a relevant internship. Hands-on work experience in a real world setting is a great way to stand out in a crowd of applicants, and serve as an appealing part of any entry level worker’s resume. The question is, where can a student find an internship?

The Structure of an Internship

A typical internship involves the applicant – in this case, a student – working in a real world job setting in exchange for working gratis (although paid internships are not uncommon). This might seem a bit unfair, but the intern often gains valuable experience that will, in turn, lead to a better job opportunity in the future. At the same time, the employer gains an eager worker who can handle less important, more time-consuming tasks (i.e. busy work), allowing more experienced employees to concentrate on projects that generate revenue. An internship is really a win-win situation that allows both parties to benefit.

Finding a Medical Coding Internship

Finding an internship can be a challenge, and often requires research from the student. Good places for medical coding students to start are the offices of physicians and health care clinics. A very useful guide, “Online Internship for Medical Coding” has been developed by Carol Buck as a way to help students. What a student ought to keep in mind is that finding an internship is comparable to a normal job search. The same activity he or she uses to source and land an internship is exactly what will need to be done for an entry-level medical coding job. In other words, don’t get discouraged!

What to Expect

Persistence pays off, and having an idea of what to expect doesn’t hurt either. No intern should imagine that he or she will be allowed to perform the standard tasks of a professional coder. It’s nothing personal, but the risk of a rather expensive mistake makes it difficult for any medical office to trust an inexperienced person with higher-level tasks. As such, a student must appreciate that internships are a means of learning more than just code; they introduce them to the industry and the environment in which a medical coder practices their craft. In addition, a willingness to take onĀ  menial jobs with a good work ethic will impress the rest of the staff, which can lead to a sterling recommendation upon completion, or perhaps even a job itself.

Medical Coding Internship Opportunities

The profession recognizes the need for, and importance of, internship opportunities. The American Health Information Management Association provides internships and has an Intern Toolkit on their website that provides some very handy tips. Similarly, the AAPC has a program, Project Xtern, which is dedicated to helping medical coding students gain the work experience needed to qualify for employment post-graduation. Over two hundred facilities are currently part of this program which lasts approximately 3 months. While the work is unpaid, many externs have landed their first job thanks to this experience.

In sum, while internships are typically not a money-making venture, they provide a solid introduction to the profession. This foot-in-the-door serves as a fantastic resume-builder, a legitimate way to build a list of contacts, and may even lead to a full-time job.

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