Sunday, December 23, 2007

Career Choices and Concerns

After I posted my previous entry, someone wrote to me privately to say that it was difficult for him to fathom how a person who writes as well as I do could have the kinds of learning impediments I say I have. However, he went on to suggest that I may want to look for a different kind of job that is better at downplaying my non-verbal weaknesses and at tapping my verbal strengths. But I wonder what that job would be.

He recommended that I try writing for publication. I have to admit that my dream job would be to make a good living from writing. But that seems totally unrealistic. Look at Gagdad Bob. He's brilliant, erudite, and an amazing writer. Yet, to hear him tell it, he can scarcely give his remarkable book One Cosmos away even though it's been praised by reputable reviewers and discussed with him in What is Enlightenment? magazine. If he can't make a living off his writing, how can a far less intelligent, learned, and gifted writer such as myself hope to do so? How many people, no matter how talented they are, make a living writing philosophical or "spiritual" nonfiction or, for that matter, anything else?

No, I need to do something else for my livelihood, even if I can somehow find the time to write on the side. I've chosen medical coding as my career goal for three reasons. First, it's predominately verbal. It consists of analyzing the diagnoses and procedures that healthcare professionals perform with patients and the supplies and equipment they use in their rendering of services to those patients into their appropriate numerical or alphanumerical codes. For example, 43820 is the CPT code for a surgical procedure called a gastrojejunostomy. Coders need to know enough about medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, and the practice of medicine to find these codes quickly and to apply them accurately in the right order and form to any healthcare scenario.

My second reason for choosing medical coding is that I've had an interest in the medical field ever since I was a kid. Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, Marcus Welby, Medical Center, and much later, St. Elsewhere, ER, and Chicago Hope have numbered among my favorite TV shows. I couldn't be a doctor when I was a boy, but fictional doctors from the small screen were my role models of intelligent and selfless service to humankind during my formative years. Maybe I can't be a doctor now, or a PA or nurse, but I can possibly have some involvement in the medical field by working with doctors and other healthcare professionals in a supporting clerical capacity.

Finally, I chose medical coding because it's a pretty solid job. The pay isn't stellar, but it's not too bad. And if you can work for a big healthcare system like U.C. Davis or Kaiser, you probably have about as good a job security as you could hope for.

However, it undoubtedly comes as no surprise to my handful of regular readers that I have acute concerns over whether I can succeed as a coder. I have several not insignificant factors working against me. First, I'm accurate in my coding, but I'm also very slow. In order to be hired for almost any coding job, one must pass an exam that requires speed as well as accuracy. Moreover, in order to be hired for the better, higher-paying coding jobs, one must pass a national certification exam where, once again, speed is essential. I don't know if I can ever get fast enough, no matter how much or long I practice. And even if I do, I don't know if I'll be fast enough on the job to carry the workload expected of me.

Second, there's my age and startlingly unimpressive background. If I were hiring coders, I probably wouldn't choose me from a pool of qualified applicants. Why would anyone else?

Finally, I don't know if I'll be able to learn the job. If I'm struggling helplessly to learn the system and my relatively simple duties in the file room, what chance do I have of learning the more complex computer and other operations required of a medical coder? Realistically speaking, I may have a better chance of becoming a bestselling author than I have of succeeding at a medical coding career, and the odds in favor of the former seem infinitesimal in their own right. Unless I can grow a new brain that works the way it's supposed to, that is. Or, perhaps, one of my dear readers would like to do a brain exchange with me. No, I'm not malevolent enough to inflict that inequity on anyone.

So, I really don't know what to do other than keep doing what I'm doing and working in the file room as long as they'll let me while studying on the side unless and until I'm able to get into coding. I'll be talking about that with my vocational rehabilitation counselor and a job coach later this week and with a neuroscientist next week. If I learn anything new, I'll probably be writing about it here. In the meantime, I'd like to thank the person who wrote to me privately and Night Stranger for their words of encouragement. And I'd like to wish a blissfully happy holiday season to all.

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