5 Minutes with... NaKetta Williams

BC Advantage (BCA): Tell us about your background and how you got started in the industry.

NaKetta Williams (NW): As a child, I always knew that I would work in the medical field. However, my dream was to become nurse. After being exposed to the administrative side of healthcare, my goals instantly changed. I began working at a well-known hospital here in Atlanta and based upon my experience and knowledge gained at that facility, my career took a different path. I have a degree in healthcare administration; I hold CPC, CPC-P and CPMA (Certified Professional Medical Auditor) credentials. As my knowledge base grows, so will my credentials.

BCA: Holding several industry certifications shows that you are continually pushing yourself education wise. What other certifications do you want to attain?

NW: That's a great question!! For starters, I would like to obtain my CCS credential and I am scheduled to sit for that exam in the upcoming months.  I am currently a H.I.M. student and once I complete the program I plan to obtain the RHIA (Registered Health Information Administrator) credential. Afterwards, I plan to become a certified in compliance and obtain a Master's Degree in Public Health or Health information Administration. I set educational goals and take the necessary steps to ensure that the goals are met.

BCA: How do you stay abreast of the changes within the industry?

NW: I am a member of several organizations such as AAPC, AHIMA and NAMAS. Each of the organizations provides members with information and do a wonderful job keeping members updated with industry changes, especially the ICD-10 conversion (which I am excited about). I am also a member of different online forums. The forums always have an interesting topic of discussion going and because each member is employed in a different specialty we all learn from each other. I use the information on the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid) to stay abreast of changes as well.  This is a wonderful site that also offers free CEU's. Lastly, I am always reading or researching any information I can get my hands on that is related to billing/coding and healthcare overall.

BCA: Professionally speaking, what would you consider to be your most
valuable assets?

NW: Professionally speaking, I would say that my most valuable assets are my enthusiasm, professionalism and persistence. My attitude is that of a go getter. I do not sit around waiting on results to happen, I make them happen.

BCA: If you could be doing anything else - what would that be?

NW: If I could be doing anything else, I would be an educator. My position would still be in healthcare just in a different capacity. I would be a healthcare professor, a speaker or an educator/trainer in the education department of a healthcare facility.  I have also considered becoming a motivational speaker.

BCA: What do you most enjoy about your career?

NW: What I enjoy most about my career is the knowledge that I gain on a daily basis and the freedom to be independent. In the coding world, there is always something new to learn and that is always exciting to me. I love learning new things; doing so enables me to pass that knowledge on to others.

BCA: Any downsides?

NW: The one downside that I can definitely relate to is gaining specialty specific experience, such as inpatient coding experience. One may have several years of coding experience in a different specialty but if the specialty specific experience has not been obtained the applicant will not be considered for the position. I do understand that employers prefer a coder with specialty specific experience but if one is not given a chance, how will the experience be obtained? 

There are several great coders out here, such as myself, looking for an opportunity prove themselves, however some employers are just not willing to give us a chance. I feel that everyone deserves a chance and until they get that chance no one will ever know just how great that coder may be. If one has a passion for coding it is nearly impossible for them not to be great at it no matter what the specialty may be.

BCA: Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years time?

NW: In 5 or 10 years time, I see myself with my Master's Degree in Public Health or Health Information Administration and owning a consulting firm or working for a facility or organization that I can retire from.

BCA: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

NW: Please do not get discouraged if you cannot find employment as a biller or coder right away. If you are persistent you will reach your destination. You may have to start out in another position to get your foot in the door. Set goals and know where you want to be in the next year or two and be sure to meet those goals.

Always be positive and if you don't know or are not sure of something, always ask questions. Remember that no question is a dumb question and you will not know if you do not ask. Never be afraid to talk to and network with other people because you never know who you are talking to or who you will meet, as the old saying goes, "it's not always what you know, it's who you know."

Next, never assume a diagnosis or procedure when coding medical records. If the chart is handwritten and you cannot understand the writing always ask for clarification before coding the chart. Again never assume anything when coding medical records.

Last but certainly not least, make it a priority to become a certified through a recognized organization such as AAPC or AHIMA as soon as you complete your program because most employers will not even consider you if you are not certified and do not stop with one certification, learn as much as you can so that you can become certified in more than one area, it is always a good idea to be well versed. Due to the fact that I am a huge supporter of education, I would also like to add that one should strive to obtain a college degree along with the certifications. In my opinion, age does not and should play a factor when it comes to continuing one's education, whether you are young, middle aged or consider yourself to be old, "the sky is the limit" and you can do it!! I strongly believe that "education is a key that can open any door!!"

BCA: Anything you would like to add?

NW: I do not mind sharing my knowledge. I hold a strong belief in the saying "Each One, Teach One." If there is something that I know I am more than happy to share it and if there is something that I do not know, I will research and find an answer. Also, I would love to gain more inpatient coding experience. If there are any employers reading this article willing to give me an opportunity to obtain that experience, please contact me via email: nakettawilliams@msn.com.