There’s No “I” in Team

By: Annie

My dad is a farmer. Growing up, I learned early on how stressful farming can be. He’d wait and wait and wait in the Spring until it was time to plant and he didn’t stop until he was done. Then he’d watch the weather and worry all summer that we’d get hail or we wouldn’t get enough rain or the opposite, we’d get too much and the crops would flood. Then it was the waiting game again until it was time to harvest. And after that, the cycle would begin all over again for the next year.

Because of all the worrying and stressing my dad did, I just assumed he was a one-man rodeo. I grew up thinking he did everything by himself, and don’t get me wrong, he did a lot on his own, but like any occupation he couldn’t operate without some help. He got his operating loan from the bank every year. He had to buy seed and machinery. He had to have a good relationship with the elevators so he could take his crops there to sell. More recently, he even had to hire custom combiners to help with harvest since he has taken on more farmland, which is another business deal too.


I liken this juvenile thinking to the way I viewed doctors as a child, too. I thought they did it all on their own, too. As a young girl, I didn’t remember the receptionist, the nurses, the lab techs, and I certainly didn’t consider all the people behind the scenes. As an adult, I now understand that just like my dad couldn’t be a farmer all by himself, doctors can’t do their jobs without a little help as well.

The roles of all of these people are all important, too. To be a doctor requires many years of school and experience, but doctors couldn’t do their jobs without nurses to help their patients. They wouldn’t have appointments scheduled if it wasn’t for the receptionists who answer the phone. And, probably the most relevant role to us, they wouldn’t be able to practice if they didn’t have people like us who bill, code, and transcribe their visits with their patients. It takes a whole team to make the wheel turn in a clinic, on a farm, really, anywhere a business is in operation.

Over the past few weeks I have been learning a lot in Course 4. The accompanying Anatomy and Physiology book has been so helpful to me, but I have to admit I have a love/hate relationship with it! I breeze through the coding portion of Course 4 and as soon as I see the little prompt to read about this system or that system I know it’s time to buckle down and get ready for a ton of new information! I appreciate it, though!

I hope your studies are all going well and if you live somewhere where it snows that you are enjoying your last few weeks of warm weather! Fall is in the air here in North Dakota!

How Far Have You Come?

By: Jessica

jessica-9-29Hey everyone, welcome back to the blog. Today I would like to discuss how much has changed since you started the Healthcare Documentation Specialist program. Think back to the first day, remember you were so excited to get that first course, rip the box open or get the download completed? It was like Christmas morning – and then perhaps when you received your first 100% on a quiz!

I was so surprised with that grade that I even took a picture and sent it to my parents and my husband. I swear I walked around like a proud peacock for a week straight. I literally buried myself in the books and could not stop reading – one night until 4 am! I paid for it the next day at work, but I had a permanent smile on my face. Now that I am thinking about that moment, people probably thought I was crazy!

But, here I am today struggling to finish the course. I know I am just scared to move onto something that is so new and different than what I am used to, and I’m not very fond of change at all. I have been dreading the transcription section because that is my weakness in this course. I get overwhelmed with all the information that is thrown at me, but I just keep pushing on. I may not be going full speed ahead like I was in the beginning but I am not giving up. So, to be honest with everyone, including myself, if you think that this program is going to be all roses and butterflies – it’s not, but it will definitely prepare you for the real work you’ll be doing in the medical documentation field.

I’d say that the 3rd course was a wake up call for me. I breezed right through the first and second course. Then the real life medical situations started, like the billing, and I saw what this career will be like firsthand. I really enjoyed it! The coding still makes me nervous because there are so many different variables. With that being said, it will be on you if there is a mistake in the billing. The insurance company will send it back or question the bill if the codes are messed up. Of course, with anything in life there is also a way to fix your mistakes and learn from them. It is not the end of the world… well maybe a little bit if you are a perfectionist🙂

No matter where you are in this program, just remember that you are one step closer to a new and improved future. And that’s because you took the chance to learn something new and improve your skills. That is what life is all about, learning new things and always improving our skills and ourselves. Don’t be a chicken (like me) and be scared of the good that is coming your way once you have conquered your program. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and keep in mind, knowledge is something no one can ever take from you.

The Best Kept Secrets of Early Morning Studying

By: Vanessa

Do you ever feel like there’s not enough time in the day? What would you say if I told you I’ve kept my normal schedule and sleep 7-8 hours a night, all while finishing the HDS program (hopefully) in less than 6 months? How have I been able to balance my time between everyday life and going to school online?

vanessa-9-26Listen closely and I’ll share my POWER HOUR study SECRET with you. Are you ready? OK. I try to WAKE UP super EARLY at least twice a week to hit the books while my mind is fresh, excited and open to learning new things. What do my early mornings look like?

3 Hours Before Work/Life Starts

Wake up and smell the roses. Power on: check email, sign onto school account, make breakfast and lunch for my husband and myself, review previous lesson, plan the day, study for about one hour.

* Keep your normal schedule by waking up super early, I am well fed and have extra energy to retain new information as well as clean up and do chores before heading out to work or going about my normal routine. Day or night, since I’ve already studied, I’m available to attend meetings, go grocery shopping, make dinner, or anything I need to do.

* Study ahead, stay ahead – Since I woke up early and reviewed previous lessons, turned in a quiz and/or studied new material, I am a day ahead on learning. Meaning, instead of waiting until night time to learn something new, I’ve already covered that material and organized it in my brain. If I had spare time in the afternoon or evening, I’ve been able to move even further ahead in the lessons essentially covering two topics in a day versus one topic.

* Enjoy time with family/friends – I get to spend valuable time with family and friends every day or whenever things come up and still remain caught up on the lessons. Family, work, and school are my priorities so I make sure to study early and get it out of the way to free up my time for life as it happens, work, and activities.

* Sleep all night – I’d rather focus the majority of my studying in the morning so I don’t get stuck staying up all night and not getting adequate sleep. I’ve done that before, and it’s not the best strategy I can come up with. So, waking up at 4:00 a.m., whether I’m tired or not, allows me to fulfill my normal day and lazily wind down and naturally crash at the end of the night.

3 Hours Before Bed

Dinner is made and we are fed once again. It’s time for a movie, rehashing the day and planning the next. Power off: computer off, mind off, talking off, noise off, lights off. zzzz…

Was I able to convince you to try waking up extra early at least twice a week?

Just What Am I Getting Myself Into?

By: Annie

I remember when I was younger I would try to imagine what I would be doing for work one day. For a while I thought being a veterinarian would be a fun job, but then I looked up what they have to do and I decided I didn’t have the heart to put an animal to sleep. While I was in college, I thought being an accountant would be a good job. Financially, it appealed to me, but the copious amount of math that I would have to do did not, so I moved on from that career as well.

Eventually, I settled on getting a Communication and Business degree. I knew I would like working in a business setting at some point and that communication would play a huge role in any career path I took so it seemed like a safe bet. I fell into the activities department at a nursing home while in college and I loved it, and once I graduated I transferred to the Development Department so that I could still work with my dear residents.

My priorities all changed once I became a mother, however; so I began to look at other career opportunities. I found At-Home Professions and their program for medical billing, coding, and transcription and thought it sounded like a good fit for not only me, but for the lifestyle I was hoping to achieve as well.

Not long after I had decided this was for me, thirteen-year-old Annie resurfaced and I soon found myself Googling, “Characteristics of a medical transcriptionist.” Lots of pages and articles popped up, but I went with the list the Occupational Outlook Handbook recommended because that seemed very legitimate.

annie-9-23Looking through the list I found a lot of terms that I feel would describe me. Clerical knowledge? Check. Knowledge of the English language? You got it. Experience with computers and electronics? I’m your girl! Knowledge of medicine and dentistry? Not so much, but thanks to At-Home Professions I am learning new things about this every day!

Under the skills section I found a lot of areas that I have strengths in: active listening, reading comprehension, writing, time management and critical thinking. I began getting my hopes up; maybe this is a career I can succeed at after all!

The last section I had interest in was abilities. Oral and written comprehension are both things I’ve had experience in since I started school so I wasn’t worried. I’ve been told my written expression is great, even advanced in my younger years. Speech recognition. Ugh, I was a bit worried about this one. Listening to another person’s every word and then documenting what they just said? I knew I would need some help in this category.

I remember in high school having to listen to tapes in our Spanish class for tests and then answering questions related to the script we had just heard. Let me just say, that part of the test was never my highest grade. This gave me some trepidation and insecurity about fulfilling this part of the job. I finally had to tell myself that I had taken those classes almost 10 years ago! I took Spanish in college and did the same exercises with very little difficulty so I knew I could. And I would be transcribing in English so that would be a lot easier, too.

Finally, I found a job that didn’t have any hang-ups or skills or abilities that I felt I couldn’t live up to. Every aspect of the job was tasks that I enjoyed. I have never felt more secure in what I am doing and I know that even if I struggle through some parts of the program, I am struggling through things that I enjoy. They are things I can and will learn and improve on.

What a great feeling!

The Importance of Planning

By: Jessica

jessica-9-20Guess what? This week is the week school starts back for me, YAY!!!! Am I ready? No, not in the least, but I do have everything ready to go. It took me a week and half to get everything all planned and laid out. So my question to you is: do you still use a planner? I am talking like back in the day, old school paper planner? Don’t judge me, but I still get excited when school supplies go on sale just so I can get my actual paper planner. Yeah, I know, I am a total nerd. But I’m an organized nerd.

The reason I am asking this question is because with everything that you do in life, there is some sort of planning needed. Most people need that visual component to stay on track. Now, a paper planner is not the only type of planner available. I am sure you are all aware that there’s a calendar on most smart phones and also on your computer or tablet. Some of them are even on watches now. Planning can be something as simple as remembering someone’s birthday. Without Facebook I would not remember anyone’s birthday or anniversaries!

Life gets very hectic when you are working or going to school or both, so it is always nice to get little reminders to keep you on the beaten path. Have you ever wished that a little reminder or notification would go off when you are out and about and you see someone you know, but you are late for a prior engagement yet that person keeps talking and you don’t want to be rude? Yes, I am that person that will walk all the way around a store to avoid bumping into someone I know just to make it through a store quickly. But I am working on that. We all have our downfalls.

But, back to planning. Did you plan to take this course? Have you set up dates for when you would like to complete each course? Did you plan for a sitter to watch the kids so you can get your studies done, or plan on studying when the kids are asleep? See, there is planning in everything we do.

Here are a few tips and my challenge for you for the week: When you are planning for your week, make sure you always plan a few hours just for you to unwind and decompress for the day. Having an app that conjoins all of your calendars and schedules with all the members in the family really helps so much. When you accomplish a task, check it off – it feels good to see so much get accomplished! Also, throw in some of your favorite quotes for the day, too, just to have a little motivation to look at. Here is your challenge for the week: write out and plan your week down to the time you are going to have dinner. Watch and see just how much you accomplish in a week. You will be amazed. Have a great week!

A Peek Behind My Blog Posts

By: Vanessa

vanessa-9-20Hello again! I enjoy writing student blogs for the school’s public site including topics of interest, staying motivated, interviews, how to face challenges, pursuit of certification, study habits and more. I have less than a handful of quizzes to turn in and I’d like to add some details about my experience. Let’s take a quick look behind my previous posts.

5/24/16 TAKING IT ONE STEP AT A TIME My first blog had a real-life illustration of taking the lessons one step at a time. I made Kool-Aid as a kid once and forgot to add the sugar and I compared that to how it’s important to go step by step in medical billing. In my defense, nobody should consume that much sugar!

6/7/16 THIS IS HOW WE MOVE IT My favorite blog was a creative introduction to anatomy and physiology. By now, I’ve already finished the Medical Billing course and made my way over to diagnostic coding. I studied almost daily, even if I only had fifteen minutes to read a section.

7/12/16 WHAT MY CAREER MEANS TO ME Wrapping up procedural coding and adding new skills to my resume, I introduced myself on a more personal level and shared my goals to start a career in the world of healthcare for medical billing and coding.

7/22/16; 8/9/16 AN INTERVIEW WITH MOM; INTERVIEW: A MONTANA MIDWIFE During my transition from medical billing and coding to medical transcription, I wanted to find out what others thought about the HDS program and if I learned everything that I needed to know. I found out that I am fully prepared to work in all areas of medical specialties and I can work as an employee or an Independent Contractor.

8/16/16 TYPING PRACTICE, TESTS & TRANSCRIPTION Well on my way, I started the transcription course a few months after attending the stress-free seminar put on by At-Home Professions. In this post, I shared copy and paste shortcuts but I actually don’t use those for transcription. I had to throw that in there though because I did use them for medical billing and coding to ensure accuracy when entering data on the insurance claims.

8/24/16 MAKING YOUR DREAMS BECOME REALITY Is working in an office my dream job? Not really. My fantasy dream job was to be a professional snowboarder. I also wanted to be a doctor and provide care for women and children. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. The list could go on. Having a home office is one of my dreams and I’d like to finally have ethics in the workplace. If I can’t find it, I will start it.

Thanks for reading along and it’s been a pleasure expressing my opinions of the Healthcare Documentation program. My experience has been a great one and I encourage anyone who wants to start a career in medical billing, coding and transcription to enroll at AHP.

Until next time, happy studying!

Finding Your Happy Study Place

By: Annie

annie-9-14Studying has never come easy for me. I managed to get through high school without studying at all. My younger sister is currently in high school and she studies for everything! She asks me for tips on how to study better and more effectively and, unfortunately, I don’t have any advice to offer her. I’m actually quite jealous of her ability to sit down and study for long periods of time. Maybe I should ask her for some help!

Once I got to college I had to put in a little more effort so I had to do something that seems to come naturally for many of my peers and my sister: I had to learn how to study. It was hard at first, but eventually I learned how to study and school suddenly became easier.

The most important thing for me to study effectively was to be in a good environment for studying. Some people need to have complete silence with no distractions, but it was the complete opposite for me. I tried to go to the nice, quiet campus library a few times, but the lack of noise drove me crazy. Instead of helping me study more, I wasn’t able to comprehend anything from my notes at all.

Since I was hardly on campus after my classes anyway, I decided to just try studying at home. At that time, my future husband and I lived in a cozy two bedroom home. By cozy, I mean tiny. We loved living there, but there wasn’t space for any “extras” like an office. While we lived there I managed to study on the couch after supper and in our room sitting on my bed while he watched TV.

Not only did I have the background noise of Alex and the TV, we also had two dogs that were hilarious and every few minutes Alex would interrupt me so we could watch their antics for a bit. It worked for me and I managed to get my studying done amidst the chaos of our house.

Now we live in a bigger house and I have a designated office space. I go there and study a lot, but when our baby was first born I would study in her bedroom like I used to do in college. I’ve learned to study in both environments, but I have to admit I like studying with the little distractions more. It seems to make the time and studying go by faster.

There are a lot of different things that impact studying, but for me the environment was the most important. Think about how you study currently. If it isn’t going well for you, maybe change up your environment a bit. There are lots of places to study so just experiment a bit until you find the best environment for you.

Course 4 is still going well for me. I am enjoying the mix up between procedural coding and learning anatomy. I hope your studies are going well, too!

Getting Used to It

By: Jessica

Hey everyone! How is health documentation going for you? Are you cruising along, making college look easy? Or are you struggling to get through a chapter? Wherever you are in this program, just remember to keep plugging along. I know I have done pretty well up until this fourth course. But now I have lost my steam; my engine just doesn’t want to roar again.

In case anyone is wondering, Course 4 is not as easy as it looks. I order the physical course books and I was thinking I was going to cruise right through this book because it is a lot lighter and slimmer than the previous books. But I should have known better. There is another book that follows along with the course book that has lessons in it, along with quizzes. There is just a ton of information in this section, and to be blunt, it hurts my brain.

So what do you do when your steam is not running at full capacity? Well, in my case I take lots of long breaks, which I do not recommend. I would suggest a study group with some other classmates, or a close friend that can give you some energy to feed off of.

jessica-9-13For me this is the end of summer, and school here is back in session. I considered my summer a summer break, but I am getting back into my routine of a chapter a day, at least. My goal is to be finished with the course no later than Christmas. It really shouldn’t even take me that long if I set my mind to be in full force.

Another handy little tip that I have been using to get me through Course 4 is to work through the anatomy book first and do the quizzes, then go back through my actual course book after. I am finding that a lot of the information I need for quizzes is in the anatomy book, and it helps me understand the course book, too.

Sometimes I find that I have to go back and find some things in the anatomy book for the answers and key words. Yes, it is a pain, but at the same time there is a lot to be learned in both books. There is so much information just in this one course! I am going to go out on a limb and say that Course 5 will be just as much, if not more, information.

If you begin to feel overwhelmed, take a short break, stretch your legs, and change books if you need to. Just don’t give up. Talk to an instructor, or join a chat with a current student and see if they may be able to help condense the information that you are absorbing. Take it one chapter at a time. You will get through this and be so proud of yourself for pushing on!

Worry Less, Plan More

By: Vanessa

vanessa-9-8We can all agree that stress is bad and is known to be a leading factor of anxiety among women. I’ve grown up thinking that stress kills and I’ve been known to say, “Stress is bad, but a little bit of worry is okay.” Now I say, “Worry is bad, but a little bit of concern is okay.” What can we do to reduce stress, worry, concern or whatever you want to call it?

Proper and realistic planning is the best way to accomplish goals while eliminating fear of failure. I plan everything from daily errands to weekly school assignments. In my attempt to finish the HDS program in a timely manner, I complete at least one quiz each week. In order to achieve this, I login to my online school account on a daily basis to check for messages and stay connected. By checking my account daily, I make my certificate program a priority and feel motivated to study.

During the HDS program we don’t have any due dates, so that automatically reduces stress, but we do have graded quizzes. Since I study often, I don’t have to worry about my grades. Graduating and looking for work is what concerns me. I’m half way done with the transcription course and I’m starting to feel a little bit nervous. Searching for work can be time consuming and requires a lot of preparation for interviews, so I am creating a plan to make this easier.

1. What do I want to be?

2. What qualifications and skills do I have for that job?

3. What is my professional experience?

4. What education do I have?

5. What is my expected wage or charges if self-employed?

Answering these questions:

Knowing what you want to accomplish is the first step in organizing a plan. For me, I’m mastering the skills needed to become a professional medical transcriptionist. Then I will contact local medical offices to inform them of my services and rates. If I had two minutes to introduce myself to a business or employer, what would I say to sound knowledgeable and answer their questions before they even ask?

Communication is key and confidence in yourself builds the employer’s confidence in you. Highlight the areas in which you feel proficient and note the areas you could benefit from further training.

Medical language professional with hands-on experience using transcription software, foot pedal and headset. Capable of working in all areas of medical transcription. I am an expert typist, with extreme attention to detail, providing thorough documentation. Seeking work to further develop my skills in transcribing medical reports for a variety of medical specialties.

While mental notes are always great, writing is more effective and puts a plan in concrete and makes it more real. I think it is important to make a plan and stick to it. Of course there will be small changes along the way, but my goals haven’t changed and my plan is to accomplish those goals.

Thought of the day: Don’t worry, be happy.

Finding the Perfect Balance

By: Annie

Life for me is a juggling act. I’m naturally a clumsy person, so finding the perfect rhythm to keep everything moving smoothly seems to be an ongoing battle for me. Just when I think I’ve got everything balanced something happens to affect that perfect, consistent rhythm. I don’t view this as a negative, though. When everything does go right I tend to overlook the little things and end up with my head in the clouds. It takes a little bump in the road to bring me back to the real world and forces me to take notice of what is going on around me.


My juggling act has lots of parts. The one that is most important to me is my family and pets. I am so close with my family and with so many different members of my family that it can sometimes take a large portion of my time just to maintain those relationships.

As important as they are, time spent with family doesn’t pay the bills so another item I juggle is my job. I don’t spend a lot of time at my job, but it’s still something that occupies my time and concentration nonetheless.

A third part of my juggling act is studying for my future career. As always, this seems to be pushed off and given the lowest priority, but I do my best to make progress each week and always keep it on my mind.

The fourth part of my juggling act that I didn’t realize was “a thing” until recently is “me” time. In order for me to juggle all these moving parts of my life I, the juggler, have to make sure I am in good health and mind. If I’m not happy or not feeling well there is no way I’ll be able to achieve that perfect balance.

Like I mentioned before, once I get on a roll I tend to forget small details or overlook things that should mean a lot to me. My baby’s sweet smile and sounds, my dogs’ wagging tails, the smell of a wonderful dinner, and all those other small moments that will mean so much to me later on. These are things that make me realize being a bad juggler is not always a bad thing.

I’ve been working away on Course 4, and I have to admit the Anatomy and Physiology portion is really putting me in my place! Sure, I studied this stuff in high school, but that was 6 years ago and I never had a use for the terms and knowledge while pursuing my Business and Communications degrees. I am grateful that I am now having a refresher, it’ll surely benefit me as I begin my career.

Well, the baby is waking from her nap which means I need to start juggling again! I hope you are able to maintain a positive balance as you pursue your studies and that you are not as clumsy as I am!