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Cryptic crosswords could lead to clinical coding career

Cryptic crosswords could lead to clinical coding career

Waikato DHB team leader Clinical Coding and ACE co-tutor Nicky Williams with Rajesh Darole, a past student of the ACE course now working as a clinical coder at Waikato Hospital.

Are you pedantic, good at making connections, and have a recognised qualification in anatomy and physiology or medical terminology? You could make a great clinical coder.

If you enjoy cryptic crosswords, that is another sign, says Patsy MacAulay, manager of clinical coding at Waikato Hospital.

A clinical coding training course jointly run by Waikato and Auckland DHBs is calling for applications by 5 February 2012. The course offers good job prospects at the end – and a very satisfying career for those with the right attributes. Already seven people have signed up, three from the Waikato area. There are 12 places in total for each course.

Clinical coding is not a well known area of work but it is a highly skilled and important part of modern hospitals. Waikato Hospital has a team of 21 clinical coders and there are about 250 nationally, mainly based at district health boards and private hospitals.

A clinical coder identifies key clinical diagnoses and procedures from patient records, and translates this information into a set of international standard codes which are essential for clinical research, health service funding and effective planning of future services.

Accuracy, high standards and an analytical mind are essential.

“We need people who have a good knowledge of the human body and clinical terms,” Patsy MacAulay says. “They might have worked as a health professional and want a change in career, or be very familiar with medical terminology from working as a clinical typist/transcriptionist. Some people may have done anatomy and physiology as part of other training but never quite found their niche – until they hear about clinical coding.”

Waikato Hospital clinical coding team leader Nicky Williams developed the clinical coding course, working with Andrew Wooding from Auckland DHB, two years ago.

“Before that, the nearest course available was a one year course in Australia,” Nicky says. “We have condensed training into a much tighter timeframe with more emphasis on practical work.” The result is called the Accelerated Coding Education (ACE) course.

The joint Waikato and Auckland district health board course consists of a week of face-to-face learning followed by eight weeks full-time self-directed learning with assignments and online forums/chat sessions to make it as interactive and supported as possible. The final three days return to a real-world classroom.

Four courses have been held to date, helping to build a pool of clinical coders for New Zealand hospitals. Although the classroom sections are currently held in Auckland, it is hoped to offer them in Waikato later this year to make it even easier for local people to attend.

Clinical coding is a role in demand both here and overseas, and the course meets international requirements.

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