Darlene Helmer, CPC, CPC-I, ACS-AN, CMPE, MBA, is the lead instructor of the Certified Medical Coding certification prep course offered at Towson University Continuing and Professional Studies. We recently asked her about her career in healthcare and about teaching at TU. Here’s what she had to say.
Tell us about your background.
Medical coding has supported me throughout my entire career. I graduated from community college in 1977 and became a certified medical assistant in 1978. I then moved on as a biller, accounts receivable rep, surgical poster, transcriptionist, office manager, practice administrator, certified coder, compliance officer and finally retired as director of revenue cycle. I received my bachelor’s degree when I was 50 and my MBA at 53 and I’m still learning. I love spending time with my grand kids, scrap-booking, and music (I am a singer!), theater and traveling.
What do you like most about teaching?
I’ve taught continuing education courses at TU for about 5 years. I love sharing my knowledge about the medical field with my students. Coding is not just about selecting a code for a procedure, but understanding the practice of medicine. The more knowledgeable you are, the more valuable you are.
I truly support lifelong learning, you are never to old to learn anything. Continuing education gives you a different perspective and opens our eyes to new ways of thinking.
How do students benefit from earning a medical coding certification?
The benefits are too numerous to count, but a medical coding certification does open new doors. The certification is now highly recognized and comes with an increased salary, as well as opportunities for promotions for better paying jobs—not necessarily in the specific field of coding but related fields. It shows your desire to make a career for yourself and gives employers more confidence in your abilities.
What is the outlook for certified medical coders in Greater Baltimore?
There are many medical coding and coding-related jobs available in the Greater Baltimore area. Once you get experienced as a certified medical coder, many avenues will open up and you can create a lifelong career.
What would you say to someone who is on the fence about taking the Certified Medical Course?
My father always said to me when I was young, “If you can type, you can get a job.” I say to you, “If you can code, you can get a job!”