When people think of health care and hospitals, they often think of nurses, doctors and others who give direct care. But there are thousands of Iowans who work “behind the scenes” at hospitals who are just as dedicated to making sure the highest quality care is provided every day. Jennifer Byrnes is one of those people.
I started working for Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo 25 years ago and didn’t realize the impact I would have on patients while working behind the scenes as a medical coder. I have been working in the Home Health department for 19 years and have seen Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare go through many changes. I started my career as a first unit secretary in the hospital in 1987. I saw the merging of Schoitz and Saint Francis in Waterloo and the transition to a paperless electronic health record system.
I decided to pursue a career in health care because of my beloved mother, who was a registered nurse at the original Saint Francis Hospital. My mom made me want to be active in health care. I grew up visiting the emergency room to see her at work. I learned from her what dedication to work and patients is all about.
As a medical coder I work very hard to protect a patient’s privacy. It is important to be organized and not to over code. I follow up with insurance companies to make sure the patient is billed and we are reimbursed correctly. It is my duty to handle insurance denials and make sure the hospital receives payments. I work closely with Medicare and other insurance companies.
At Covenant Home Health, 140 patients are coded each month. I talk with the nurses to ensure accuracy; communication is very important in my job. If I code something wrong it could affect that patient for life since these records are permanent. I must know what I am doing; I take pride in error-free coding. My door is always open and anyone is free to stop by for a chat. I work hard in anticipating and responding to each patient’s needs.
As part of evolving I am always continuing my education. I earned my medical coding certificate, a two year course. I have exams twice a year and attend a coding workshop in Des Moines every year. My next task to tackle is obtaining the Home Health Specialist Certificate. I like working behind the scenes to provide a welcoming environment, while providing an essential service.
The team of nurses, physical, occupational and speech therapists, homecare aids, administrative assistants and secure sitter staff make up one solid unit. Our department is made up of strong individuals who come together to form a great team. The people I work with are the best. We are a close-knit group; we laugh a lot. It is good and challenging work. Our goal is to have patients stay at home as long as they can. We work hard in making that possible and at treating patients with dignity and respect.