There's a point in your life when you know what you want. The key is finding a way to get there. For Luci Atencio a career as a surgical technician, specializing in labor and delivery was rewarding, but not where she wanted to be, both for the profession and eventually the location.
"I had worked the 12 hour shifts for many years," she said. "I wanted to do something different, but I wanted to use my clinical background as an advantage."
Health Information Technology is one of the fastest growing areas in health care. Luci started school in Los Angeles to make the transition. Then she visited a friend and made another life altering decision.
"I worked with a nurse at a hospital and she was from Brentwood. She invited me out here to visit and I really liked it."
Now the choice was where to continue school. Luci did her research. She wanted an accredited program so that she would be ready to take certification testing. The hot career field of health information doesn't hold much for those who are not certified. She settled on Vol State, started taking classes and then received some important advice.
"I was originally going for the six-month certificate program," Luci said. "My instructor talked me into going for the full A.A.S degree. It has opened so many doors for me."
The coding certificate can help students find jobs quickly. The two-year associate of applied science degree gives them a stronger foundation to build new career paths.
"With a degree it opens you up to go into management. I've seen directors with the registered health information technician degree."
The combination of her clinical background and her newly minted degree proved popular with employers.
"I graduated on Saturday, May 5 and had an interview and was hired that next Monday."
Luci now works for a company that has 1700 outpatient dialysis clinics and manages 800 acute care facilities. All of that adds up to a massive medical record tracking program.
"I do outpatient coding for the dialysis patients and also medical record audits. I've been preparing for the implementation of ICD 10 diagnosis coding. Transitioning from ICD 9 to ICD 10 is like English to Japanese. It's a whole other language."
The ability to learn new things is critical to success in health information technology.
"There's always something happening and changing. Regulations continue to get more complex, even though emerging technology has made things more efficient."
Luci plans to keep pace with the technology with more education.
"I'm looking into pursuing my bachelor's degree in health informatics. Everything is becoming information technology driven."
For more information visit the Health Informational Technology Program website or call (615) 230 - 3337.