It’s time for someone to stand up for the patient accounting manager, supervisor, director, team leader,… whatever position you happen to occupy at this point, stand up and give yourself a pat on the back from me. If I could, I’d round all of you up and take you all out to lunch at a fancy Chinese restaurant and let you order whatever your heart desires.

SML Appendectomy: First ER Bill / 2008-01-09
See-ming Lee via Compfight

It’s hard being in healthcare doing this type of work. There’s no school in the country where you can go to learn just what it is you do. Sure, there are some schools that teach “billing”, but has anyone who’s ever gone to one of those classes found it practically applied once they’ve gotten into a billing situation? Most classes pertain to physician billing and not hospital billing.

Heck, even the term “billing” is a misnomer, because almost no one today sends out bills. The computer’s send out claims if your information upfront is clean, and even though every once in awhile you may have to add a modifier before a bill goes out, or even have someone touch a paper claim, it’s not really billing of the type many of us started out with in the 70’s or 80’s.

Then there’s the training aspect as it pertains to leading others. There’s a statistic out there that says 85% of all managers have never led anything before becoming a manager. Obviously that’s a lot of people, and if you think about how most hospitals hire most management level personnel it makes you wonder how many of them ever made it into that position.

The problem for anyone at a leadership position isn’t that they don’t mean well. Most of the people who end up as leaders really didn’t want the positions when they got them. They have their own reasons for accepting the positions, but very few people really want to be managers. Those that do are sometimes more equipped mentally for the position than those who didn’t, but that doesn’t mean that they were any better equipped with the skills for performing as a leader.

In patient accounting it’s even stranger, because I’m betting that very few people who started working in healthcare receivables had any idea of what they were in for when they first started. I know my own experience was that I’d never been in a hospital since the day I left after being born, and had never thought about how they made their money, let alone collected it.

Most people who become managers don’t know what to do or where to go for assistance. There’s usually three directions they go.

One, they ask the person who put them into the position what to do, usually the chief financial officer or VP of finance. The problem there is they often don’t have the time to spend on personnel issues because they have too many other things to deal with, including their own work. Often they may not be very good leaders themselves, and were hoping they wouldn’t ever have to be called upon to help in that fashion. It also gets scary going to them because you worry that they may feel they hired the wrong person for the job.

Two, we go to our peers, other managers within the facility. The problem there is pretty much the same as with the person you report to; time and possible lack of skills.

Three, we go to human resources, usually to talk to the HR director. The problem there is something I highlighted in another article I wrote; they may not have the skills either, it’s not their job to help managers answer most of their questions (even though many people think it is their job), and, because they report to upper management, they often will tell them what you went to HR about, and concerns may filter down from above about you through the wrong channels, which no one wants to deal with.

What managers and leaders need are answers. What managers need is education. What managers need is someone to talk to. Most managers have no idea where to go for any of these. I’m going to offer some ideas of where managers can go to find some help, to learn how to become better managers.

1. Go back to school. There are all sorts of classes at many different educational facilities where one can go to learn management skills. You could go back to college to get a bachelors, but you may not have that kind of time. You could go to a vocational school of some type that teaches management skills. Some of the classes are for a semester, which can be a great help.

2. Online courses. There are different types of online courses one can take. There are those that are totally web based; you actually log into a website using a password you pay for and take the course whenever you want to, at your own pace. You can sign up for a timed course where you receive a file (usually in a .pdf or .exe format, which allows you to print out whatever you wish without allowing you to change the content) once a week or so for the length of the course, which can run anywhere from 3 to 10 weeks. And there are online courses where you actually watch a live class from your computer, just like going to school, and the teacher determines how you take tests for the course. Some of those types of classes are accredited, which means you could apply the credits to a college if you later decided to go for some type of degree.

3. Books on management. There are different types of books on management and leadership. Some offer systems that you may find helps you structure yourself. Some offer real life situations and answers them for you, or gives you ideas on how to deal with issues. Some are workbooks that offer not only some content that teaches you management and leadership but also gives you tests and other items you can work with, which makes the learning experience more interactive.

4. Organizations. There are many professional organizations that are not only geared towards one particular area of experience, but also some that are geared towards new or existing managers, where they offer seminars to their members on leadership skills, as well as other issues that are of importance to managers. Sometimes these may seem hard to find in your particular area, but they exist in every state in some form, and if you’re willing and able to travel these can be quite valuable for you.

5. Seminars. Some companies have seminars inhouse for their employees on leadership, but sometimes you can’t afford to wait for that. There are literally thousands of seminars in your community, usually closer to the large cities, on management and leadership, that you can go to. Sometimes they may seem pricey, but the price of education can’t be measured against the length of time you’ll be able to use the information, especially if you’re a new manager.

6. Executive coaching. This is one of the fastest growing professions that are available to managers and leaders in America today. There are more CEOs who are taking advantage of the one on one ability to speak to someone who has no vested interest in their organization, or is competing for their position. Executive coaches are of two minds. One, they can help you to answer your most pressing questions, sometimes immediately. Two, they will listen to you and “coach” or “mentor” you towards a mindset that will not only help you to work with others, but will possibly help you with some of your life issues, even though that’s not their purpose.

Some of these options can be expensive, but each person has to determine what they’re willing or able to pay. A book on management techniques, for instance, can cost as little as $10, and if it offers you exactly what you need then that’s a great thing. A workbook on management could cost you as little as $100, or as much as $1,000 if it’s a long course; same goes for an online course. Seminars can range anywhere from $100 to $1,000, depending upon the speaker and length of the course.

Executive coaching could cost you anywhere from $250 to $500 a month, depending on the coach. Joining an organization can cost you as little as $30 a year, then whatever the cost of the monthly meetings. Some vocational schools offer free seminars, which are usually very short, or charge minimally as an adult education. Other schools can vary, based on the extent of the classes that are available.

Sometimes you can get your organization to pay for some of these; other times, it’s going to be totally on you. Books or workbooks can be used over and over. Coaches can work with you on scheduling for your convenience; they’re also someone you can just talk to and commiserate with, especially if you find someone who’s done what you do.

An accredited degree is always a good thing to have in your back pocket. Organizations are nice because you find that there’s many people who feel the same things you feel and go through what you go through; misery loves company.

The thing is, a manager has to determine whether or not they want to be better; whether or not they want to risk not having a position for as long as they want to, because they couldn’t master the skill of leading others as easily as they may have mastered the skill which got them considered for the position in the first place. It all depends on your own comfort level, but a word of warning; never get too comfortable. If you’re always in the process of improving, you’ll always be moving forward.

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