When Angela Comfort adjusts her headset and microphone as she prepares to cohost Talk Ten Tuesdays this morning, one might forgive her as she momentarily harkens back to when she worked in the medical records department at Humana’s Clinch Valley Medical Center in Richlands, Virginia.
“I had always wanted to be a schoolteacher, as I was growing up,” Comfort said last week. “However, I was given the opportunity in my senior year of high school to take part in a work study program called (the) Cooperative Office Education program. I went to school in the morning to finish up the classes I needed to graduate, and worked the afternoon.”
“This started my career path.”
That career path, leading from her stint in medical records, was influenced by the department’s previous director, Brenda Jarrett.
“I was working as an ER OP analyst in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and Brenda was the director of medical records. She was instrumental in me moving into coding and getting my ART (RHIT) and my CCS credentials,” Comfort said. “Those of us in the department had a saying that we wanted to be like Brenda when we grew up.”
Angela Comfort came into my orbit at the time America’s healthcare system was in the throes of implementing ICD-10, having used the older version, ICD-9, for nearly three decades.
Comfort at that time was the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) senior director of coding services, having previously served as the association’s director of Health Information Management (HIM) Practice Excellence.
Today, Comfort is the senior healthcare consultant at e4 services as the transformational leader for Montefiore Health System.
So, what advice would Comfort offer to others who might be considering a career in healthcare?
“It’s essential to begin by researching the field’s intricacies and its vital role in healthcare organizations. HIM professionals are responsible for managing patient records, ensuring accuracy, and complying with regulatory standards,” Comfort explained. “Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in health information management or a related field, along with certification, is almost always a prerequisite for HIM roles.”
Comfort also believes that developing strong technical skills, staying updated on healthcare regulations, and cultivating attention to detail are crucial.
“Effective communication, ethics, and confidentiality are also paramount, given the sensitive nature of patient information,” Comfort said, adding that “gaining practical experience through internships or entry-level positions, networking with industry professionals, and remaining adaptable to evolving technology and regulations are key to a successful HIM career.”
In explaining her personal success, Comfort acknowledges that a few personal traits – self-discipline, determination, and resilience – have helped her succeed and become the leader she is today.
“I have had to be adaptable and learn how to be an effective communicator, which has led to managing my own emotional intelligence as well as understanding others,” she said.
To listen to Comfort as she cohosts Talk Ten Tuesdays with me today at 10 EST, simply click the link.