GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- The Guilford County Board of Education has approved a program that’s designed to not only connect students to jobs, but also fill a growing need in the medical field.
Northeast Guilford High School received the green light to start a Health Information Technology Academy where students can gain hands-on experience in medical coding.
It’s a partnership that includes Novant Health, Guilford Technical Community College and Davidson County Community College.
“For several years there has been a supply and demand issue of experienced coders,” Sarah Laird, director of coding for Novant Health, said.
"They said we have jobs, but we need students or people who are trained to fill these jobs,” Fabby Williams, principal of Northeast Guilford High School, said.
Medical coding describes putting a physician’s words found in medical records into codes used by insurance companies for billing.
The program includes having instructors from both community colleges to teach classes at the high school.
Novant Health has agreed to provide internship opportunities for the students.
However, it could lead to more.
Students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate's degree.
Laird says the program is also a way to establish a pipeline for students to begin working in the field upon graduation.
“This career does not limit you to where you live. Most coders work remote from their homes or you can have the more traditional on-site work experience,” Laird said.
Darrell Sechrist began as a medical coder after his position in retail was eliminated.
He enjoys the flexible schedule and that there are opportunities to grow.
Sechrist has been in the field for two-and-a-half years and is now a coding production supervisor.
He hopes students will take advantage of the opportunity.
“I would have been jumping at the chance to get at a job out of high school and starting at an above average salary, that would have been a dream for me,” he said.
Students would have to apply to this program.
Eventually, the expectation is to expand it to other students in the district.
The Health Information Technology Academy is scheduled to launch in the 2016-2017 school year.