Most of the students and graduates that we talk with for our newsletter ‘Spotlights’ elect to come to Carrington College because they want to learn a set of skills to prepare for a new career. From time to time we talk with businesses that hire our graduates; it helps you understand what they’re looking for.
Nichole Warren, the WSW (West South West) Billing Administrator for Rural/Metro Corporation in Scottsdale, AZ, was kind enough to spend some time with us. Rural/Metro is a national leading provider of private ambulance and fire protection services to cities, counties and healthcare systems in 21 states.
Rural/Metro was founded in February 1948 when founder Lou Witzeman became concerned that his neighborhood didn’t have fire protection. He pooled together some money, bought a fire truck, and asked his neighbors to subscribe to his fledgling company. Over the last 65 years the company has grown and today has more than 10,000 employees nationwide, with the ultimate goal of the continuous pursuit of clinical excellence across the board.
In Arizona, Nichole works for Southwest Ambulance, a Rural/Metro company, Arizona’s largest emergent and non-emergent ambulance transportation provider. Nichole works in the West South West (WSW) Billing Center, where she helps support two Billing Managers who oversee the Pre-Bill & Post-Bill offices. One of Nichole’s primary tasks is recruitment of Medical Billing & Coding program (MBC) graduates.
“Our billing center is the largest in the company; we process all the billing for Rural/Metro Corporation from the state of Mississippi west. That gives you an idea of the magnitude of our operation. We are approaching 250 employees to handle that scale of business; and we’re continuing to grow.”
The relationship between Rural/Metro and Carrington College doesn’t go back long as Nichole explains.
“I reached out to Carrington a little over two years ago. With my primary focus being staffing and recruiting for the billing office, I needed to identify as many resources for qualified candidates as possible. Carrington is now one of the primary resources I use; I have six or seven direct Career Services contacts in the three Carrington campuses across Phoenix and Mesa.”
Although our relationship is still fairly new, it has certainly been beneficial for all parties – Rural/Metro, Carrington College, and most importantly our MBC graduates.
“In 2012 we were successful in hiring 17 Carrington graduates; and so far this year [as of February 7th] we have already brought aboard three more. Unfortunately I don’t have the exact number for 2011, the year the relationship started, but I think we employed five to ten graduates. It’s safe to say that we’ve hired around 25 to 30 Carrington graduates since the relationship began a little over two years ago.”
Nichole sees no reason why the number of hires this year will be any different to last year, as the business continues to demand an influx of new, skilled billing and coding employees.
“I can’t stress enough the relationship we’ve created with Carrington; I consider Carrington one of my best sources of qualified candidates for the medical billing and coding positions we’re constantly staffing for. Obviously as we continue to grow, that need is only going to increase.”
Although Nichole has a relationship with several local schools, we’re proud to say that she is pleased with the overall quality of Carrington graduates. We asked her to expand on that…
“I would say that their level of knowledge as it pertains to medical terminology and billing and coding is great, as is their professionalism. When we talk about what we’re looking for in new hires, Carrington graduates come to us with the skills and experience we’re looking for. Their skill sets and knowledge fall within the job descriptions of the Customer Registration Reps, and the Billing & Coding Reps.”
Because not everyone is familiar with billing & coding, we asked Nichole to briefly explain the process at Rural/Metro, and where new recruits fall within it.
“The first stage of the ambulance billing cycle starts here in our Pre-Bill office with Customer Registration. That’s where the reps enter the patients’ demographics and begin the insurance verification process. From there once all the information is entered into the system, it goes to our Billing & Coding reps in our Invoicing department. That’s where critical skill sets like medical terminology and specific billing and coding knowledge really shine through.
After the invoice has been issued the process shifts to our Post-Bill office. 30 days after the invoice is sent, the follow-up begins with liaison with third party insurance companies, with organizations like AHCCCS, Medicare or Medicaid, with law firms, or with patients directly if they don’t have insurance.”
When considering new hires and where they may be placed initially within the organization, Nichole obviously considers a lot of different factors when pre-screening and interviewing candidates.
“We look at not only their schooling, but their work experience. Have they ever worked in a doctor’s office or hospital? Have they gone through an externship? Have they been able to utilize what they learned in school in a real life environment? We use a number of measures to decide whether a new hire goes into Customer Registration, Invoicing or the Post-Bill office initially. Yes your schooling and experience are important, but ultimately we’re looking for flexibility, and openness to be trained. We want individuals who want to take themselves and their careers to the next level.”
Nichole doesn’t view one position as superior to the other, but as an opportunity to learn different skill sets on the job. That said, the increased skills needed by Billing & Coding Reps does have one benefit.
“Traditionally those in our Invoicing department come in at a slightly higher rate of pay, but of course that’s based on the individual, their schooling, their experience, their certifications etc. But when I think back on the kind of hires we’ve made from Carrington, I would say that a large majority of them go into those Billing & Coding positions in our Invoicing department because of the skills they arrive with.”
Rural/Metro is also very keen on promoting continued improvement for its employees.
“We do encourage continued education; I believe we offer tuition reimbursement for higher level degrees. I also know that we are talking internally about incentive programs to get our billing employees to take their education to the next level.”
No matter where new recruits join the company, there is lots of scope for progression.
“Rural/Metro is very good at promoting from within; it’s something we take great pride in. There is definitely an opportunity for personal growth. We want graduates to come in motivated, be flexible and open to receiving the training needed to perform the job, while utilizing the skills they’ve learned during their schooling, externship or previous position. Our growth means there are continual opportunities for advancement; growth means we always need more Leads and more Supervisors. Hit the ground running and the sky is the limit. “
Our final question for Nichole was, as an important employer in the marketplace, whether she would recommend Carrington College to someone still considering their college options.
“I would definitely recommend Carrington. The level of knowledge, the level of experience, the level of professionalism the graduates display shows that the curriculum is on track. I see it in the Carrington graduates that come to us. I can’t help but think that the difference is in their schooling. There are some Carrington students that come across my desk that I wish didn’t have to go to their externship because I want them the day they are available!”
For comprehensive consumer information on our Medical Billing & Coding Program, visit www.carrington.edu/degrees/medical-billing-and-coding/
Program availability varies by location.