A Potential Change of Plans


Yesterday I wrote about my discussion about school with my therapist, and mentioned that she wanted me to contact my Texas Workforce Commission case manager regarding changing my action plan with them. Here’s why.

Late last year, I began working with TWC on a plan to get me back to work. They could either give me assistance with trying to get work in an area that I was already capable of doing, or they could give me assistance with retraining me for a job in a new field. I have two vocational certificates, one in massage therapy and one in pharmacy technology, and both of those fields require long hours on my feet, something that I can’t do anymore because of my back. So rather than risk returning to generalized clerical work, something that I’ve spent a good portion of my professional life doing, I opted to pursue education in a new field.

I initially looked for an associate’s degree in architectural drafting, but subsequent job searches turned up precious few leads statewide, and none within commuting distance from where I currently live, so I started looking at another field. After discussing my options with my case manager, I decided to go to my final meeting with TWC intent on pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mass communications. That meeting went disastrously, as I discovered from my case manager that everything that I’ve suggested as a potential field of study wasn’t considered feasible by TWC standards, and I was basically given the choice of accepting a certificate in medical billing and coding or walking out the door empty handed with nothing to show for my time spent with TWC. (TWC has a 90-day window to design and approve an action plan. This final meeting was on day 83 of my window.) So I settled for medical billing and coding and went home to research what would apparently be my new career.

It turns out that medical coders make decent money, better than I would have gotten as an architectural drafter, and there were better job opportunities, so I decided to make the best of the situation I found myself in and start looking into everything that I needed to do to enroll for the fall semester.

I had my orientation on Tuesday afternoon, where I learned what the next steps to enroll were, and I had a good meeting. I wrote about it on Facebook, and a friend of mine told me that she was pursuing an associate’s degree in essentially the same field out of state. I was curious, and after a few minutes of research discovered that Austin Community College, the institution that I would be attending for my certificate program, offered an associate’s degree in health information technology, which covers both medical billing and coding and medical records analysis. The potential for becoming gainfully employed would be increased significantly with an associate’s degree, so I filed that information away for pursuit after I had gotten the certificate and had worked enough to afford the degree, if the field interested me. I was further encouraged that the associate’s degree at ACC would transfer to Texas State for a bachelor’s degree in health information technology, so there would be the potential for even further education in the field.

I mentioned this to my therapist yesterday, and also mentioned that in the pursuit of the next steps for the certificate program I had learned that my former case manager, who had stuck me with this field in the first place, was no longer with TWC, and that my case was being handled by someone new. My therapist recommended that I reach out to TWC and ask what the possibility of switching my action plan to the associate’s degree would be. I didn’t really hold out much hope, but I told her that I would try. So this morning I sent my new case manager an email explaining the situation.

My new case manager called me this afternoon to follow up and ask a little more about what I was looking to do, and why. So I told her briefly about the background of my case and how I was pretty much assigned this field by my former case manager, and how the addition of the medical records analysis would increase both my earning potential and my employment prospects. She said that she would need to meet with me to discuss this in further detail, so I have an appointment on July 11th with her to go over my suggestion.

I honestly don’t hold out much hope for a switch, mostly because I know that TWC won’t cover the expense of prerequisite classes, and the associate’s degree program has five prerequisite courses before the start of the six-semester program. But at least I will have talked it over and found out the answer instead of assuming what it would be.

If I don’t get to switch to the degree program, that’s fine. It just means that once I get back to work, I’ll start saving money to be able to go back to school on my own, should the field prove to be interesting to me. If I do get to switch, that’s even better – an associate’s degree in one field is better than none at all to some employers, so even if I choose to leave the field eventually, I’ll have an education under my belt.

I’ll keep you posted on what I find out.