Student Finds New Code to Success

Student Finds New Code to Success

Many would have thought Sandy Strickland had already discovered the secret codes to success, working for ten years as a manager for a financial company, and a twenty year career in the financial industry itself. Then it happened again, someone changed the codes.

“Every time I turned around, like every 5 years, I’d get laid off. I actually made it with my last company 10 years,” Strickland said. “Unfortunately layoffs were common due to the way financial institutions merge, and even if you were able to keep your position, it meant relocating to a new location, in probably a new state.”

This Broken Arrow native wanted to stay in Oklahoma, and find a career that, unlike her experience in the financial industry, would allow her to finally settle down.

“I wanted to stay in Tulsa, to be near my family, so I began to look online, read different materials, and just do some research to hopefully find a more stable occupation,” Strickland said. “I had seen where the field of medical coding would be expanding in the future. And that’s what began to drive me in that direction.”

Medical coding is the process of transforming descriptions of medical diagnoses and procedures, into universal medical code numbers. The information is taken from a variety of sources, including physician’s notes, laboratory results, radiology reports, and many other sources. Medical coders must not only have an understanding of the coding system itself, they are also required to work with the information quickly.

“You need to be fast, and I don’t think it ever gets boring,” Strickland said. “I like it because you’re always expanding your knowledge and never coding the same thing. There are always different procedures, a different diagnosis, I really enjoy that type of work.”

The medical billing and coding industry uses the International Classification of Diseases, or ICD system, an adaption created by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, for use in assigning diagnostic and procedure codes associated with all healthcare in the United States. The version of the system code currently in use is ICD-9, but the industry will implement a newer version with more specific codes, referred to as ICD-10, one year from now in October 2015.

“There are definitely job opportunities for individuals who want to become medical coders,” Strickland said. “Especially with the new standards of ICD-10 being implemented this time next year.”

Many say the definition of luck is being prepared when an opportunity presents itself. As an employee with St. John’s Health System for the past two and half years, along with her recent promotion to Business Office Supervisor, Ms. Strickland is quick to give credit to both Tulsa Tech, and her employer, St. John’s.

“I not only completed my test and interviewed in the same week,” Strickland said. “I already had an opportunity which was pending, based on the results of my certification exam. I passed and had the job.”

Ms. Taylor Deatherage, Medical Coding Instructor at Tulsa Tech, is not surprised by her former student’s successful career, and uses examples like these to help illustrate to her students the importance of always challenging themselves.

“I always tell my students that your professional growth in coding doesn’t stop once you obtain your certification and earn a job,” Deatherage said. “Medical coding includes advancement and higher levels of certification. Sandy is a perfect example of a student achieving and cultivating a career in medical coding.”

Strickland, a mother of four hopes to inspire other students, regardless of their age, who might be thinking about gaining additional education, or possibly training for a new career.

“I would recommend Tulsa Tech for either high school or adult students,” Strickland said. “My son studied Aviation Maintenance Technology at Tulsa Tech, my daughter studied and works as a Medical Assistant, an my other son just finished the Certified Cisco Network Associate (CCNA) program, and now has a great job with the QuikTrip corporation.”

Of course to read each of their success stories, requires additional codes. Tulsa Tech would like to congratulate and thank Ms. Sandy Strickland, along with our great faculty and staff, who strive every day to help each of our students make their own path.

If you’re currently looking for exciting classes for both high school and adult students, quality business and industry training, or a challenging new career, Tulsa Tech invites you to visit today. For more information, please call 918-828-5000 or visit us online at

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