The Compliance Newbie

This is a guest blog entry from Kristen Poat, who has stepped into the compliance officer role at her organization in the past two years. She wanted to share her experience of how it’s been stepping into the compliance world as a newbie. Enjoy!

“How did you find your way into compliance?” It is a fair question; a career in compliance is not meant for everyone. Truthfully, it was an inherited position. My coworkers said, “Kristen has a good head on her shoulders, our compliance go-to needs to be her.” Knowing that the people surrounding me in our organization recognize that I possess a strong ethical tone that thrives in the working environment is a magnificent complement. It is something I will hold onto for my entire career.  To the other “newbies” in compliance: this role will not be a slice of cake. There are unlimited lessons to be learned and notes to be taken. What would I have told myself to better prepare for this position a year ago? Here are four things that I feel are essential:

1. Be an observer and a sponge.

It’s impossible to know precisely what to do in every compliance situation that presents itself, but it is possible to know what NOT to do. Read articles, listen to podcasts, buy books, and follow the compliance headlines. All the things that absolutely should not be done are easily available for you to soak up and file away for later use. It also may be easier on your pride to learn from someone else as an observer than to learn the lesson personally while on the job.

2. Find someone you can trust.

Not everyone has the company’s best interests in mind. Navigating through questionable character and identifying the people who genuinely want to do the right thing, to see the company achieve success, and see their peers shine are invaluable. Hang on to them in the current role you occupy and moving forward in any other direction. Chances are, you will often find yourself grateful for relying on their support and guidance.

3. Learn to find your voice in your organization.

This one is hard, especially as a newer employee or someone new to compliance. It takes time to build trust among peers and leadership. Put the effort into those relationships, and I promise there will be no regrets. Staying consistent with doing the right thing and not compromising your values speaks volumes and will lead others to follow. Once that following is established, your voice will become a welcome addition to the table and cultivating positive change can begin.

4. Remember: we are all human — learning and mistakes are part of the process.

Accepting and maintaining a compliance role can force an individual to put a lot of unnecessary pressure on themselves. Pointing out the mistakes of others and effectively communicating the repercussions of said mistakes can be daunting. I often question whether I would I want someone to follow me around and point out my mistakes or oversight. The short answer is “of course not.” Using humility as an advantage when interacting with people inside and outside of the organization is a staple in a compliance career. Always remember that we are all human and we all make mistakes. Whether intentionally or not, learning from these mistakes and moving forward with a positive mindset is a wonderful way to plant seeds of compliance and watch them bloom into something worth admiring.

Kristen Poat is a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certified through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) with 10+ years’ experience in various roles in the health information management environment. She takes a special interest in auditing and compliance-related tasks. Kristen holds memberships with AHIMA, the Renal Physician’s Association (RPA), and Illinois Health Information Management Association (ILHIMA). She is currently a CHPC candidate and aspires to return to school to obtain her Registered Health Information Administration (RHIA) certification and degree.

Questions or Comments?