Shannon Barrios has always been enamored with numbers and letters – the way they help us communicate and how they’re able to reflect the realities of the world around us.
As a teen, for instance, she taught herself to speak Spanish by watching Spanish-language television with English captions, practicing new words and phrases daily. And to better understand math, Shannon perfected a technique that allows her to find answers through the seemingly coded use of lines and dots.
“I know it sounds bizarre and crazy, but that’s how I like to learn to do things,” she said. “People call me a nerd because I like to develop techniques that work for me and the way I learn.”
So later in life, when Shannon decided she wanted to train for a career in a medical field, she opted to enroll in the Medical Front Office and Billing Program at Florida Career College (FCC) in Orlando.
Not only does the program train students how to manage front-office environments and claims within a clinical setting, but it also teaches diagnostic, procedural and outpatient coding. These are the series of numbers and letters that combine to create a sort of language within the healthcare field.
It’s this aspect of her Florida Career College education that is most appealing to Shannon, who is currently still a student and was named an Ambassador within the program.
“I like the communication, and I like that medical coding is set up like a puzzle,” she said. “You have to investigate what codes go with what, and if it doesn’t match up and you submit the wrong code, you have to investigate even deeper.”
DISCOVERING A PASSION FOR MEDICAL CODING
Shannon, 41, was born and raised in Texas but moved with her boyfriend to Florida during the summer of 2020. They wanted to be closer to his family, and they were looking forward to the change of pace Florida seemed to offer.
“We wanted something different,” she said. “We wanted a different lifestyle. Texas is more country, low-profile … not as fast-paced and upbeat as here.”
While she had long teetered between wanting to work in the medical field and opening her own restaurant, Shannon settled on working as a receiving associate at a large retail store after the move. When her work schedule was cut to around 12 hours per week, however, Shannon said she knew the time was right to choose a direction for a new career.
“It’s something I always had in the back of my mind, but it never actually kicked into gear until July,” she said. “I’m not getting younger, and I need to have a profession. And then I see all my friends and they’re, like, I need to go into nursing or medical assisting, and I thought, let me kind of follow their advice.”
The Medical Front Office and Billing program at Florida Career College proved to be an ideal educational option for Shannon. Not only did the curriculum align with her career goals, but the location was close to her home.
Plus, FCC Executive Admissions Professional Lance Andrews left a lasting impression on Shannon.
“Speaking to Lance, he made everything seem so comfortable and made everything seem like it was a fun time being at FCC,” she said. “What comforted me most is that if I ever needed anything, I could come to him and he would resolve it. He knew that I would make it, and he had a lot of faith in me.”
“Shannon is truly an amazing and motivated young lady,” Lance said. “Her drive and passion is one that was unmatched. She was and is truly motivated to change her current career situation. I told her if she keeps this up, she can go as far as she truly wants to.”
KEEPING THE MOMENTUM GOING THROUGH GRADUATION
Shannon has responded to the faith and support she’s gotten from the FCC faculty and staff by earning straight-A’s in all her classes and a spot on the President’s List. Based on this success and leadership, she was named a Student Ambassador at the Orlando campus.
Within the program, Shannon said she felt like she immediately fit in.
“From the start, everything was natural because the teacher I had at the time, she was amazing,” Shannon said. “Things we didn’t understand, she would take it down from school knowledge to, like, street talk. When you take professionalism and street talk, and then put it together like I do, it makes it easier to understand.”
Also, the hybrid learning model offered at Florida Career College, which combines online classroom and lecture hours with in-person lab training, has proven to be ideal for Shannon.
“I like how the class is set up,” she said. “I wouldn’t say I’m a hands-on person. I like the books and computer more than something that’s hands-on. I’m not really a hands-on learner at all; I do better with books and computers.”
Based on Shannon’s current program trajectory, she should complete her classroom training and be ready to begin the externship portion of her education by late February 2022. In the meantime, she’s already researching available coding positions available in the area. She doesn’t want anything slowing her down from starting a career in coding once she graduates.
“If I had to give advice to anything, it would be to keep reaching for the stars,” Shannon said. “There’s a million galaxies out there, not just one.”