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April 1, 2020

Educating Others: Develop Your Training Skills

Written by: Compliance blogger


As an experienced coder, you may be called upon to present information to your staff, co-workers or to train new coders. But it is not enough to just know ICD-10 coding! By developing your training skills and personal teaching style, your presentations will be far more effective and engaging. Let’s review some strategies to improve your presentation style and set you up for success as an ICD-10 trainer.

Know how to adapt your teaching style to meet the needs of your audience

To conduct an effective training program, understanding communication techniques and knowing how people learn is critical. In addition, it is important to be comfortable speaking in front of an audience. A professional trainer needs to “talk the talk” so the audience can quickly learn and retain the information!

Everyone Has Different Learning Styles

There are three general learning styles you should be aware of: visual (see it), auditory (hear it), and kinesthetic (do it). Most people use all three styles while they’re learning. This is logical since, barring any disabilities, we have five senses. However, one style almost always is preferred by an individual. Many people learn best by using one particular style and supplementing the process with the other two.

The big question is: “How do you, as the trainer or teacher, know which student has which learning style?” The American Institute of Healthcare Compliance (AIHC) recommends incorporating all three styles into your seminar, webinar, workshop or classroom program.

Visual Learners

When a person in your audience leads with the visual learning style, s/he relies on pictures. Graphs, diagrams and illustrations are needed for these people to “get it”. You can best communicate with them by providing handouts, writing on the white board, and using phrases such as “Do you see how this works?”

Auditory Learners

Auditory learners listen carefully to all sounds associated with the learning. These learners will actively participate in discussions. You can best communicate with them by speaking clearly, asking questions, and using phrases like “How does that sound to you?”

Kinesthetic Learners

Kinesthetic learners need to physically do something to understand it. They want to actually touch what they are learning. Coders often lead with this learning style, so include documentation and coding examples in your presentation and homework. You can best communicate with these learners by involving volunteers, allowing them to practice what they’re learning, and using phrases like “How do you feel about that?”

Allow your students to experience what they are learning! Teach by preparing redacted progress notes or operative reports. Be sure they have an ICD-10 coding book and practice exercises to apply the coding principles you are teaching!

Provide an Actual Learning Experience!

Make learning an active experience. This can include small group discussions, experiments, or researching conditions and their signs/symptoms. Activities also keep people energized, especially activities that involve getting up and moving about. The other aspect of this principle is honoring the life experiences your students bring to the classroom. Be sure to tap into that wealth of coding wisdom whenever it’s appropriate, but keep track of time! You’ll have to be a good timekeeper because people can talk for hours when asked for personal experiences. However, the extra facilitation needed will be well worth the gems your students have to share.

The Reluctant Participant

Do you have a student that is not ready to learn? “When the student is ready, the teacher appears” is a Buddhist proverb packed with wisdom. Employees requiring ICD-10-CM training that are resistant to learn pose a liability to your organization. Those providing documenting or coding and billing services must master standards related to filing compliant claims. Remind those attending the training session(s) that mastering ICD-10 and applying what they learn to their work is a requirement for continued employment. Perhaps having the Corporate Compliance Officer make an opening statement at the beginning of your session would help!

Take Advantage of Teaching Opportunities!

It’s your job to listen carefully for teaching moments and take advantage of them. When a student says or does something that triggers a topic on your agenda, be flexible and teach it right then. If that would wreak havoc on your schedule, which is often the case, teach a bit about it now rather than saying that they’ll have to wait until later in the program. By then, you may have lost their interest.

Adult Students Often Fear Embarrassment

For most adults, being out of the classroom for even a few years can make corporate training and learning something new very intimidating. Provide encouragement, not criticism. Nobody enjoys feeling foolish! Your job as a teacher of adult students includes being positive and encouraging. Patience helps too! Give your older students time to respond when you ask a question. They may need a few moments to consider their answer. Recognize the contributions they make, even when small.

Establishing Classroom Expectations and Norms

Manage the educational setting before it manages you! Setting classroom norms at the very beginning of a class is one of the best methods of classroom management.

Hang a flip chart, poster, or dedicate a section of the white board to list expected classroom behaviors. Refer to this list when disruptions occur. Using a flip chart or white board is favorable because you can involve students in the construction of the list and in that way get buy-in. Start with a few of your own expectations and ask the group for additional suggestions. When you all agree on how you want the classroom to be managed, disruptions are minimal. Setting rules may assist you in managing potentially disruptive and unhappy providers.

The list of norms should include these elements:

  • Start and end on time
  • Turn off or silence cell phones
  • Save texting for breaks
  • Respect the contributions of others
  • Be open to new ideas
  • Resolve differences calmly
  • Stay on topic

Saving questions for later – use “Parking Lot” or another similar term. It is a good idea to address questions of any kind when they occur because curiosity provides fabulous teaching moments. However, sometimes it is not appropriate to get off track. Many trainers use a flip chart or white board as a holding place for such questions to ensure they are not forgotten. Call your holding place something appropriate according to your topic – perhaps the “ICD-10 Lot”?

Addressing and Managing Disruptions

Unless you’ve got a completely obnoxious student in your classroom, chances are good that disruptions will be fairly mild and only call for mild management. We’re talking about disruptions like chatting in the back of the room, texting, or someone who is argumentative or disrespectful. Try one or more of the following tactics to appropriately address the circumstance at hand:

  • Make eye contact with the disruptive person
  • Remind the group of the agreed-upon norms
  • Move toward the disruptive person
  • Stand directly in front of the person
  • Be silent and wait for the disruption to end
  • Acknowledge the input, put it in your “parking lot” if appropriate, and go on
  • "You may be right…"
  • "Thanks for your comment…"
  • Ask for help from the group, "What does everyone else think?"
  • Rearrange the seating if you think it will help
  • Call for a break

For more serious problems, or if the disruption persists:

  • Speak with the person privately
  • Confront the behavior, not the person
  • Speak for yourself only, not the class
  • Seek to understand the reason for the disruption
  • Ask the person to recommend a solution
  • Review your expectations of classroom behavior if necessary
  • Try to get agreement on expected norms
  • Explain any consequences of continued disruptions

Assess the Workplace by Performing Some Reconnaissance to Develop Your Training Strategy

Know your audience! Are you training providers? Coders? Billers? It is important to determine if a workplace assessment is needed. This should be contingent upon the size of your post implementation ICD-10 training project. One of the strategies found useful in the workplace is a simple, although time intensive, interview process. You might call it a simplified Process Improvement Analysis through discussion. Through communications, determine who still needs to be trained, where re-training is required, when the training is appropriate, and on what level of expertise.

For example, a data entry person creating claims with no responsibility in coding will need less training than a full-time coder for ICD-10. It is fruitless to spend the same amount of time with, and expect the same results from, a data entry person and a coder. Consider splitting the training session up and designing the program at various levels appropriate for your institution, hospital or facility.

Identify Key People

Identify key people to interview at every level of the company from the very top to the front-line employee. Make an appointment to see them to determine the scope of the ICD-10 training program needed and to ascertain if previous training programs were effective. Take good notes and ask simple questions, such as those listed below (examples only):

  • What do you need to do your job related to coding diagnoses?
  • Currently, where do you access resources to help you with diagnosis coding problems?
  • What do you do with that information and how long does it take to get the support you need?
  • Who is depending on you to provide the diagnosis coding skills for your position? Who do you give your information to?

Remote Training Considerations

If the training program you are designing is meant to be remote (webinar, distance learning, online) try to incorporate voice-over PowerPoints, textbooks, or colorful handouts with images related to the topic. Include online quizzes which provide immediate feedback of the answer for those kinesthetic learners.


Training others is a skill that requires preparation and practice. No matter how experienced and knowledgeable about ICD-10 coding you are, your learners require a strategic, methodical approach to the educational experience. 


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