Medical Coding Specialist major heading to BPA Nationals
Alexis Nordling, 40, a student earning her A.A.S. degree in the Medical Coding Specialist program at Dakota County Technical College, took three first place awards at the 2023 Business Professionals of America (BPA) Minnesota Spring Leadership Conference in mid-March.
Alexis placed first in the Ethics and Professionalism, Contemporary Issues, and Fundamental Word Processing competitions at the conference, earning the right to compete at the BPA National Leadership Conference held April 26–30, 2023, in Anaheim, California.
“It’s all thanks to my supportive DCTC teachers and advisors,” she said.
Life at DCTC
A recipient of the Carl Eastvold Foundation and. Foundation Student Life scholarships, Alexis is an exceptionally engaged student at the college. She participates in a wide array of extracurricular activities and clubs, including:
- Student Senate vice president
- Budget Committee
- Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society
- DCTC Food Pantry leader
- Rotary International
- We:LEAD Women’s Leadership Club
- Creative Writing & Arts Club
Alexis is committed to a life enriched by volunteerism. “My mom is a big influence on me,” she said. “She volunteered a lot in San Francisco when I was young. She and I would work at the soup kitchen at Grace Cathedral and also at the local college radio station doing music filing and admin. When I was in high school, I volunteered on my own at the local free health clinic and then in college as an art teacher assistant at PS1 in downtown New York City from 2001 to 2004.”
While living in Chicago, Alexis volunteered at the Children’s Memorial Hospital and helped produce Skylight TV, a television channel for kids broadcast from the hospital’s Life Center.
“Sometimes, I even got to dress up as the mascot, Peanuts the Elephant!” she said. “Eventually, in Seattle, I volunteered with Women in Film and the Northwest Film Forum. Here in Minnesota, I volunteer with Loaves and Fishes, Little Earth Boy and Girls Club, the local Burnhaven Library, also with CAIR (Council for American Islamic Relations), and now with Rotaract at DCTC!”
After graduating from DCTC, Alexis plans on finding new ways to keep learning. She’s looking forward to landing a job she enjoys that doesn’t exacerbate her back problems (she recently had back surgery) while she continues doing volunteer work.
She’s a student member of ERA Minnesota and a Red Cross blood program leader; she also serves on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Community Advisory Committee.
Alexis has completed Mental Health First Aid training, CPR training, and Heart of a Leader training. She volunteers as a homework tutor at the Burnsville Burnhaven Public Library, a role she first took on in 2019.
More about Alexis…
Born in Minneapolis and raised in San Francisco, Alexis graduated from Urban School of San Francisco, Class of 2001. She went on to earn a B.A. in Philosophy from New York University in 2005. The NYU Department of Philosophy is ranked 1st in the U.S. and 1st in the English-speaking world in the 2022 edition of the Philosophical Gourmet Report—ditto for the 2017, 2014, 2011, 2009, and 2006 editions.
As an NYU student, Alexis received a Founders Day Award for Academic Excellence, an honor recognizing top baccalaureate candidates and graduates, and she completed an internship at Holographic Studios in New York City, an experience that ignited a lifelong love for holography.
“I also worked at a yoga studio and even interned for Zipcar when it was this tiny company—a small fleet of cars in a part of NYC!” Alexis said. “Given their growth, I should have begged for a job with them, but I guess hindsight is 20/20.”
Alexis on her love for philosophy and holography…
What did you like best about studying philosophy at NYU?
My advisor there was Friedrich Ulfers, and he was primarily teaching Nietzsche. I enjoyed attending his lectures and discussing texts such as The Birth of Tragedy. He always had lots of translation notes and knowledge of wordplay that would be lost on me.
I received a very expansive education at NYU; I took Western philosophy alongside other classes teaching texts on the Zen school of thought or spatial philosophy or death rituals.
I think that’s why I majored in philosophy; I enjoyed my advisor’s classes and his perspective on philosophy—he is a great teacher because he inspired me to keep learning forever.
How did your philosophy studies help prepare you for life in the workaday world?
Studying ethics is especially important to me. A strong moral compass finds itself questioning and investigating the world. At DCTC, my work path includes Medical Ethics, so I think it’s obvious that these are important matters in healthcare and in general.
During high school, I’d volunteer a couple of times a week at the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Center after school, and there the real world and philosophy met daily. Their motto was “Healthcare is a right, not a privilege.”
The center’s healthcare workers are constantly volunteering to distribute to the runaways and the elderly alike, things like free aspirin, meals, and feminine products. They provide contraception and education materials, free showers, preventative care visits to walk-ins, and appointments.
I learned that radical accessibility to healthcare and basic human rights are necessary, especially when our neighbors are at their most vulnerable moments. Now, I see these same messages advocating on behalf of college students with LeadMN regarding their basic needs such as food security and increased mental wellness staff, universal FAFSA completion and Free College. The motivation to support these organizations with my time and energy was learned in my philosophy classes.
Philosophy helped me better understand the arts, of course, but also American politics and the United Nations, and learning about philosophy is extremely important in self-expression. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we see that all people have the same basic needs, and the matter currently at hand is the inability to meet those needs without skilled labor.
Supporting equity and equality in education, and by assisting with basic needs adding incentive for continued education for young people and adults, helps fill the need for skilled workers in our state. Also, being involved in learning institutions creates other opportunities for development and inclusion.
In models where education is prioritized, society begins to reflect the effect displayed in Bloom’s Taxonomy. Recall and learning drives creation. To apply these benefits to all in our country that desire to learn is supported by ethical models like the Categorical Imperative, a kind of thought experiment by Kant. Helping other people out of poverty through education, basically, and I see a lot of potential for it in Minnesota.
What do you find most fascinating about the science and art of holography?
This I could go on about, but to me, I’ll always remember finding out that the “holographic universe” philosophy (as written about by Michael Talbot in 1992) was totally bunk, according to Dr. Jason Sapan, owner of the lab at Holographic Studios in NYC.
The internship I had there was fascinating, not only to learn about how holograms work and are made, but in getting a play-by-play breakdown from an expert in the field about how this popular author managed to get it wrong and wrote a whole book about a simple misunderstanding about the art form of holography—that one single slice of the hologram will contain the whole of the image, and this is not the case.
A lot of philosophy academics at that time, people writing about current paradigm shifts in science and philosophy, would cite this book. But according to the guy with the doctorate who makes holograms, it was all wrong. Sadly, the author died the year it was published, and never had a chance to recant after the holographers of the world tried unsuccessfully to contact him.
Weird story, eh? It made me think that we should listen to people in science who are actually producing in that field, and to question the extrapolations of philosophers at the source (especially in science or math) because a simple misunderstanding can end up becoming a pseudoscience that is still referenced!
Life after NYU
Alexis moved to Chicago after graduating from New York University. She started off temping, working one year as an assistant in a large real estate company, but the prospects for advancement weren’t good, followed by one year at a local printing company, where the prospects were good, but the work didn’t interest her. She eventually left temping and took an IT job at a lawyer’s office.
“Although I worked there for years, I knew I was in the wrong field, or at least the wrong company,” Alexis recalled. “The best part of my years living in Chicago was the enjoyment of life in the Second City! The Gold Coast has amazing culture—the music there was great, plus it’s the hometown of my favorite band at the time, and I often got to see their secret local shows.”
Alexis added that Chicago is a great city to live without a car. “All seven years I lived there, I used the Elevated ‘El’ Train,” she said.
At the end of 2008, Alexis pooled resources with some other artists working in IT at the lawyer’s office, and they started a film company doing part-time advertising work.
“We got a breakthrough doing commercial work with the city,” she said, “and we eventually secured investments and made an artistic narrative feature-length piece. Producing that was a labor of love and was an epic experience; we took it to festival and won 12 awards, including Best Feature at Boston SciFi, even best feature internationally!”
The film company moved to Seattle in 2012 and started making commercials for indie video game developers, but creative differences led to the company’s breakup three years later. Alexis moved to Colorado, where she worked at a famous bookstore, and then Minnesota, her home state, where she worked selling bikes, skis, and snowboards.
“I worked with skiers/mountain biking year-round at Buck Hill ticket office,” Alexis said. “Now, I am a full-time virtual student at DCTC, and enjoying being student again very much!”
Alexis is very close to her family. “My sister Ava is my homie,” she said. “She and I would be friends even if weren’t related. I’m lucky that I get along so well with my siblings—my sister and my two brothers are the world to me. My cousins in Colorado are super cool; they love to have fun and see live music. I miss living in Colorado and spending time with them, but I moved to Minnesota to be close to Grandma, who turned 90 last year and moved to California—can’t blame her, the winters here are so harsh.”
Alexis related that her dad taught her to ski and enjoy the snow. She plans on visiting her family in California, but will be staying in Minnesota a good long time.
“Not much skiing or mountain biking on the horizon for me after this back surgery,” she said, “but I still love living here.”
Alexis resides in Burnsville.
Alexis Nordling • Q & A
Why did you decide to enroll in the Medical Coding Specialist program at DCTC?
After a major medical procedure, I have limited mobility. Pain in my spine kept me out of work for almost a year and medical costs were piling up, and I realized that I needed work that would support my new life circumstances.
My godmother works in medical coding, and so I knew some about it. I’m excited for the opportunity to brush up on skills and brush off my brain!
What are your favorite duties as Student Senate vice president?
Picking up weekly food loads for the DCTC Pantry from Open Door Pantry in Eagan! They are available for appointments at the Eagan site if you’re not finding what you’re looking for at the DCTC pantry.
Working with Open Door makes me see how much food waste is being eliminated with these pantries: the produce, the bread, the meats, and the many perishables will go to waste if not taken by people.
And groceries are more costly than ever, so even if you’re just supplementing your groceries with a few staples from the pantry, it’s worth it because student engagement with the pantry means two things: you’re working against food waste and also toward increased food security on campus! Food security is the foundation of mental wellness!
What do you like best about the We:LEAD Women’s Leadership Club?
The We:LEAD Club introduced me to the AAUW organization: American Association of University Women. The director-at-large sponsored my student membership, and now I attend their weekly Monday Luncheons at the Gale Mansion in Minneapolis (by the Minneapolis Institute of Art) as much as possible.
It’s fantastic programming, three segments from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and covering topics as diverse as Mass Shooter Data and Research (The Violence Project) to Homelessness in the Twin Cities (Avivo) to Constitutional Law from emeritus professors. The Twin Cities is full of such erudite and esteemed academics and educators—it’s so impressive!
Three words that describe you as a college student:
ADAPTABLE. VIRTUAL. ENGAGED.
What are you enjoying most about participating in so many clubs and committees?
Well, I’ve been out of the student world for more than 15 years, so I figure the two years will go quickly, better get my money’s worth. Little did I know that it was going to be such an all-encompassing journey of self-realization. I never did student government or clubs in my undergraduate years, mostly focused on working and internships, and now I wish that I had!
But, on the plus side, I did get to meet Jeff Goldblum, and he told me I had nice pants. I told him my mom thinks he’s hot, and he looked very crestfallen with my response, so that’s something I’ll never forget.
What advice would you give students thinking about joining a student club or organization?
If you’re on the fence, try it! You have nothing to lose, and you may be surprised to find out that there are financial compensation options for Student Senate, and lots of perks in the many clubs and groups, and it’s been a lot of remote work in my case, too.
The best perks are the friendships you make along the way—sounds corny but true. Also, it’s just two years, it’s over before you know it. Make the move and try it now, while you still can!
One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:
Alexis Nordling • Six Answers
1) Place you would most like to visit: London in 2025 with my mom for the Bowie retrospective
2) Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: I’m going to take this question literally. Around 2008, I went to Cedar Point. I was the healthiest I’ve ever been, and I really enjoyed rollercoasters. It was a fun day, and the next one I wanted to ride was called Top Thrill Dragster.
It wasn’t long, but it shoots you off at 120 mph. It was too fast for this cowgirl and has the prestige of being the only roller coaster that I didn’t enjoy. I hope I never again have that feeling because I was too excited for my own good. Only ride that came close to that was the Haunted House at the Minnesota State Fair first time as a little kid; thought my heart was going to leave my chest that day.
3) Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Throw a huge party and everyone’s invited! 2) Invest it in local programs especially those that do the most good 3) Invest in holography and the arts
4) One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: I’ve never thought about this question so intensely as I do now that I am back at school. DCTC offers so many unique opportunities for engagement, and I know so many adults my age are looking to change up their careers, too, if not for financial barriers and life hurdles.
I’m grateful to have the opportunity to go back to the school because I think it’s a basic right and everyone is entitled to continued education, but very few actually have the privilege.I most want to help change that, especially in supporting the Free College bill and the Universal FAFSA completion bill, among others, that are on LeadMN’s agenda.
This is critical action and apparently there’s a good landscape for political action in Minnesota right now, politics being only vaguely on my radar before joining LeadMN, the two-year college student activist group.
5) Dream occupation: For a while I worked at the EMP Museum in Seattle, where they have ongoing exhibitions on Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix, and touring pop culture and music exhibitions from around the world, and sometimes live performances or movie screenings. That was a fun job, and I think that I could have worked there for a very long time because the coworkers were also very approachable and everyone but me was in a band, it seemed.
I also worked at some other “dream jobs,” for example: Buck Hill Ski Resort for the past five years, a ski and bike shop, a famous mystical bookstore, a tiny San Francisco art gallery, as an indie film producer, working at an indie film house, and desk at yoga studio…
Boy, I’ve had some weird jobs. The most important thing in all of them, though, was community. It didn’t matter if the job was cool, or the pay was high, if the community was toxic. This is especially true if you’re working in a profession about wellness or community, or in representing artists, where profit is not supposed to come at the expense of others in their state of vulnerability or creativity.
Therefore, working at the museum had a great vibe because it was about protecting these pop culture artifacts, and was more human and real than any other museum experience I could imagine, and the bonus was that they were employing a lot of Seattle musicians, too, so it made a sort of art ecosystem.
6) Most important issue or problem facing humankind: In the long term: the problematic realities of off-earth colonies versus the unsustainability of the species without them. In the short term: depersonalization and decreased socialization.
Learn more about the Medical Coding Specialist program at DCTC by contacting:
Adrienne Zarn, CPC, CANPC
Medical Coding Faculty
Academic & Financial Aid Advisor
More about the Medical Coding Specialist program at DCTC…
The Medical Coding Specialist A.A.S. degree prepares you for an entry-level, professional-fee, medical coding position. You will also be equipped with the skills needed to advance your career in the healthcare system.
These positions are often offered at various locations requiring a medical coder, including:
- Physician and non-physician practitioner clinics
- Acute-care hospitals
- Third-party payers
- Consulting firms
As a graduate of the program, you will have a working knowledge of healthcare law as well as a full understanding of the need to protect patient privacy. Our program utilizes a simulated, industry-standard, electronic health record that facilitates practice in abstracting patient information.
The A.A.S. degree curriculum gives you the ability to code both procedure and diagnosis while getting you ready to take the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam. You will have the leadership know-how and communication skills needed for a supervisory/management position.
The Medical Coding Specialist diploma prepares you for an entry-level, professional-fee, medical coding position. You will also be equipped with the skills needed to advance your career in the healthcare system.
These positions are often offered at various locations requiring a medical coder, including:
- Physician and non-physician practitioner clinics
- Acute-care hospitals
- Third-party payers
As a graduate of the program, you will have a working knowledge of healthcare law and a full understanding of the need to protect patient privacy. Our program utilizes a simulated, industry-standard electronic health record that facilitates practice in abstracting patient information.
The diploma curriculum gives you the ability to code both procedure and diagnosis while getting you ready to take the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) Certified Professional Coder (CCP) exam.
The Medical Coding Specialist Certificate is designed for healthcare employees who not only have experience in the medical coding revenue cycle, but also wish to gain enough knowledge and coding practice to sit for the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam.
This program is also designed for employers seeking to have their employees become certified coders. Funding for this education can be provided via the employer’s Corporate Compliance Program or employee benefits.
NOTE: You can take the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC) Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam onsite at DCTC.
Medical coding specialists holding AAPC credentials command higher incomes. If you hold the Certified Outpatient Coder (COC®) core credential, you have the potential to earn an annual salary approaching $64,300 annually (2023 data).
If you hold the Certified Professional Compliance Officer (CPCO®) advanced credential, you have the potential to earn nearly $81,500 annually (2023 data).
Learn more by visiting:
2023 Medical Coding and Billing Salary Report
Medical Records Specialists
What Medical Records Specialists Do
Medical records specialists compile, process, and maintain patient files.
Medical records specialists typically spend many hours at a computer. Most work full time.
How to Become a Medical Records Specialist
Medical records specialists typically need a postsecondary certificate to enter the occupation, although some qualify with a high school diploma. Others might need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Certification may be required or preferred.
The median annual wage for medical records specialists was $46,660 in May 2021.
Employment of medical records specialists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. About 14,900 openings for medical records specialists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
— U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (05APR23)