March 29, 2017 | | Comments 0
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Meet a Member: Remember when COPD was a CC? Things sure have changed, and it’s all good!

Tara and Allen

Tara Bell, MSN, RN, CCDS, CCM, and husband, Allen

Tara Bell Pups

Tara’s pups

Tara Bell, MSN, RN, CCDS, CCM, manager of CDI and utilization review services at United Audit Systems, Inc. (UASI) of Cincinnati, worked in CDI for more than 13 years and in nursing for more than 24. For the past several years, she’s gone above and beyond helping the South Carolina ACDIS Chapter balance its books as its former treasurer and now as its vice president.

Bell and her husband Allen have been married for 23 years and have two Maltese fur babies, Merlot and Miller (although she’s not divulging the back story about how they got their names). The duo takes their puppies with them everywhere. They even bought a camper to keep them close during vacations. “They love to ride the jet skis, paddle boards, and even kayak,” says Bell. “They really do think they are little humans.

ACDIS Blog: What did you do before entering the CDI field?
Bell: I worked on neurology and cardiac surgery floors, and neonatal intensive care unit with the preemies (babies). I eventually moved into the world of case management and utilization review (UR) at a national worker’s compensation carrier. I had various jobs during my time there. I worked as a UR nurse in their call center for precertification. I also worked as a telephonic case manager, and then transferred to an onsite/field case manager. This involved working with catastrophic and traumatic work injuries. I met so many wonderful people and learned an enormous amount in dealing with these injuries, follow up care, home modifications, etc.

ACDIS Blog: Why did you get into this line of work?
Bell: It was a natural progression for me from case management into CDI. A local facility advertised an opening for a CDI specialist. They were launching a new CDI program from the ground up. I weary of all the traveling required with field case management (my trusty Honda and I covered two to three states), so I thought I would see what this CDI stuff was all about. I truly had no idea what I was actually going to be doing in the job when I interviewed, but knew I would give it my all and make it work.

This was in 2004 and we were in the 10% of facilities in South Carolina that would have a CDI program. As it happened, they placed the CDI folks in the same department as the UR team. During my first month or two on the job, I actually functioned as a UR nurse. We were waiting for official training from a vendor/contractor to start and with my past experience I could help the UR team.

It has been the best decision I ever made. I was able to be part of launching the CDI program and eventually went on to supervise the program. My department director was a true visionary and knew the value of SOI/ROM when everyone still focused only on capturing one MCC and CC. She was a great mentor and so much of who I am now as a leader is due to her.

I love being able to use my nursing education and background to put the pieces of the puzzle together. I am a stronger nurse due to my involvement in CDI and the pathophysiology knowledge it takes to decipher a chart

ACDIS Blog: What has been your biggest challenge?

Bell: My biggest challenge has also turned into my biggest reward. I was presented with an opportunity to leave my “safe place” and join UASI toward the end of 2013. I had been involved with CDI at that point for almost 10 years at the same facility. I took the leap of faith, while also leaving behind the people who had mentored me all those years.

It has been a great challenge learning and growing within the consulting and staffing world. However, it has been my greatest reward. I am able to collaborate with best and brightest CDI programs across the nation while also developing and growing our own CDI staff. It has been a very rewarding and gratifying experience.

ACDIS Blog: How has the field changed since you began working in CDI?
Bell: I remember when simply COPD was a CC, is that not crazy to think of now? We had DRG, not MS-DRGs. The CDI world has really grown up over the last 13 years. CDI professionals have gained more respect within the industry and I am proud to be part of this profession.

There is much more of a network and educational opportunities for us to continue our learning. This was not the case in 2004 and I really developed a strong relationship with our coding team for guidance. I still believe in CDI/coding being a true team for success.

ACDIS Blog: Can you mention a few of the “gold nuggets” of information you’ve received from colleagues on CDI Talk or through ACDIS?

Bell: I learn something new and exciting every year at the national ACDIS conference. I remember meeting one of my now teammates on the South Carolina ACDIS Chapter in Nashville a few years back. We were on the same shuttle from the airport and realized we were both from SC. She was speaking on the pediatric population and it was a wonderful presentation.

Last year, I enjoyed Cheryl Ericson so much on ACDIS Radio that we invited her to speak at an joint SC/NC ACDIS chapter meeting.

ACDIS Blog: What piece of advice would you offer to a new CDS?

Bell: Not to be discouraged by a physician who is not onboard with CDI. See it as a challenge to educate that physician, to show him or her that CDI can be their ally, not their enemy.

Also, by all means, research for knowledge. Reach out to the ACDIS website, blogs, local chapters, and members. Read through Coding Clinics when they are published. All the knowledge that you gain makes you a stronger and more confident CDI professional.

ACDIS Blog: If you could have any other job, what would it be?

Bell: This goes back to what made me want to become a nurse. I would be involved/help manage a pet rescue. I support one locally and would love to be more involved if time allowed. I always tease my family and friends and tell them if I won the lottery I would set one up. A friend of mine who is also a CDI specialist would help me run it. She loves animals as much as I do. There are so many animals that need our help and simply want love.

ACDIS Blog: What was your first job (what you did while in high school)?
Bell: I worked at a department store, Belk. I was hired on during Christmas season working in gift wrapping. That was a crazy time for sure. I remember waking up at night dreaming of wrapping presents. I eventually moved out to the floor and worked in children’s apparel. We received a discount, so I believe most of my pay check when right back to the store for clothes I kept buying.

ACDIS Blog: Can you tell us about a few of your favorite things:

  • Vacation spots: The panhandle of Florida, the beaches are so beautiful. Myrtle Beach in the winter, Lake Hartwell on the South Carolina/Georgia state line.
  • Hobby: Reading, hanging out at the lake, boating, paddle boarding. I also love to visit local vineyards which are popping up all around us.
  • Non-alcoholic beverage: Coffee for sure in the mornings, I’ve got to have the caffeine.
  • Foods: I am still a teenager at heart. Pizza, chicken fingers, buffalo chicken dip…
  • Activity: Anything to do with the sun and warm weather. I am definitely a southern girl at heart. No cold weather for me, please.






Entry Information

Filed Under: ACDISCDI ProfessionClinical Documentation ImprovementPediatric


Linnea Archibald About the Author: Linnea Archibald is the CDI editor for the Association of Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialists (ACDIS). In this role, she helps out with the website, blog, social media, newsletter, and the CDI Journal. If you have any questions, feel free to email her.

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