While a student at Lompoc High School in the early 1980s, Shari Hurlbut took a course that allowed her to do clerical work at the school district, at Federal Electric Co. and at Lompoc hospital.
She liked working at the hospital enough that just two days after she turned 19, she starting working as a Health Information Management clerk. Thirty-four years later, Shari remains a long-time employee, working as an Outpatient Coder in the HIM department.
“I learn something new every day,” she says. “It’s educational for me.” An Outpatient Coder is responsible for assigning a designated medical code, or number, to a medical diagnosis, procedure, service or treatment. Those numbers are then used for billing purposes.
When she first began her job, Shari said she was shocked when she saw certain terminology on charts. On one, she couldn’t believe a doctor would call a patient an “S.O.B.” Only later did she learn that meant “Short of Breath.”
“Over the years, I learned more medical words,” she explains. “I took a medical terminology class.” She is responsible for coding outpatient charts involved with labs, X-rays, radiology, physical and occupational therapy and specimens.
“I love the people I work with,” she said. “They’re like my second family. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”
Though not a Lompoc native, Shari has lived here all but about two years of her life. Married to Bill for 28 years, she is the mother of two adult children – One a Marine and one serving in the Army. Because her mother contracted Rubella during pregnancy, Shari was born deaf. A teacher in her early schooling ensured that she could speak rather than solely rely on sign language, she said.
She has appreciated having the job at the hospital all these years. “I like coding,” she explains. “To me it’s simple, but I do have challenging moments. I do the research and investigate. It’s like being a detective in a way. It’s rewarding when I find the code I’m looking for.”