Note from the Product Coordinator: Tips for new CDI specialists joining the ranks

CDI Strategies - Volume 16, Issue 30

by Karla Accorto

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with our very own CDI education specialist Dawn Valdez, RN, LNC, CDIP, CCDS, on Wednesday’s episode of the ACDIS Podcast. Dawn and I sat down to discuss onboarding and training new CDI specialists, a topic that’s near and dear to my heart, as I entered the CDI world only a year and a half ago myself. While my duties focus on editing CDI content, not performing record reviews, I feel like I still got to experience a bit of that steep learning curve, since terms like query, MS-DRG, risk adjustment, and MCC were entirely foreign to me.

According to Dawn, that learning curve is totally normal. Based on her experience onboarding CDI specialists in the past, it takes the average person anywhere from one year to 18 months to achieve the confidence they need to feel comfortable in the role. Providers, nurses, and others that hail from a clinical background are not exempt from this learning curve either.

“Even if you are from the clinical side, that does not mean you don’t have to catch up on things,” she said on the podcast. “The way we look at things from the bedside is very different from the way we have to look at things in CDI.”

Having to look at things from a new perspective can be frustrating, especially for people who have grown confident in their experience in a previous role. Prior to joining ACDIS, I edited content geared towards a different segment of healthcare professionals, so I can attest to the fact that it’s tough to lose your footing. Once you master something, you get used to feeling competent and in control, and learning something new puts you back in the territory of uncertainty. Don’t give up, though, Dawn encouraged. Instead, embrace all that there is to learn and focus on the growth that comes with learning.

“There is a point where it does get overwhelming and it does feel like you’re never going to get it, but I promise you if you just push past that fear,” she said, “[…] you will be confident, you will feel good about what you’re doing, and there is a lot of room for growth the more years you get into it.”

She also suggested studying clinical indicators for the most commonly denied diagnoses at your facility and learning which frequently encountered conditions are classified as CCs and MCCs. Furthermore, she urged CDI specialists to “always know why you’re sending a clarification.” She stressed that understanding why a query is needed is crucial to understanding the CDI process. To listen to the ACDIS Podcast episode in full, click here or listen on your podcast app.

Additionally, for those of you who may be looking to onboard and train new CDI specialists, ACDIS is pleased to offer the following resources:

As the CDI profession continues to expand, we hope you find ACDIS’ resources useful. And as always, if there’s any way we can help, you can reach us at

Editor’s note: Accorto is an editor and product coordinator at ACDIS in Middleton, Massachusetts. Contact her at

Found in Categories: 
ACDIS Guidance, Education