Learning for Life

Learning for Life:

Ellen Fuhrken’s Time at ANU

After saving a dog falling from an exam table and gaining a back injury in the process, Ellen Fuhrken needed a career change. With so many years as a veterinary assistant, she decided her best leap was into the human medical field. Along with that, Ellen moved into her mother’s home just about an hour away from American National University’s Salem campus. With ANU’s affordability, Ellen made the plunge into our Medical Billing and Coding program. And her hard work and dedication to her new career field has earned her the title of Medical Billing and Coding Student of the Term for term 232!

When Ellen began searching for her new career path out of veterinary science, she found interest in Medical Billing and Coding programs. Once she saw an advertisement for ANU online, she found that we were her cost-effective option. “ANU was the first one that popped up,” she said of her research, “and they were the most affordable! And I was like, ‘Alright! Let’s give them a try!’ So, it worked out really well.” Her previous years working in veterinary science also helped her transition into this program because of the familiarity with terminology, drugs, and tests she performed. Not only is Ellen satisfied with the price of her program, but she enjoys the flexibility as well. When her classes for her term were put together, she could take her classes according to her schedule. “It’s not like you have to take this class on this day, it’s like ‘hey, these are the options and I have others.’” If she can’t attend a class on a certain day, her student services advisor can give her other days and times to fit with her schedule.


Even though she’s only in her second term, Ellen believes that her classes are preparing her to enter the Medical Billing and Coding workforce. She describes that her first term gave her the bearings of the program, where in the second term she’s in the thick of coding classes. Her textbooks, which were sent to her physically and some electronically as included in her tuition, have been invaluable to her education. “While I’m learning the lessons, I’ve got the book right in front of me, and I can search for codes. The books are really helpful.” Ellen describes that the books online are also helpful in how they’re laid out and how they match with her classes.

Because of her experience in her classes, she warns, “if you’re going to go for coding, you absolutely need to get an education on it. Don’t just try to do it yourself.”

Ellen boasts her instructors for their dedication to their students. One she mentions, Amy Smith, who taught her Anatomy and Physiology class, went above and beyond for her students. “She is fantastic… she cares about her students. She cares that we pass, she cares that we succeed,” she says. “She’s personable, she’s a regular person. She’s not an instructor that’s just lecturing at you. She talks to you and she’s real.”

Ellen says she was initially intimidated to take a class like anatomy and physiology because she thought it would be a difficult class. However, she says her experience at ANU was fun and enjoyable as she learned the material.

In her future after graduation, Ellen envisions going back to school because she enjoys learning, “I’ve always considered myself a life-long learner.”

Ellen definitely recommends ANU to those looking to earn their higher education.

“They’re affordable, and easy, and flexible. I’ve had a lot of support. The first term, I got a phone call every week going ‘hey, how are you doing? Do you need anything?’ I got emails… The support is fantastic.”

Her advice to new students at ANU: “Make sure you have your priorities in order. Make sure you know how to manage your time. Time management is huge… Make sure you know what you want, and you have priorities.”

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