For the past 35 years, Beth Jurgensen has had a fulfilling career at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Jurgensen first joined Washington University as a file clerk in a pediatric office at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She worked her way up over the years, transitioning to new roles in different departments, until finally coming to the Department of Surgery as an ambulatory coder for the Division of Urologic Surgery in 1998. Jurgensen says it has been a rewarding place to work. The people were friendly, the work was engaging and the opportunities for growth were endless. Retiring after over three decades at the medical school is bittersweet, but Jurgensen cherishes the friendships and memories she has made along the way.
“The Department of Surgery really gave me so many opportunities to move up and to learn,” Jurgensen says. She has plans to stay in contact with the many friends she has made here over the years. “That’s going to be the hardest part for me—to leave the place where I have made so many friends.”
Medical coders turn the information from a physician’s medical report into codes that can be used to create a bill for the insurance company. Coding for urology, Jurgensen says, can be particularly challenging at times, as there are numerous conditions and treatments a urologist might encounter on a given day. The Division of Urologic Surgery treats conditions ranging from kidney stones to men’s health conditions to urologic cancers. As an ambulatory coder, Jurgensen was responsible for coding any outpatient visits in urology. Jurgensen notes that she now knows more about the urogenital tract than she ever thought she would.
This knowledge has been incredibly valuable. Over the years, Jurgensen has led training programs for coders at the medical school, received awards and recognitions for her performance, and developed her own guidebook for urology coding.
“I’m a bit old-school,” Jurgensen says. “It’s always been a joke around the office: ‘Beth carries her big book with her.’ But that book has come in handy many times, believe me.”
As part of her retirement preparations, Jurgensen formalized her “big book” into a guide that future coders can reference for helpful tips.
One of the Lucky Ones
“Everyone here has been so good to me,” Jurgensen says. “This department recognizes hard work and dedication, and when you need help, they are there for you. As a single mother of three kids, there were times where I had to take some time off, and every person I have worked with has been so understanding. I’m really one of the lucky ones to have found such an excellent place to work.”
Anyone who has spent time around Jurgensen will tell you that they are the lucky ones. Her coworkers describe her as sociable, outgoing and anything but shy. Jurgensen is a loving mother of three and a passionate volunteer for charitable causes. She is also notorious for her chocolate chip cookies, which she hand delivers to faculty and staff around the holidays. Once, Jurgensen baked a wedding cake composed of layers of chocolate chip cookies and icing for a family friend who remembered the cookies from their childhood.
“Beth has been such a great person to work with,” says R. Sherburne Figenshau, MD, the Taylor Family and Ralph V. Clayman Chair in Minimally Invasive Urology. “She was prompt, professional and kind. She was always calm in her explanation when I was frustrated and didn’t understand what was lacking in my documentation. I will miss seeing her and I will also miss her huge chocolate chip cookies.”
Jurgensen’s retirement plans include traveling and spending time with family. She looks forward to seeing her children more frequently, now that they are all closer to home. Her daughter runs a successful cleaning business. Her middle son earned a master’s degree, spent years living and working in Ecuador, and recently moved back to St. Louis to begin a new chapter of his life. Jurgensen’s youngest son has served 20 years in the Navy, earning the rank of senior chief petty officer. In 2021, Jurgensen will have all three of her children home for the holidays for the first time in about 15 years.
Now that she is retired, Jurgensen also looks forward to spending more time volunteering. For 18 years she has been part of a church group that supplies cleaning kits for people who have served prison sentences and receive housing assistance. Jurgensen is also part of a charitable group that facilitates meetings and provides meals and clothing for women experiencing homelessness. When she describes the work she has done for charity, it’s clear that the people she has helped have made an impact on her life as well.
“When people are struggling, and you can do something to help, it just makes me so happy to be part of that,” she says. “I guess because I struggled in the beginning, working two jobs and raising three kids, doing these simple things and seeing the looks on the faces of those you’ve helped… It touches my heart.”