The Scoop on Medical Transcriptionists

Medical Transcription is at the heart of medical care because it involves the writing, correction, and clarification of patient records.

So many times, Doctors don't have the best handwriting or they leave voice-recorded notes, and the electronic transcript is wrong or garbled. Medical Transcriptionists solve a lot of problems caused by accents, bad handwriting, and speech recognition program mistakes. Job opportunities will be good in this area, and it seems that this sort of job won't go out of style because accurate records will always have to be kept.

What in the World Does a Medical Transcriptionist Do?

Medical Transcriptionists do just what their job title says - they transcribe medical information. Every Doctor or professional who sees a patient is keeping notes in the patient's records. Those notes are either written by hand (sometimes badly) or recorded on a voice recorder to save the Doctor some time. Those notes need to be written down somewhere where others can access them easily and quickly. If you were working as a Medical Transcriptionist, you would be charged with taking these voice recordings and handwritten notes and retyping them into easy to read records that can be used by other medical professionals.

Besides the obvious, a Transcriptionist uses an audio headset to listen to recorded records or has to read them from a patient's file. They are allowed to find and change mistakes in the records as well as to correct spelling and grammar. Essentially, you're the "records cleaner."

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

Training can take a few different routes. Because there is not actual patient interaction in this job, you can get your training from an online correspondence course. You'll need to learn the ins and outs of anatomy and chemistry and how to notate properly on a patient's records.

Also, you could go to a junior college, community college, vocation or technical school and get a certificate in Medical Transcription (that usually takes 9-12 months.) Or, you could go straight through school and get an Associate's Degree in Medical Transcription. Typically, if you want to advance you need more training than just the certificate.

States do not require a license to work as a medical transcriptionist, but the AHDI (Association for Healthcare Documenting Integrity) does offer a national certification. It is not required by law, but it does make you look really good to potential employers.

For those in another medical field, to broaden your horizons or get a second job, this national certification will help a lot in your job search.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

Just go where the medicine is! Everywhere where patients are being seen: Doctor's offices, health clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, hospice centers. Every place you can think of where people have medical records on hand is a place where you can work as a transcriptionist. This is the kind of job where you might pick up work from multiple places, so you need to be easy-going and not afraid to "cold call" a few spots to see if they need transcriptionists.

In larger places like hospitals, many transcriptionists may be on staff or in a whole transcription department. So, if you like working alone, try a smaller place, and if you like the office environment then try a hospital or health clinic.

Advancement in this career means getting experience and then branching out. Some people work at home and keep their own clients. Some do consulting and teaching. Some even get into medical coding and records-keeping. If you wanted to get into Supervision, you could get promoted to "Director of Transcription" or "Supervisor of Records" depending on where you worked and how far into administration you wanted to go. All in all, you're not writing about Mrs. Peavy's gallstones for the rest of your life.

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Medical Transcriptionists Overview

Medical Transcriptionist Salary:$32,060
Job Prospects:B
Education after high school:2 years
# Employed in US:86,200
% Who work Part Time:23%
Physical Difficulty:+
Intellectual Difficulty:+ + +
Emotional Difficulty:+

The Pros of being a Medical Transcriptionist

  • Many Transcriptionists can work from home
  • Great for people who want to work in the medical field, but do not want to deal directly with patients
  • No physical labor required
  • Work is easy to leave at work (or in your home office) - you're not emotionally involved with patients

The Cons of being a Medical Transcriptionist

  • Less interaction with people
  • Can require a lot of concentration to understand what the doctors are saying