Health care is a modern necessity. Nursing and health care technician jobs are often unglamorous, but have the potential to be vastly rewarding in personal, financial, and intellectual ways, providing interesting challenges and opportunities for enthusiastic people. There are numerous degrees available for different types of work in the medical field. One job that is in high demand is for medical transcriptionists.
Job outlook is very good, especially if the applicant is certified and employers favor those who have completed a postsecondary training program. Medical transcriptionists may have the job benefit of being able to telecommute from home-based offices, although 36 percent work in hospitals and 23 percent work in the offices of physicians.
Medical transcriptionists listen to dictated recordings made by physicians and other healthcare professionals and then transcribe them into medical reports, correspondence, and other administrative material. Good work processing skills are necessary, as are editing skills to clean up grammar and clarity. They produce discharge summaries, medical history and physical examination reports, operative reports, consultation reports, autopsy reports, diagnostic-imaging studies, progress notes, and referral letters. The documents are then submitted back to the medical professional for examination.
It is important that medical transcriptionists understand and accurately transcribe medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, diagnostic procedures, pharmacology, and treatment assessments. They must be able to translate medical jargon and abbreviations into expanded form text. If they cannot accurately transcribe and edit the documents, patients risk receiving ineffective or harmful treatments. There are legal and ethical requirements that go with this job to keep patient information confidential.
This work lends itself well to telecommuting, which may be of great benefit to workers, but medical transcriptionists who work in physicians’ offices may have other administrative duties such as receiving patients, scheduling appointments, answering the telephone, and handling incoming and outgoing mail.
This kind of work requires sitting in the same position for long periods and can exacerbate repetitive stress injuries in the wrists, or cause back, neck or eye problems resultant from strain. Most medical transcriptionists work 40 hours a week, but self-employed medical transcriptionists may work irregular hours including part-time hours, evenings, weekends, and on-call hours.
Training and Other Qualifications
Employers will favor applicants who have good writing and computer skills, and have completed postsecondary training in medical transcription. Such training can be obtained in vocational schools, community colleges, and distance-learning programs. It is recommended (though not necessary) that applicants complete a 2-year associate’s degree or a 1-year certificate program which will include coursework in anatomy, medical terminology, legal issues regarding healthcare documentation, and English grammar and punctuation.
Becoming a medical transcriptionist can be a good stepping stone to work in a supervisory position, editing, consulting, teaching, or as medical records and health information technicians, medical coders, or medical records and health information administrators.
In 2008, medical transcriptionists held about 105,200 jobs in the U.S. with around 36 percent working in hospitals and another 23 percent working in offices of physicians. Other work settings include medical and diagnostic laboratories; outpatient care centers; offices of physical, occupational, and speech therapists; and offices of audiologists.
Employment of medical transcriptionists should be good and is expected to grow by 11 percent from 2008 to 2018, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Experts say that contracting out transcription work overseas and advancements in speech recognition technology are not likely to significantly reduce the need for well-trained medical transcriptionists. Job opportunities will be best for those who are certified. Hospitals will continue to be a major employer of medical transcriptionists, but job growth will rise in other industries such as in physicians' offices and large group practices.
In 2008, wage-and-salary medical transcriptionists had median hourly wages of $15.41 with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $10.76, and the highest 10 percent earning more than $21.81. Compensation can vary and some medical transcriptionists are paid based on the number of hours they work, while others are paid for the number of lines they transcribe, or the employer may offer a base pay per hour with incentives for extra production.