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Medical Transcriptionist

Alternate Career Titles: Health Documentation Specialist

Career Overview: Medical Transcriptionists convert audio recordings into written patient records

Career Salary Range: $22,330 to $51,640

Estimated Years of Schooling Required: 1

Required Minimum Degree/License: Postsecondary Education

Become a Medical Transcriptionist

Career Description

A Medical Transcriptionist is responsible for listening to audio recordings (i.e. exam notes, operative reports, referrals, etc.), perhaps those of Physicians or other healthcare professionals, and converting them into written records. In achieving this goal, Medical Transcriptionists may need to first use speech recognition software, then go back through and verify and edit the initial transcription draft. This career in healthcare also involves translating medical terminology, identifying errors or inconsistencies and making sure the transcription style is consistent. Once complete, a Medical Transcriptionist, sometimes also known as a “Health Documentation Specialist,” will submit a transcription for Physician approval and subsequently enter the information into an electronic health records system. Along with these primary responsibilities, Health Documentation Specialists may also be asked to complete administrative tasks, such as greeting patients or answering phone calls.

“I chose to pursue a career as a Medical Transcriptionist because I wanted to stay at home with my children,” Wendy Adams, a Medical Transcriptionist practicing in North Carolina, said. “I gained more clients than I could handle so I eventually became a business, Adams Transcription. I now have other Medical Transcriptionists I employ as subcontractors.”

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Education & Training

To become a Medical Transcriptionist, professionals must pursue postsecondary education, which takes approximately 1 year to complete and is typically offered through community colleges, technical schools and distance-learning programs. During these programs, learners will take courses in medical terminology, ethics and legal issues, health science and management. Alternatively, some learners choose to obtain an Associate’s Degree in medical transcription, and go on to possibly earn certification through the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity. To maintain this certification, professionals must meet continued education requirements every 3 years.

“Becoming a Medical Transcriptionist usually requires at least an Associate’s Degree from a local community college to gain employment in a medical office setting,” Adams noted. “I was fortunate to get grandfathered into this career, as I had been a Legal Transcriptionist before entering healthcare, and had some prior experience with medical transcription.”

Advancement

To advance in a career as a Medical Transcriptionist, some professionals prefer to work their way up at their place of employment, often gaining advancement opportunities through managerial or supervisory roles. Furthermore, some Health Documentation Specialists choose to enter the field of either academia and begin teaching learners about the role and the necessary responsibilities. Yet others choose to start their own business and begin operating from home.

“To advance in the medical transcription career field, professionals need to be willing to go out on their own, own your own business and seek your own clientele,” Adams stressed. “The greater the clientele, the more successful the business.”

Experience & Skills

“First and foremost, the skill needed to be a Medical Transcriptionist would include attention to detail,” Adams explained. “This is the most important skill in your tool box, and without attention to detail, you will fail.”

She continued by explaining that medical transcription is not straight typing, and that a professional in this occupation must be extremely in-tune with what they are doing. This includes staying focused on the dictator and the work being produced.

“You also have to be a great listener, and have great knowledge of medical terminology,” Adams said. “I learn new things every day, enjoy the challenges, study when there is a term or phrase in question and do not let the unknown or things of question go until I know that I am correct in the transcript.”

Additionally, to be a successful Medical Transcriptionist, these professionals should possess strong writing and typing skills, necessary to translate audio recordings into written documents. Thus, they should also have a clear understanding of the English language and proper grammar. Furthermore, they should have strong computer skills and be comfortable working with electronic health records. Due to set deadlines for completion, Health Documentation Specialists should also be able to manage their time wisely.

Personality

Medical Transcriptionists should be incredibly precise professionals who are capable of working as part of a healthcare team. They should also be careful interpreters. Furthermore, these professionals should be kind and courteous to both patients and other healthcare staff members, and possess a willingness to help a facility ensure best practices and services through their individual role.

“Anyone who works with me, as a Medical Transcription business owner and operator, must have the personality to take no offense when errors are pointed out,” Adams said. “Quality assurance is a key in the business if you want to keep clients. No we are not perfect but we strive to be.”

Adams added that if someone is a professional who does not take correction well, that this business is not for them. She stressed that employees in this role must treat others with respect, and be willing to admit their mistakes and apologize.

“If you think you are perfect you will soon find that you are not,” Adams explained. “You have to be willing to stay up late, spend time studying and put forth as much effort as it takes.”

Lifestyle

Roughly two-thirds of all Health Documentation Specialists are employed full-time, while the remaining one-third works part-time. The lifestyle of those who are employed in this occupation is typically flexible, sometimes with the possibility for professionals to either build their own schedules or to work from home. Yet, despite being flexible, the work itself can often be stressful due to the pressure to be precise and error-free, and because of expected quick turnaround times.

“The lifestyle of a Medical Transcriptionist who stays home is what I know best,” Adams noted. “This area of medical transcription takes a lot of discipline, as you must act as if you have clocked-in at an office building each day.”

She explained that when working from home, Medical Transcriptionists must be very disciplined and self-motivated when producing transcriptions. Adams said oftentimes, things to be done around the house can be a distraction, but Transcriptionists need to stay focused on their day-to-day tasks.

“I tend to work regular business hours, and then sometimes extra,” Adams said. “Working from home provides much flexibility, but when you have a flexible schedule that means sometimes you have to work the nightshift. Sometimes you work into the wee hours of the morning to get your work turned in within the 24 hour turnaround window.”

Employment

From 2016 to 2026, employment of Medical Transcriptionists is projected to decline 3 percent due to advanced software and the resulting ability to establish transcriptions almost immediately. However, today the majority of Medical Transcriptionists are employed either by state, local and private hospitals or by administrative and support services. However, the offices of Physicians and medical and diagnostic laboratories also hire these professionals, and some choose to be self-employed. The top employing state for Health Documentation Specialists is Florida, followed by Texas, California, Pennsylvania and New York.

“I would definitely recommend that professionals seeking employment ask every Physician they currently visit if they could dictate for them,” Adams suggested. “You can find position listings for in-house medical transcription careers on career board websites, and can also list yourself on LinkedIn as a subcontracted Medical Transcriptionist. That is where I look if I need to hire more transcriptionists who work from home.”

Earnings

As of 2016, the median annual wage for Health Documentation Specialists was $35,720. While the lowest 10 percent of professionals within this occupation earned less than $22,330, the highest 10 percent were recorded to have earned more than $51,640. Additionally, the highest paying employers of Medical Transcriptionists are medical and diagnostic laboratories, local, state and private hospitals, the offices of Physicians and administrative and support services. The highest paying states for Medical Transcriptionist careers are South Dakota, Idaho, North Dakota, Iowa and Florida.

“If you are willing to transcribe, type diligently and sit at a computer all day, you will reap the financial rewards,” Adams noted. “You can make anywhere from $12,000 annually while working part-time to an excess of $40,000 per year, depending on how much work you want to commit to and how much time you want to spend transcribing.”

Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations

The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) is an organization designed as part of an effort to achieve recognition for the medical transcription profession, while focusing on how the work of these professionals affects quality healthcare. The mission of this organization is to lead, educate and advocate for excellence and integrity in the healthcare documentation field.

Getting Started

  • Find a Medical Transcriptionist to ask questions about the career to
  • Shadow a Medical Transcriptionist
  • Research community college medical transcription programs
  • Find part-time work while taking classes to ensure that this occupation is a good fit
  • Network with healthcare professionals needing medical transcription work

All statistics are provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meet the professional: Wendy Adams

Age: 47
Practice: Adams Transcription, www.adamstranscription.com
Location: Ayden, NC

What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?

“My biggest suggestion would be to stress the importance of going to school and studying medical transcription before entering the field.”

What’s the number one mistake people make when trying to get into this career?

“People often think the medical transcription is so easy, and that they can pursue this career successfully without going to school for it. This is untrue.”

What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?

“Is this career in healthcare hard? The answer is yes.”

Why did you choose to become a Medical Transcriptionist?

“I wanted to find a career that would enable me to work from home and be with my children. Medical transcription offered that.”

If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?

“Disciplined.”

*Credentialing organizations: Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity