Medical transciptionists listen to dictated recordings made by physicians and other healthcare professionals and transcribe them into medical reports. They generally listen to recordings on a headset, using a foot pedal to pause the recording when necessary, and type the text into a computer. They edit, as necessary, for grammar and clarity. Some transcriptionists will be working from draft reports that were dictated using speech recognition technology, which electronically translates sound into text. The transcriptionists then format these draft reports; edit them for mistakes in translation, punctuation or grammar; and check for consistency and any wording that doesn’t make sense medically. Transcriptionists transcribe a variety of medical reports, such as emergency room visits, diagnostic imaging studies, operations, chart reviews and discharge summaries. The transcribed documents are returned to the physicians or other healthcare providers in either print or electronic form for review and signature, or correction. These reports eventually become part of the patient’s permanent file.
To understand and accurately transcribe dictated reports, transcriptionists must understand medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, diagnostic procedures, pharmacology, and treatment assessments. They must also be able to translate medical jargon and abbreviations into their expanded forms. Medical transcriptionists must comply with specific standards that apply to the style of medical records and to the legal and ethical requirements for keeping patient information confidential.
- Physician offices
- Transcription service offices
- Clinics and laboratories
- Medical libraries
Medical transcriptionists generally work in a comfortable setting, and spend a good deal of time sitting at a desk in front of a computer. Observing good workstation ergonomics is important to reduce the risk of strain or repetitive motion injuries. Those who work in physician offices may have other office duties, as well. Many transcriptionists work from home. The work schedule for many is a standard 40-hour week. Self-employed medical transcriptionists are more likely to work irregular hours, including part-time, evenings and weekends.
Employment of medical transcriptionists is expected to increase 11 percent from 2008 to 2018, about as fast as average for all occupations. Growing numbers of medical transcriptionists will be needed to handle the increasing numbers of medical reports generated by a growing and aging population. Demand will also be sustained by the continued need for electronic documentation of health records.
- Ability to proofread words and see important details in written materials
- Good English grammar and punctuation skills
- Understanding of the language of medicine, anatomy and physiology, diagnostic procedures and treatment
- Good eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity
- Ability to work quickly and accurately following specific procedures
- Good hearing
- Skills in using computers, word processing software, and other current office technology
Employers prefer to hire transcriptionists who have completed postsecondary training in medical transcription. Completion of a 2-year associate degree program, including coursework in anatomy, medical terminology, medical/legal issues, English grammar and punctuation, is highly recommended. Many of these programs include supervised on-the-job experience.
Although it is not required, the American Association for Medical Transcription awards the voluntary designation, Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT), to those who earn passing scores on written and practical exams.
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Other careers that deal with patient records:
For more information about a career as a transcriptionist:
Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (formerly known as American Association for Medical Transcription)
Career information adapted in part from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handook, 2010-2011 Edition, Medical Transcriptionists, on the Internet at www.bls.gov