Profile: Medical Transcriptionist

Learn about medical transcription training and jobs from a veteran in the field.

Valerie Barrett
Medical Transcriptionist
M*Modal – Auburn, WA

Why did you become a medical transcriptionist?

Earlier in my career I worked as a transporter and later I worked as a receptionist in a perinatal clinic at Swedish Hospital [in Seattle]. Then I moved out of health care, but I realized that I wanted to stay in the field so I took a medical terminology course at the community college.

I saw an ad for a medical transcription job and was drawn to it because of my love of language. I was lucky, they hired me and trained me on the job, which is really rare. A year later, I took a medical transcription course.

What do you find satisfying about your work?

I’m task oriented and self-motivated. I like to have a chunk of work to do and get it done. It’s like I’m in competition with myself, how many lines can I get done today. I also really like typing and I like words. I like bringing a sense of perfection to the job.

The best part is the flexibility of the job. I love being able to work from home and at any time. After I had kids, I couldn’t work full-time, so the flexible hours have allowed me to make some extra money and still be home. A lot of companies prefer part-time work-at-home workers because they don’t have to pay benefits. You can make a great living if you work full-time. But I usually work only 3 hours a day.

Also, it’s a job where you can keep growing and learning. If I had the inclination to expand my job, the transcription service I work for would train me to do pathology, emergency medicine, surgical, orthopedics.

What’s a typical day like for a medical transcriptionist?

Some days I do 40 reports in 3 hours, other days I only get through a dozen reports. It depends on the individual exam. My client has an 8-hour turnaround time, but some clinics have a 24-hour turnaround. When I’m available to work, I just dial into the hospital and get whatever exam is waiting to be done.

What type of personality will do well as a medical transcriptionist?

You must be self-motivated and you must like working alone. You have to know your personality. You need to sit for long periods of time, and you must type well. Also, you must be a good listener. A lot of it is intuitive, you have to get used a doctor’s voice, and accents can be difficult. Hopefully you can work for someone who will take the time to train you.

What advice do you have for people interested in the field?

You’ll definitely need to take a medical terminology course and a medical transcription course. Then just be persistent, don’t give up. It’s the kind of profession where you have to have experience to get a job, but of course that’s impossible. You’ll eventually get lucky.

It might also help to find out what branch of medicine is most popular. Right now, radiology is really popular in my area. It depends on the hospital or clinic.

Every hospital or clinic has their own style. Every specialty has a language all of its own. I found that it was beneficial to work on site when I trained so that I could ask my coworkers questions. I was able to ask the doctor questions and it really helped to see the instruments. A lot of the techs showed me the instruments and machines which helped me get a better understanding of what they’re talking about.

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