Essential Skills of a Medical Transcriptionist

Posted on 12.07.2012

You have finished the program and landed your first medical transcription job—congratulations! I hope you took a day or two to celebrate your accomplishments because now things will really get serious. Your behavior at this point will reflect your investment level, and professionalism. The same determination, creativity, focus, and stamina that it took to get here will continue to be called upon to learn your new accounts, and the specifics of your new job, establish your professional reputation, increase your production, and grow your paycheck.

You will need determination to tackle the myriad of new information about your employer’s platform—the hardware and software that make up the particular work environment and facilitate the work to be done. You will quickly realize that learning never ends for medical transcriptionists! Employers have little patience for scaredy-cats or technophobes, and even less for whiners. You will be expected to learn the programs and procedures needed for the job, and that is that. It always seems daunting at the beginning, but by now you know that what seems impossible the first day will become second nature in time. There’s no way around it, so give yourself a little pep talk, gather up your determination, and jump in!

You will need creativity to continue to juggle the needs of your personal & professional life. Many of us find that living and working in the same space creates some unique problems, especially regarding where to draw the line between the two roles, and managing family members so they recognize and respect that. This is definitely something you dealt with during your education, but when your only responsibility was to your own study plan, it was a bit easier to make that line a little blurry. Now, with a definite turnaround time and a boss, it’s a very sharp line, and the needs of the job are very much a priority. No employer will be happy to be told that the reason you were late logging on, or the work is three hours late, is because you cannot manage your personal life effectively. Emergencies are the exception, of course, but for most of us, true emergencies are few and far between. Make sure you are prompt and reliable from the very first day.

You will need focus to stay with those mmmumbleespeedytalkers while they power through their lengthy ENT dictations, rarely ever actually pronouncing all the syllables in the words. You will need focus to stay alert while Dr. Ummmm… uuhhhh… [shuffle papers]… aahhh… [background conversations with the nurses]… ummerrr… gets his information together and finally spits out the facts of the cardiology consultation. Even after you know these characters very well, and their dulcet tones curl comfortably into your ears, you will need focus to make sure you catch the small deviations and to not feel so familiar that you don’t listen carefully. You will need focus because a patient’s private medical information is in your hands; always remember this.

Stamina is the ability to sustain an effort, either physical or mental. You will need stamina in order to keep your fanny in the chair, your eyes on the screen, and your ears in the headphones, especially on those days when the summer sun beckons or your favorite cousin is in town, but your queue is full; you will need stamina on those days when the rain is pouring and the house is empty and you have nothing else to do but work, but your queue is slow. An employer needs steady employees; if an MT approaches a job as something to do when it’s appealing but tries to get out of doing it on the days it’s not, the employer will have little faith in that MT. Too many requests for time off with too little lead time may result in that MT receiving less work simply because of a perceived lack of interest and lower reliability level. In time, a negative medical transcriptionists may be viewed by the employer as an overflow option only, because it’s not pleasant to interact with someone who
doesn’t seem to want the job. The perception may not be 100% correct, of course, but perception is what the employer understands to be fact; be very careful to be steady and positive and to sustain the effort for your employer. If you need to leave a position, make sure you give adequate lead time, and always leave on good terms, so you’ll be able to contact that employer in the future for a reference.

Good medical transcriptionists are plentiful, but great medical transcriptionists—with superior skills, a great attitude, and high professional standards—really stand out. As the industry grows and changes, it is the outstanding professionals that will become the backbone of medical documentation of the future. If you commit to high standards, conduct yourself professionally, and continue to seek out opportunities to grow and learn, you will find yourself happily working in this field for a long time.