3/97, from Dawn, email@example.com:
I started "fresh out of school"--in fact, I did not even finish my home-study MT class, having gotten only to lesson 26 out of 40 and then being too busy with the work to finish the studies. I now transcribe for MDs in six different offices, two of them full-time and four of them part-time. I have typed for a total of 18 physicians in the last four years and have developed a local reputation for producing high quality work. My office *was* expensive to set up in relative terms--when you don't have it, even $20 can be a lot of money. However, over time I have been able to arm myself with a sizeable collection of good reference materials, two nice desks and a quality chair, a file cabinet, a new computer with CD ROM, the appropriate software programs, a second, older, computer for back-up, a LQ printer, a fax/answering machine, two transcribers that cover all three tape sizes, and a multitude of the necessary office sundries. Granted, my walls *are* still baby pink with teddy bears on bicycles (the office used to be my youngest daughter's bedroom--[sheepish grin]) but if one just believes, it all comes around in good time. I think I have come a long way--I used to be stationed in a corner of my dining room! I think any success comes from setting goals, including making a written list, complete with checkmarks when each successive step is accomplished. I decided what I wanted to do, then I determined what had to be done to get there. I started with a home-study personal computers course since I knew less than nothing about computers and was actually quite terrified of them! Then I started my MT course and then a couple of BOCES terminology courses. I read glutton-ously (huh?) every piece of medically-oriented or computer-related material I can get my hands on. I have always been strong in the readin' and writin' departments which, obviously, is a major strong point in this line of work. Along the way I also managed to acquire a couple of wonderful telephone mentors who encouraged me and taught me some of the simplest, yet most important, things. I have never met one of these women face-to-face yet I consider her among my dearest friends...and make it a point to tell her so frequently during our lately rather infrequent conversations. Along with the above steps, I also believe that faith and sheer determination, and sometimes plain old dumb luck, also play a large role in getting you to where you want to be. I thank You-Know-Who often for allowing me to do what I love to do and for the abilities required to do it and do it well. Now I don't mean to insinuate that my accomplishments are the norm, but I also know that it can be done if one is determined enough.
Now, does anyone have a contact in Hollywood who could influence the story lines on family sitcoms or Emergency, to include a story with a home MT in it? Let's see, I can think of some scenes, what would your plot be?
-Ambulance waiting while MT climbs out of bed in the middle of the night and swiftly transcribes vital record... -MT finding record error of staff and bringing it to their attention... -Judith Marshall's true story of pretending to be a doctor when her brother had an emergency, so she could get the EMTs to do the right thing quickly. It worked!
From Bob Willard:
Our work is so mundane that, unfortunately, is really doesn't lend itself to TV drama without an incredulous stretch (e.g., an MT deduces from his reports that a doctor is killing his patients -- hmm, not bad, that might work as a TV movie). In the meantime, it would be fun to have a harried, frustrated transcriptionist on ER tap Dr. Benton on the shoulder in the hallway and say, "Excuse me, Dr. Benton, could you clarify what you said here in this report?"
From Kim Randall:
I'd settle for a scene of a doctor dictating hurriedly while eating and carrying on conversations with others nearby, flipping through charts and rattling x-ray films, complete with moaning and sirens in the background as well as the sound of a flushing toilet -- followed by a scene of the frustrated MT trying to figure out what he's saying, including the MT looking up all the possible sound-alike words, checking all the definitions, etc., before ultimately making the decision about which word(s) to type...
So, anyway, as I said, I've been at it ever since. On the whole I find the profession a pleasant one to be in, and enjoy myself. Except, of course, it NEVER pays enough! That's probably true of any job, though - the bills will always expand to fill any financial volume they find themselves in. They're sneaky that way.
I'm originally from Wahoo, Nebraska. My family moved to Santa Ana when I was 9, and I've lived in various places around California since. Had my own business for a while (The Word Company), but through some bad business decisions on my part (I bought a house and moved AWAY from my clients, for one thing - not good) I ended up losing the business. Having my own business was very ambitious for me - I tend to prefer the laid back, more casual life style, with no stress! So in hind-sight, I'm glad I'm not self-employed now.
In terms of experience, I've worked mostly in the acute care setting in hospitals and for services, with some othopedic, neurology and rheumatology office experience as well. Lately there seems to be a trend in hospitals to offer speciality clinics within the hospital structure, like rehabilitation programs and chronic pain programs, so I've also had experience in those fields as well. Workers compensation cases also have begun to have a terminology all their own, mostly related to levels of reimbursement, but the reports we type are often used as documentation for reimbursement, so the terminology pops up there! I still remember the first time I heard the phrase "permanent and stationary". I almost left it blank because I couldn't verify it in a medical text! The doctor laughed at me when I asked him. Hmph - so much for him!
As to how I got involved in MT, I was allowed by a generous orthopaedist to work in house and learn transcription on the job for a small office back in 1981. I had an M.A. in English and he figured I could do the work. He was right. If you can spell well, type fast and more or less enjoy production typing, you can do the work. I have never worked in a hospital setting, so I can't speak for requirements there. But I am pretty sure that pay and working conditions are better on the outside. I have found that the two things doctors most value are accuracy and reliability.
When our 2 year old son got chronic food-allergy based asthma, I wanted to work at home so I would be able to take him to the hospital without a hassle when he got an attack. I also wanted flexibility so I could pursue other interests. So I bought old equipment from the orthopaedist (back in the days of Micom) and have been working at home and making a living at it ever since. The only time I didn't have enough work was when I was starting out. I was fortunate to get a large orthopaedic account (letters, chart notes, medical-legal reports) and then later another large neurology client in the same building. This makes pick up and delivery much easier.
I am often offered additional work, but I prefer to "have a little vacation each day". This has enabled me to spend a great deal of time with my son and my stepdaughter as they grew up. I am fortunate in that my wife provides the family medical coverage through her job for an HMO so I haven't had to work "too hard". Plus she is relieved of half the household chores. My income is moderate and I have perhaps not saved sufficiently for retirement, but I have a life, and not only on weekends. It has been well worth it. And our son outgrew his asthma.
We moved out to Colorado last year, where I worked onsite for three months and did not like it very well, then worked for a very bad service, now working for a very nice one. In the interim, I studied for and got my CMT, which I think really helped me when I went to work for the very nice service. Right now I'm transcribing ortho, dental, and pulmonary medicine, plus a smattering of other things as they come up. I used to worry about my lack of hospital experience, but the longer I work, the less of an issue that seems to be. My advice to MTs who start out working from home early in their careers, as I did, would be to try to get jobs to broaden your medical knowledge. It can get awfully comfortable transcribing for a small group of doctors, but you can never depend on these situations to last, and it's best to tackle as many specialties as you can in order to increase your value.
I worked for this private doctor's office for two years, went on to the hospital and worked there for a few years, moved and worked at another hospital for four years and then seven years ago opened up my own service. I have worked in just about every medical field there is and love it all. I have a cornucopia of reference materials and use them all religiously. There are still words out there that I have yet to come across and I am still learning each and every day, especially since doctors have a tendency to make up their own medical words when they can't find one to fit what they are looking for.
No matter how long you have been an MT, there is still room for more knowledge and we all need help occasionally. There are so many new techniques, drugs, surgical devices and so on being manufactured every day that we can't all have complete knowledge of every medical term. Of course, having the basics does help!
The main reason for opening up my own business was my son. He is dyslexic, with ADDH and LLD. I was having to provide private speech therapy twice weekly, coordination therapy and the psychologist (for both of us at that point!). Hunter, my 12 year old, looks perfectly normal in every way - blonde hair, blue eyes, very tall for his age and a very attractive child. He just seems to have more than his share of problems for a kid. Anyway, most of the time I worked two jobs; days at the hospital doing MT and picking up doctor's office work at night to do at home. I was divorced and my two jobs were not footing the bill for all of these therapies, not to mention he needed more of my time than a "normal" child. Owning my own business was the answer to all my prayers. I definitely made more money and my hours allowed me to be able to get him to all the therapies when he needed to go.
Three years ago I met and eventually married a wonderful man, Chris. He has the patience of a saint with Hunter and is very loving and devoted. Also, he joined the ranks of MT - started training him about two years ago. We work together everyday and I don't know how I would make it without him.
Anyway, we moved back to California and I got a job at a hospital in Chino for a year, emphasizing my transcription experience in order to get the job. From that job I moved on to another hospital for a year or so, then to a local private service and then to the company I work for now. My x-ray training was extremely valuable in terms of learning anatomy and physiology, but I look at that time in Bullhead City when I did the lab work, x-rays and some patient care as the time when I learned the most, and I still draw from that experience to this day. I knew I wanted to do transcription but I also knew I needed to soak up everything I could in the job I was in, in order to make that transition possible. But, it is still a constant process of learning and research, even after doing this solidly now for 12 years. Old dogs can learn new tricks, we are proof of that.
I have a checkered past which for the telling would take pages and you would be either excited or terrorized by the telling. I am a former Berkeley, California hippy from the middle/late 1970's... (a "street freak") and hitchhiker much traveled. This is just another way of saying I was rudderless in my youth. I dropped out of high school to join the Coast Guard. I saw what world I could from the tossing deck of various CG cutters and between bouts of seasickness thought the scenery was awesome. I did get to be a Hospital Corpsman and loved it. I actually got to stitch folks up, give injections, work up patients, and play doctor generally.
Following discharge I took to the road and didn't settle down for a couple of years. I was a construction worker for several years and worked in a couple of hospitals. During the ensuing years I did get married, fathered three daughters, and got a lot poorer (not that I was rich to start off). I found the construction unfulfilling, the work sporadic, and the benefits lousy. So I went for my GED and passed with "flying colors". I then took the SAT at a local college and surprised myself and my wife, who is a college grad. I gained entry at the University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale, College of Technical Careers in their medical transcription program. It was intense! They stuffed two years into one with 36 hours and fed us everything from kidney innards to firing neurons and chemistries of cell/cancer/disease process. I graduated with honors and I came out leaking medical jargon all over the place.
My first job was at a VA Medical Center in my hometown and then at Lourdes Hospital in Paducah, Kentucky. I was the evening shift. In 1992, at the end of my first two years, a bunch of the employees at the facility went on strike including all but three transcriptionist. (1584 employees, and 320 walked out). I was made the "Transcription Coordinator" and ended up training 10 new transcriptionists. These folks were raw material, 50 wpm, a sprinkling of medical terminology, and want-to. I am proud to say I would now stack almost all those transcriptionists against just about anyone for accuracy and speed. One of my ladies started her own business and does a bang-up job of it.
In September of 1995, I made the decision to start my own business, fearful as it sounded. I was a nervous wreck, but my wife showed incredible support and belief in me. On October 7, 1995, AccuTrans Medical Office Service was born and I had to beat the baby just to make it breathe! Finally in March I went to work for EMS Transcription Service in Tyler, Texas. They are nice folks. I transcribe everything they send to me, including a bevy of foreigners from the VA Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky. I have been a medical transcriptionist for nine years and I LOVE IT!
I talked to a local service owner and told her how I could out-type most of the world, so she reluctantly agreed to give me a test in her office. I sat down at an old Kaypro CPM computer and tried to do my first "real" doctor's dictated tape. It was a total disaster! He talked 900 miles per hour, had some kind of a "foreign" accent, and I had no idea about most of what he was saying. To top it off, the service owner started typing behind me and totally unnerved me. She was fast! Later I figured out she was printing on a daisy-wheel printer, but at the time I thought she was doing the clackity-clack manually. I flunked the test, was embarrassed, and didn't get to work at home for the service. She did suggest that I look into the medical transcription course at the local college which I did.
The first evening in the medical terminology class was darned near as bad as the transcription test. Here I was, 48 years old, the only male in the class, had been out of school for almost a zillion years, and all these prefixes and suffixes looked like Latin to me. Now I wished I had taken language instead of music in high school. I hung in there, though, and the instructor seemed to either take a liking to me (or felt sorry for me), I'm not sure which. I ended up getting the second best score in the class. If I had been able to spell, it would have been the best. Anatomy, legal, and the actual transcribing part of the course came a little easier, but the school insisted on two classes of computer - keyboarding and something else, and I balked at that.
Several months later at my wife's urging I sent out letters to the local doctors and amazingly, one called and wanted to talk with me. The transcription service had erased two tapes and he was steamed at them and ready for a change. I started the next day with three tapes to transcribe, two of them re-dictations of the ones that had been erased. This just happened to be the same doctor whose tape I had tried to do a couple of years earlier and had failed so miserably. The two tapes that he re-dictated were particularly hard. I had told him I would have the tapes back the next day. Wow! What had I gotten myself into?
As I transcribed (sort of) I screamed, cussed, quit many times, and made my nurse wife listen to most of the tapes when she got home at night to help me try to figure out WHAT he was saying. He didn't look foreign, but the language he was using was. I found out later he was from a town 120 miles from my home town. The next day I went back and talked to him, explaining that I was having a difficult time, but would certainly get faster as time went on. He was understanding and I was relieved. It took me 37 hours to complete those 3 tapes, but I knew I was getting better at it. Maybe I was actually going to like doing medical transcription after all.
I was still very unprepared for transcribing. My Russian translator used standard-size tapes and the doctor uses micro. At first I copied the micros from a hand held recorder to a standard size tape to play them on my transcription machine until I could get a micro transcriber ordered. I also had a 9-pin dot matrix printer that would only print in the draft mode. An add-on enhancement created near-letter quality, but very slowly. My only reference materials were the seven-year-old Taber's, my college class books, and a small Webster's Medical Speller. Fortunately the doctor gave me an Orthopaedic Terminology book, and buying a Dorland's Medical Dictionary helped out. The enhancements, books and a shareware shortcut program helped my speed, but it seemed like I still had to look up just about every word.
Eight or nine years later I look back on those times and am glad I "hung in there." My original intent was to "work at home" as several people have said on this forum is not a good reason to be a medical transcriptionist. At that time my daughters were 7 and 8 years old and I wanted to raise them myself, rather than sending them to daycare. It hasn't always been easy, but I feel I have developed a special relationship with them that not too many fathers get to experience. As several people have pointed out, working at home is not for everyone and without having a great deal of perseverance I don't think I would have been able to do it. I do a very good job for my doctors and am amazed at some of the transcription I see coming out of other services and the hospital. The amount of mistakes that are allowed is amazing.
To those that say the best way to become a transcriptionist is with hospital experience I've got to agree, but the person who does only clinical or doctors' office work fills an important part of the medical transcription world. These newsgroups and mailing lists are an invaluable source of information and also give the feeling of being connected with other transcriptionists. I do urge those who are just starting out to "hang in there" and keep working and trying. The speed will come, especially with some of the shortcut programs such as Smartype and Instant Text. Medical dictionaries in the computer, drug references, and the references available on the Internet all help make the work go better.
Well, one thing led to another and we ended up bouncing all over the country and abroad where I found that there was ALWAYS a need for a transcriptionist somewhere. I ended up in Fairbanks, Alaska, and wound up working for a multi-specialty diagnostic clinic. Acquired lots of experience there and learned to develop my skills with simple day surgeries, a couple of different procedures here and there, internal medicine, family practice, OB/GYN, path, dentistry, etc...My supervisor was a military wife and got transferred back to the "lower 48" and they asked if I would be the supervisor. I promptly accepted.
About a year after having this wonderful job, I had a dreadful accident and severed my right hand terribly. I was horrified. How would I ever be able to type again? How I loved this profession. There was no way I could ever go back to anything other than medical transcription. I was in a blue funk one particular day when the phone rang. This happened to be the day I had all the sutures removed from my hand and it looked horrible. It was the instructor for the health information technology department at the local community college. She asked if I would come and speak to the health information technology students. They were in their transcription module at the time. I was very excited about this opportunity! Now, I could share with the students the fact they were learning an incredibly valuable skill. I was thrilled! I could hardly wait.
I walked into the class of approximately 30 students and almost fainted. They looked disgusted. They didn't want to have anything to do with transcription. Their equipment was antiquated, the tapes were all copies of some disgusting attempt at dictation and the workbook they were doing their transcription from was developed by a physical therapist who liked macros instead of "long hand". Oh boy, was I in for a treat! Oddly enough, it turned out to be one of the best discussions that the group had. They were so thirsty for knowledge once they found out the real story. Five of those students in that class turned out to be transcriptionists and I still keep in touch with each one of them.
The instructor took me over to meet the Dean of Instruction after this class discussion to introduce me around. Without asking me anything prior to this, she said, "here's our answer to prayer". She said that they had a proposal in for an entire HIT MT Associates Degree but all they needed was the instructor.
I went to tell my supervisor at the clinic that I had been offered this position and he told me he was so happy for me. He said he never wanted to see me go, but that he knew by the staff I had developed there at the clinic that I must have had a higher calling. I was deeply moved by that statement and it changed my life forever. I have been teaching transcription since.
I do not live in Alaska anymore as my husband has retired from the military. I've since moved back home to Texas where I live with my eight-year-old daughter, my handsome husband and two silly dogs. I am currently teaching an in-house training program at the local medical center. I don't think I could possibly do anything else in the world. I always tell my students to take advantage of the "veteran" transcriptionists, we are very few and far between. A good transcriptionist is not afraid or threatened to share knowledge with budding transcriptionists. They realize that the more they teach, the easier life is for all of us. Beware of the so-called transcriptionist that refuses to help out or "listen" to anything. Chances are they have something to hide...which is probably better in the long run that they keep it to themselves. This is not an easy field by any means; but to network, share knowledge, and perpetuate the occupation for others in the future is an endeavor that cannot be duplicated enough.
A group of my students told me at our last commencement ceremony that they were thinking of pitching in for a memorial plaque dedicated in my name at the medical center. These particular plaques hang on the doors at different locations around the hospital. It was allegedly going to read as follows: We dedicate this in honor of our instructor, but be sure you close the door, if you don't she'll get out and try to recruit you to be a transcriptionist! Little did they know, I was absolutely honored!
The name of our program is Valley Baptist Medical Center Transcription Training Program. We use the SUM program in addition to course work developed to compliment the tapes. We teach WP6.0, Physiology and Anatomy, Medicolegal Issues, Transcription I, II, and III, English, Pharmacology, Radiology, and Typing Enhancement Skills. It is a hospital-specific program which is in-house. We have had two classes of graduates to date. We only take nine students per session as this is all our lab can accomodate in our facility. We have enjoyed great success and the students are 100% placed in various transcription positions in our region. We are very fortunate that our facility encourages such a program. We have a tremendous amount of administrative support. -Cherie Castner, Program Director, Valley Baptist Medical Center Transcription Training Program
I was just hired by a woman who owns her own MT company. She is not concerned about experience (given my background). She says that she will want to spend a lot of time with me initially, but that I may work at home and that she will always be available to me by phone. She also has a disabled child, we share a similar medical history and she is currently a pre-med student. I have read much of the information available through the MT Daily website and have come to the conclusion that I am very fortunate to come into such a nurturing environment. I guess it was a case of doing because I didn't know any better. I simply applied for a MT job advertised in the paper for persons with a minimum of two years experience.
I was told that what got me the job was the resume that I faxed her. It was not really a resume at all. It was more a letter of introduction. I stated my situation, any life/educational/work experiences that I had and considered to be beneficial and how I thought I was uniquely qualified for an entry level position. I really didn't think I had a chance, but here I am! All I want is an opportunity. I am thrilled beyond belief and look forward to many years of assistance and inspiration from MT Daily and online bulletin boards.