MT Daily Biographies of
Medical Transcriptionists

Bill Bentsen / Charlene Canchola / Michele Chavez / Rose Combs / Linda Ferguson / Anita Finn / Gail Hall / Liz Hug / Alydia Kardel / Cynthia Lewis / Jennifer Martin / Suzanne McKean / Toni Mercadante / Mary Morken / Joella Seiwert / Alan Stancliff / Kathy Trahan / Julie Veronick / Teddy Wright

GAIL HALL
After doing in-hospital transcription in word processing for medical records for almost eight years, I have done medical transcription at home for doctors' offices for five years.

My life in a nutshell: MT -> M&M -> MT: Medical transcription was not the first time I was an MT. Music was my first main career interest, so I studied music and eventually music therapy, my first "MT" designation. Between MT and MT I was M&M: married and mom. I chose to stay home with the children when they were small and did volunteer work that I could do either at home or at a time when the boys were in school. I am still M&M, but the boys are grown and don't take up quite so much time these days.

I learned about medical transcription from a vocational counselor when I decided to go "back to work" when my children were in their teens. I had been doing a lot of volunteer work, including transcribing print text into braille for the Cleveland Society for the Blind Braille Service. Having enjoyed the challenges that provided, medical transcription seemed like a logical thing to try.

Braille transcription and medical transcription do have many things in common such as willingness to work at a keyboard for long hours, interest in language, attention to details, and learning many new things each day.

To prepare for medical transcription, I first took some classes at a local community college. We learned on IBM Selectric typewriters with no built-in eraser. The terminology and other courses offered by the school were for medical technicians and were a good preparation for working at a hospital. After working at a hospital medical records word processing center, where we used first Wang and then Lanier PC-based word processors, I decided to try working at home using a phone-in dictation system, computer and modem.

Some of the greatest sources of help to me in learning to use the computer have been computer users groups and local online services. Because of the benefits I have gained from these generous people, I also enjoy "giving back" by being active in the groups and on local online services' special interest areas. When Case Western Reserve University opened up the usenet area to Cleveland Free-Net users, this opened a whole new world to me. Now I am interested in exploring other online sources of help and information.
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JENNIFER MARTIN
MT MONTHLY HOMEPAGE
DIRECTOR, REVIEW OF SYSTEMS INDEPENDENT STUDY PROGRAM
Also see MT Couples page for Clint and Jennifer's story.
CHGA57B@prodigy.com
Phone: 800-951-5559
Jennifer has worked as a medical transcriptionist at home for eight years. She is a former Medical Terminology instructor at Maple Woods Community College in her hometown of Kansas City and has served as a mentor to many. Along with keeping up with the demand of her daily transcription, she publishes MT Monthly and provides guidance and support to her independent-study students across the country.

Jennifer has written articles which have appeared in ADVANCE for Health Information Professionals and JAAMT. Jennifer and her husband, Clint, both serve as beta testers for Stedman's medical software.
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MARY MORKEN
MONITOR FOR MT DAILY
MMorken@ix.netcom.com
After raising four children and doing a variety of things, including maintaining the medical records in an adolescent psychiatric unit for three years, I decided to pursue medical transcription because of the reward for speed and the possible flexibility. Friends who knew me well predicted it wouldn't last because I had always enjoyed working with people. My seven grandchildren who have full-time mothers are my inspiration, and they are why I am still in pursuit of improvements in this work. I'm a working grandmother.

I learned transcription while working for a service for 1-1/2 years and then for 1-1/2 years in a hospital "sweatshop." I learned from magazines too. I have been working from home for four years and have learned from MTs from all over the United States by computer networking. I wanted to be able to work when traveling; Debbie McFall wrote me about Signal Transcription, the national company through which I receive dictation. I wanted to be able to rest my hands; Joella Seiwert wrote me about someone who had been using DragonDictate voice recognition since 1993, and she coached me through the learning in the fall of 1994. I wanted a better shorthand system for typing; Joe Weber was talking about Smartype on the usenet. Wanting to keep in touch with all the boards of MTs, I met representatives of all the networking groups and we began to share information of general interest "across the boards." A friend offered me a homepage in June 1995, and thus began the adventure of MT Daily.

8/95: Lifestyle of an MT and webmonitor: I have no children at home anymore, I'm not a homeowner or a packrat, and I keep house very simply. I don't watch television except news sometimes, I have an understanding husband and we live very simply and eat out often. I have a very fast computer and modem. I got to watch my son put up his business on the web last year and he coached me along so I never had to read books. I only know the most basics that make it possible to launch a web page, and lots of people contribute. I don't have to commute or dress up either! I also get easily bored with transcription (10 hours a day) and need projects and people. This paragraph sounds like a review of systems! I think we will see more MT web sites up soon, and we will have more and more easy access to very helpful information and people.
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MICHELE CHAVEZ
mchavez@qnet.com
How I became an MT really starts about 20 years ago in 1975 with the birth of my son. I'd wanted a home birth, but couldn't find a midwife, and was unhappy with my experience in the hospital. This led me to finding the group Association for Childbirth at Home and becoming certified as one of their childbirth instructors. I also apprenticed for awhile with a lay midwife.

Not being content to stop there, I decided to go back to school and become a nurse-midwife. In 1983, with two years of nursing school behind me, I went through a bitter divorce and had to leave school in order to support myself. I found employment with the Visiting Nurse Association, typing up doctors' orders and nurses' notes (from handwritten copy) on clunky old IBM typewriters.

After I'd been with the VNA for a year, I met some crazy guys who told me about chanting (Buddhism) and I decided to test out this chanting stuff by chanting on my way to a job interview for a medical secretary. I walked into the room for the interview, the doctor looked at me and said, "You're the one" and I was hired. Needless to say, I'm still chanting! I stayed at this doctor's office long enough to learn to use the transcriber to transcribe his consultation letters once a week and then took up temp work for awhile.

During this period of time, a psychiatrist misread my resume and the fact that I had done temporary work for Tarzana Hospital to mean that I had worked there as a transcriptionist. He hired me to transcribe his medical histories and reports. While there, I applied for a job at Transcriptions, Ltd., and eventually started working in their Glendale, California, office. There I met my current "boss" Vicken, who was the office courier and now owns his own service, TurnAround Time Transcription, also in Glendale.

Also at Transcriptions, Ltd., I met another transcriptionist named Ruth Martin, who was to become my transcription MENTOR. I learned so much from her. She hired me to work for her at home and then proceeded to teach me how to REALLY transcribe. This was followed by a stint actually working in-house in Verdugo Hills Hospital until I went to work for TurnAround Time, where I have been ever since, the last 3-1/2 years. After years of doing any kind of transcription, I now specialize in emergency room notes.

I joined CompuServe in 1989 and eventually found my way to the Work-from-Home Forum's medical transcription and billing section. Aside from transcribing, my interests are running, horse racing, computers, WordPerfect macro writing, and CompuServe. And I still maintain my interests in birth and breast-feeding issues, which I satisfy vicariously through the MEDSIG forum.

But my latest project is learning to use the Steno keyboard for transcription. I'm hoping that I can increase my production and reduce stress by getting away from the QWERTY keyboard. I'm looking forward to learning.
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TONI MERCADANTE
RESEARCHING NEW TERMS FOR UPACG&M
Toni's Medical References
Toni is an independent contractor working from home transcribing for private physicians. She currently transcribes neurology, podiatry, and general medicine (walk-in clinic), as well as p.r.n. for a cardiology group and a pathology group. She also transcribes medicolegal reports for a New York investigative firm that assists in the defense of physicians and dentists named in malpractice suits. Before moving to Marietta, Georgia, clients included private practitioners in nephrology, physical therapy, pediatric neurology, psychology, and family practice, in addition to the malpractice work.
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JOELLA SEIWERT
I entered the field of medical transcription just one month past my 18th birthday. I was a freshman in college and looking for a job to help put me through school. I spotted an ad in the college placement office which said one of the local hospitals was seeking a college student to work evenings as a medical transcriptionist. I had no idea what a medical transcriptionist was, but I applied for the job and they hired me.

Little did I know that I was at the beginning of what was to be my ultimate career. The hospital trained me and I was especially fortunate to be surrounded by experienced MTs who were willing to share their knowledge with me. It was September of 1973 and there were no such things as personal computers. We used typewriters and carbon paper and the dictation was on "blue belts." I will never forget the day when they replaced our regular typewriters with IBM Selectric Typewriters that were self-correcting. We celebrated!

Five years later, I had my college degree in accounting and left the world of medical transcription to go to work as an accountant. Also, I met and married a Kansas farm boy and moved from the city where I was raised, to the middle of nowhere, deep in the wheat fields of Kansas. I worked as an accountant, commuting to the city every day, and started raising a family. I liked accounting, but I really missed doing medical transcription and decided to see if I could somehow work as an MT from my home here on the farm.

By this time it was 1989 and the medical transcription field was very different than when I had left it 10 years previous. Now there were personal computers, digital dictation systems, modems and spell-checkers. I was able to find work as an independent contractor working for a transcription service and have stayed in that aspect of medical transcription ever since, working on hospital accounts as close as the nearby city and as far away as clear across the country, all right here from our Kansas wheat farm. I work in the peaceful Kansas countryside, yet I also have the excitement, hustle and bustle of a big city hospital right here in my office. It's the best of both worlds for me! I am living proof that you can live anywhere and have a career as an MT.

I love the challenge of medical transcription and love learning something new every day. I have friends all across the county whom I have met through my computer; people I would have never known, had it not been for all of this wonderful technology. With this technology I am allowed to network with many other MTs, something I would not be able to do otherwise given the distance and time factors of where I live. There is a world of information right at my fingertips, where I can explore and discover the latest terminology, information and news, and share it with others. I could never have imagined this to be possible back in 1973 when I sat down at a typewriter and listened to dictation for the very first time, and I am looking forward to what the future will bring!
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LINDA FERGUSON
I have been transcribing for 25 years (although the time sure has gone fast!). I have done some other things while transcribing. I went back to college and got a BA in Elementary Education. I transcribed while going to school. I got a job teaching and taught grade school for two years. I transcribed on weekends. I decided that I didn't have what it takes to deal with grade school children and went back to full-time transcription. I have been doing that ever since.

I am currently employed at St. John Medical Center in Longview, Washington. It is a small-to-medium-sized hospital. We do all reports with the exception of radiology and pathology. I also have a miniature home business doing the overflow dictation for a local orthopedic clinic and for a service out of California. I can call in whenever I want and if they have work available, I can do it. I am looking for ways to expand my horizons. The thing I like best about medical transcription is the continual learning process that is simply built into it. There are always new things to learn.
ALAN STANCLIFF
I have been a medical transcriptionist for six years, and was trained in a hospital in Oakland, California. I think I might have been one of the very last people to have been trained in a hospital, although I am an inveterate reader and study much on my own. I had been working in the medical field since 1969 in a variety of positions including urgent care unit coordinator and bilingual substance abuse coordinator (Spanish language) in an East Oakland drug and alcohol abuse facility.

I went to Catholic school in the 50s, got married in the early 60s, and my first wife died of cancer some time later. I attended Loyola University of Los Angeles and later San Diego State University. I was active in politics for many years.

I have always been interested in reading. When in high school, I read a fair amount of philosophy, (the Scholastics, of course, Aquinas, etc., but also Bertrand Russell and other English philosophers such as John Stuart Mill). I also read a fair amount of Marx. I became interested in American and European history and have read a fair amount of that. I studied several languages including Spanish, German, Latin, and Russian, although only the Spanish remains now. I like poetry and literature, but I do not consider myself talented enough to write poetry.

My first career was as a classical guitarist. Actually, the two overlapped for a while. I played in concerts but was not quite good enough to be able to make a secure living at it. So I also taught, having given lessons to well over 1,000 people. Some of my students went on to become really excellent musicians. At one point, I had a memorized repertoire of about three hours of Bach, but I also played some of the Latin American composers, 19th century romantic music, and some contemporary adaptations of jazz and popular tunes.

I have been writing for about 20 years and have had articles published in a variety of newsletters, weekly papers, journals, and magazines, including medical transcription journals, on a variety of subjects, including computers and medical transcription.

I also am quite interested in computers, especially DOS. Windoze seems too clunky and inelegant to me to get my curiosity up that much, although when computers become more powerful, that might change. I love WordPerfect and have spent some time with the macro command language for version 5.x and am beginning to use the macro language for version 6.x.

I am currently living in Washington State, having recently moved here from California, and working as an independent contractor. I am remarried and I have a daughter, 29, who lives in San Francisco with her lovely husband.
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TEDDY WRIGHT
I have been a medical transcriptionist since 1960, and have been in business for myself since 1975. From 1978 to 1981, I was on the National Board of Directors of AAMT, and was Secretary for a little over a year. I helped develop the original Certification Exam and also was on the committee responsible for reviewing the applications for certification based on transcription experience. I have transcribed virtually all fields of medicine and all levels of difficulty in my 35 years of transcription, with probably the most experience in orthopedics. My favorite job was as pathology secretary in a hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. What a learning experience!

I have recently closed my outside office and moved my business back into my home. I divided up my accounts among my transcriptionists (except for the ones I kept) and have also cut back on the amount of work I will accept in order to free myself up to do some traveling, to visit my children and grandchildren, and to visit other parts of the country and the world that I have been too busy to visit in the past.

My enjoyments include traveling and visiting my grandchildren. I've learned the rudiments of quilting in the last couple of years and really enjoy that, although it's hard to find the time to do it, and my house is so small that when I'm quilting the whole house is a disaster area. I love to read, love to hike, used to love to ski but haven't had the time to go for too many years.

I suppose I always will enjoy medical transcription, although on a smaller scale certainly. I do look forward to retirement before too many more years, but doubt that I will ever retire completely. I enjoy what I do too much. I truly believe that in order to be a really good transcriptionist, you have to really enjoy it. If it's just a job, you're never going to develop the interest that it takes to become an excellent transcriptionist.
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CHARLENE CANCHOLA
My original goal in life was to become an illustrator, and I attended college for three years towards that goal. We have two sons, Brandon and Cameron, ages 11 and 4, and live in Hemet, California. In early 1985, I enrolled at a local vocational school that offered a medical transcription program. The program was sorry to say the least, but upon graduation, I was fortunate enough to be hired by a small service. I spent three months with this service and made gains more in confidence than in skill. After three months, I was brave enough to take a test at a local hospital, and surprisingly I was hired for the "ugly" shift of 3:00 to 11:00 p.m., but I didn't care because I was on my way. I enjoyed a huge leap in pay from $5.00 to $8.50 an hour! I spent three years at the hospital soaking up all of the knowledge I possibly could, as I was surrounded by wonderful teachers, always willing to help me.

I can still remember having my nose in the Dorland's Dictionary constantly. Even when I had learned a new term, self-doubt kept me going back to the dictionary. I decided to pick one troublesome word a day and vow that I would set that word in stone and not have to look it up again. I would visualize the word over and over until it really was set in stone in my mind. Experienced MTs told me it took them at least a year to wean themselves away from the big Dorland's, so I worked through that first year waiting for that magical day to arrive when the Dorland's would stay closed more than it was opened. I noticed that when my first anniversary rolled around, I wasn't looking every-other word up, but still I didn't think I had "it" yet. The second year passed and I knew I had made great progress but "it" hadn't happened yet. Then the third year passed, and something did happen. I finally felt comfortable calling myself a medical transcriptionist. I finally was able to go to work and perhaps get through a day without ever having to look anything up. I finally felt like "it" had happened! But no matter how many years I have under my belt, no matter how experienced I am, there is always something new to be learned each day. This is one of the nice surprises in this field.

When my oldest son started kindergarten, I decided I had gained enough skills to go home to work, and now seven years later, I am still working from home. Over the years, I have had several different accounts (stiff competition in California!), and have learned that when one door closes, a new door opens. I have taken part-time or on-call positions to supplement work from home when necessary. Depending upon my accounts, I have had up to four subcontractors helping me in order to maintain a 24-hour turn-around time. I have also taken trainees under my wing, one at a time, because I have never forgotten those first days, weeks, months and years that I spent trying to get on my feet. The only thing I ask of the trainees is to remember that someone did help them get a start, and down the road they can return the favor to another person trying to break into this field.


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