How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist?
7 December 2015

How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist?

Many doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals like recording audio notes more than writing information down. Medical transcriptionists listen to these recordings, analyze them thoroughly, and transcribe them. Their job is crucial for the healthcare system, but they don't usually do it in front of patients. To prevent discrepancies and confusion, transcriptionists must be familiar with medical terminology and different term abbreviations. With patients' health as the top priority, no mistakes are allowed.

While some are interested in hearing about different medical cases, others like transcribing because they find high-stakes working environments exciting. Furthermore, some people simply want to pursue a career in the medical field. These get involved in transcription to get the experience that graduate programs require. Read on to find out if this is a job you'd like.

What Does a Medical Transcriptionist Do?

Medical transcriptionists listen to voice recordings made by medical professionals and transcribe them. While listening, they double-check all the information they've heard, convert it into well-formatted documents, and send these to healthcare professionals who then read them.

Speech recognition software can be used to transcribe notes like these as well. These programs aren't 100% accurate, though, and professional scribes must double-check the transcripts they generate. Still, with the world witnessing technological innovations daily, it's expected that transcriptionists will do more proofreading and editing in the future.

Medical transcriptionists work in fast-paced environments; they must transcribe documents quickly so patients can receive the best care possible. These professionals are familiar with medical terminology. For example, they know the meaning of terms from the field of human anatomy and physiology, and they're acquainted with different medical abbreviations. Furthermore, they must protect patients' confidentiality.

In brief, professional transcriptionists must have excellent listening skills and medical knowledge; transcribing what doctors have to say can be pretty challenging.

Medical transcriptionists don't interact with patients directly. Instead, they work with doctors, nurses, and other medical staff to gather information about a patient's health status. Whether they follow clinicians from one room to another or work with providers inside an office, medical transcriptionists need to think quickly. Furthermore, they need to be able to adapt to different clinicians' preferences and preferred ways of formatting medical documents.

How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist?

Postsecondary training is vital for everyone who dreams of becoming a medical scribe. Transcriptionist courses can teach you about medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, grammar, and more. To get your training in medical transcription, you'll need to enroll in a vocational school or community college. You can also complete a course in medical transcription online or join a dedicated medical transcription program to become a certified scribe.

A medical transcriptionist's job requires many different skills. For example, you'll need to be an excellent listener and writer, and you'll need to be able to work on time-sensitive projects and respect the privacy and legal policies of the healthcare organization you work for. To get a job as a medical transcriptionist, you need to follow the next few steps:

  • Get a high school diploma or GED to meet the minimum education requirements for becoming a medical scribe.

  • Complete a course or an associate degree program in medical transcription.

  • Gain work experience by applying to transcription-related jobs online or offline.

  • Consider obtaining additional certificates by becoming a Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist or a Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist.

These are the four most common steps you must follow to launch your career in medical transcription. However, there is an alternative path to take if you want to find a job without enrolling in additional programs and courses:

  • Graduate high school or earn a GED.

  • Apply for your next job at a medical transcriptionist contracting company.

  • Enroll in the course offered by the company, and pass the final exam.

  • Complete a quick, in-person training.

  • Start working as a medical transcriptionist in your chosen hospital, healthcare facility, or online.

How Much Can You Earn As a Medical Transcriptionist?

According to the data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, the average annual medical transcriptionist's salary in the USA is $30,100. That said, salaries differ between states, with the median wage being the highest in Connecticut ($48,510). It's important to note that a transcriptionist's experience is directly related to their income. By investing in your education, typing speed, and accuracy, you can get qualified for better, higher-paid jobs.

Expectedly, medical transcription jobs offered in metropolitan areas are better-paying. Because of that, median salaries in places close to metropolises are noticeably higher. But, although you might earn more as a medical transcriber in an area like this, you shouldn't forget that the costs of living are higher in those places. Keep that in mind before you move to New Haven in Connecticut or Trenton in New Jersey, for instance. 

With healthcare being a vast field, one can see scribers working in different settings related to it. That implies salary variations by workplace. According to the BLS, transcriptionists who work for dentists earn the most, with their median annual wage being $50,320. Those working in data processing and hosting services make slightly less ($49,090). Finally, transcriptionists employed in medical labs and government facilities earn the least - $46,190 and $45,750, respectively.

The Future of Medical Transcription

Because of the challenges their profession imposes, medical transcriptionists need to be great listeners and quick thinkers. Recording notes is not a slow-paced task! Furthermore, the latest advancements in speech-to-text technology have made it the preferred transcript-generating method of some organizations. But even so, many clinics, physicians' offices, and hospitals keep seeking the services of experienced medical transcriptionists.

With the BLS projecting a decline in medical transcription jobs of 7% by 2030, it's clear that the future of this field is slightly uncertain. Although more and more people are experiencing chronic health issues, tech innovations seem to introduce certain changes in the domain of transcription. That said, some organizations prefer working with licensed transcriptionists, while others convert their recordings to text with software.

The battle between human transcribers and speech recognition solutions might've been tedious if it wasn't for the benefits that both parties bring to companies. Advocates of medical transcriptionists say that, unlike software, professionals provide organizations with great-quality transcripts. They also state that doctors can dedicate more time to their patients when they have experienced transcriptionists to help them transcribe medical recordings.

With medical transcription professionals taking care of essential transcripts, doctors, nurses, and the rest of the medical personnel can be more efficient. This, in turn, makes medical organizations profitable. But, although some hospitals and healthcare facilities would rather have tech-based documentation on their shelves, the perks of hiring professional transcriptionists are huge. That said, speech-to-text programs are not yet as reliable as humans, which is extremely important in a field where a single typing error can cause a lot of damage and even be life-threatening in extreme cases.