Sometimes called healthcare documentation specialists, medical transcriptionists turn voice recordings into written documents. Physicians and health care professionals count on them to do all the following:
- Transcribe dictated recordings into documents such as a patient history, referral letters or treatment summaries.
- Review documents transcribed by speech recognition software to ensure accuracy.
- Understand medical terminology and abbreviations.
- Identify potential errors or inconsistencies in patient reports.
- Maintain patient confidentiality and follow ethical standards.
How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist
While everyone's career path may be different, here's one common way how to become a medical transcriptionist:
- Earn a high school diploma or GED.
- Complete a postsecondary training program. A short-term certificate is the most common medical transcription program, but you could also earn an associate degree in medical transcription.
- Become certified. Although not required to work in the field, some employers may prefer to hire those with a professional credential.
- Keep your skills updated. Continuing education classes ensure you'll be prepared to use the latest software and transcription tools.
As you train for a career in the field, you'll take courses which will not only outline what is medical transcription but teach other health care knowledge and skills as well. Your curriculum may include the following:
- Medical terminology
- Health care law and ethics
- Risk management
Medical Transcription Degrees and Certificates
It doesn't take long to get ready for a career as a medical transcriptionist. Many people enter the workforce after a one-year training program although some choose to earn a two-year degree. Here's the difference between a certificate and a degree in medical transcription.
- Certificate: A medical transcription certificate can usually be completed in one year or less. Its curriculum may combine coursework with transcription practice, but these programs typically don't require an internship. Some schools offer diploma programs which are comparable to certificates.
- Associate Degree: Although less common, some schools offer an associate degree in medical transcription. These programs can be completed in two years and may cover more advanced medical topics. They may also include an externship or other opportunities to gain real-world experience prior to graduation.
Medical Transcription Schools
Medical transcription programs are available through vocational schools and community colleges. You can also attend a medical transcription school online. Distance programs can be ideal for busy adults who need to schedule study times around work and family obligations. Many online medical transcription training programs can be completed without ever setting foot on a campus.
Medical Transcriptionist Certification
Professional certification demonstrates a medical transcriptionist has achieved a certain level of expertise. The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity, which is a professional organization for medical transcriptionists, offers two credentials:
- Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS). This certification is designed for those who are recent graduates, have less than two years of experience in acute care and are working in a single-specialty environment such as radiology or private practice. The credential is good for three years and renewal requires a fresh examination or a recredentialing course.
- Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS). Those who are RHDS certified and want to boost their employment opportunities can earn their CHDS. This is for those who have a minimum of two years of experience in acute-care transcription. The credential is good for three years, and recertification requires a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education credits during that three-year cycle.
Those who have maintained their credentials throughout their career and choose to leave the profession can use CHDS-R or RHDS-R to indicate their experience in the field. The "R" designation stands for "retired." This can be helpful in showing future employers a strong history of keeping credentials up-to-date. You can learn more about medical transcription certification online at the AHDI website.
Career Advancement for Medical Transcriptionists
Medical transcriptionists may advance their careers by becoming certified or moving into specialty practices such as dermatology or oncology. Other transcriptionists may shift into different roles such as that of a medical assistant or coding specialist.
Program Costs and Financial Aid
Skills and Qualities for Medical Transcriptionists
To be successful in this career, you need to have the following skills and abilities.
- Active listening: Perhaps no skill is more important to a medical transcriptionist's job than active listening. This is the ability to give your full attention to a recording so you don't miss any vital details.
- Oral comprehension: Similar to active listening, oral comprehension refers to a person's ability to listen to a recording and understand not only the words but their context.
- Writing: In order to create documents from voice recordings, transcriptionists must has a strong grasp of English spelling, grammar and punctuation.
- Judgement and decision making: When audio is not clear or a discrepancy is noted, a medical transcriptionist must be able to discern how best to resolve the problem.
- Speech recognition: Health care professionals make speak in a variety of tones and with different pacing. A good transcriptionist will be able to understand a variety of speaking styles.
Career Outlook and Salary Information for Medical Transcriptionists
How much you earn as a medical transcriptionist can depend on your education, experience and certification. However, national medical transcriptionist salary data is shown below, along with an idea of what job growth for medical transcriptionists looks like in the coming years.
Projected Job Growth
Professional Resources for Medical Transcriptionists
If you plan to work as a medical transcriptionist, you may be interested in these organizations.
- Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity - Established in 1978, the AHDI is considered the main professional organization for medical transcriptionists.
- The American Health Information Management Association - The AHIMA advocates for variety of medical professionals who work with health care records and patient data.
- American Healthcare Documentation Professionals Group - This business organization provides medical transcriptionist training and staffing services.