Transcriptionists – many and varied skills


While I’ve been working as a medical transcriptionist/secretary for longer than I sometimes care to remember, sometimes it still amazes me the depth and breadth of knowledge that an MT is expected to have.   We are more than just typists.

When it comes down to it, a medical report or correspondence dictated by the doctor is a legal document and it is important the transcriptionist ensures this is as accurate as possible.

Each report must be grammatically correct, formatted and punctuated correctly, and follow the style guidelines of the ADHI.   On top of this, the transcriptionist must also know the guidelines for the individual doctors, hospital or clinic and edit the document accordingly.

A medical transcriptionist must have a thorough knowledge of human anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and disease processes.  They need to know medical abbreviations, how to deal with them and in what context.

We must have excellent research skills.  Difficult medical terms must be researched.  Local community names and information needs to be investigated.

And we needs to know how much light editing can be undertaken and what needs to be flagged for the doctor’s specific attention and followup.

A transcriptionist also needs a good ear because there are many other challenges in a dictation. Some doctors are good dictators; most are not.  If you think their writing is bad, you should hear them dictate!  Doctors have a high demand on their time and knowledge, and often their dictation reflects this.  They stop, get interrupted, lose their train of thought, go back and insert an extra comment then continue on from where they left off previously.  They mumble, speed talk, dictate while eating, yawning, coughing (and other bodily functions but we won’t go there!) or running to the next appointment; and the transcriptionist is expected to decipher exactly what is being said.  On top of this, there is often background noise of ringing phones, ICU equipment and other conversations that can make it nearly impossible to hear what a doctor is saying.

And to add to the skill set is the ability to decipher the various accents or pronunciations of the dictator, some of which can be very difficult to understand.  Dictators with English as a second language often struggle with grammar and pronunciation – although, to be honest, this is not just restricted those with ESL.  Medications are pronounced differently by different dictators (ivabradine could be eye-va-bra-deen or iva-bray-deen; podiatrist is most often pronounced pod-eye-a-trist but can also be poddee-atrist).    Some accents are very difficult to understand and so a medical transcriptionist needs a good ear for accents.  Accents stemming from languages requiring an epenthetic vowel can cause other problems that can have a major impact: is the doctor dictating symptomatic (often pronounced es-symptomatic) or asymptomatic?

The skills and knowledge a good MT can bring to the table make them so much more than a medical PA or receptionist.  An experienced medical transcriptionists can be worth more than their weight in gold!

Contact My Typing Service today to find out how a trained transcriptionist can help you improve your workflow.


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