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12 Skills that Employers Look for in a Medical Transcriptionist

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Medical transcription is an in-demand profession that offers good remuneration and the possibility of flexible working arrangements.

For instance, many transcriptionists have the opportunity to work remotely from home, providing they have the space to work in and the necessary technology to connect with the various parties involved.

But medical transcriptionists work with technical medical language and are required to deliver accurate transcriptions, often within short time frames. And it’s for this reason that employers look for a range of complementary qualities and skills when seeking to add new medical transcriptionists to their teams.

The following are 12 of the most important attributes to have when seeking a career as a medical transcriptionist.

1. Knowledge of medical terminology

Knowledge of medical terminology will typically be a fundamental quality or skill that a prospective employer will look for in new recruits. This can cover basics such as anatomy, physiology and common medications and procedures, but it can also involve terminology unique to particular medical specialisations, such as urology or cardiology.

While having the latest medical dictionary(s) on hand is a good backup to have as a transcriptionist, constantly stopping what you’re doing to refer to it can be extremely counter-productive. So a sound knowledge of current medical terminology is an invaluable skill and one that will always be looked upon favourably by an employer.

Ways to brush up on your medical terminology include regularly reading medical journals and publications, and staying abreast of the latest developments in medicine via the media and Internet. Having access to the latest medical dictionaries is also highly recommended.

2. Typing accuracy

Medical transcriptionists produce written documents from recordings, so they need to have exceptional typing skills and be able to demonstrate a high level of accuracy in what they do.

Accuracy is particularly important as the language in medical transcription can be very technical. This means you’ll need to have error-free spelling and be able to identify the right medical terms being used in recordings.

Accuracy is also vital due to the nature of the work you’ll be doing, where wrong or misspelt words could mean the difference between right and wrong diagnosis of a patient.

One of the best ways to improve the accuracy of your typing is to practice typing the same paragraphs over and over again. Don’t worry too much about speed at first, as this will improve with time. Just concentrate on getting 100% accuracy with every word.

3. Typing speed

Having said that, if you want to work as a medical transcriptionist, a fast typing speed is also essential to a certain degree. This is because you’ll need to produce transcriptions within deadlines, some of which will be strict or at short notice.

So not only do you need to be accurate, but you need to be able to type quickly to produce the required volumes of work to fulfil demand within the applicable time frames.

Productivity is everything in today’s workplace and an employer who sees fast typing speed combined with high accuracy levels will be more likely to choose that candidate over one who has 100% accuracy, but only average typing speed.

There are plenty of courses and online tutorials that can help you to improve your typing speed, and develop the ability to touch type (without looking at the keyboard) is the best way to ensure a fast speed (although high accuracy with this method will take time).

4. Punctuation, grammar and syntax

Medical transcriptionists produce reports, documents and transcripts for healthcare professionals, so it almost goes without saying that a qualified transcriptionist needs to have impeccable punctuation, grammar and syntax.

While there are digital tools to assist with these skills, as a typing professional, you probably won’t have time to review and look up every punctuational, grammatical and syntactical issue that might arise because you lack a solid grounding in these areas.

As well as jeopardising patient diagnoses, conveying the wrong message through incorrect grammar can expose an organisation to legal or compliance issues. So a sound knowledge of the way the English language works will be a quality that’s always in demand for medical transcriptionists.

Ways to improve your grammar skills include listening to the way people talk, increasing the amount of reading you do (the number one way to learn), and purchasing a grammar manual and learning the basic building blocks of language.

5. Multitasking skills

Being able to multitask is vital for transcriptionists. You may need to stay aware of other deadlines, coordinate your work schedule, and most importantly listen and type at the same time. Your multitasking abilities will help you to produce accurate transcripts, manage your own workload and meet deadlines without any stress.

Multitasking employees also increase an organisation’s productivity, producing a higher output with minimum resources, so employers will always look favourably on those who can do several tasks at once without losing their patience or making errors.

To successfully multitask, you should only perform those tasks simultaneously that you’re familiar with to avoid making errors. You must also be able to recognise those tasks where your full concentration is needed and multitasking would not be a good idea.

6. Computer literacy

Medical transcriptionists need to be comfortable working on computers as most transcription companies utilise computer-based platforms for their transcription work. A transcription business might have their own proprietary self-serve platform for accessing recordings and submitting completed documents, or they might make audio files available to transcriptionists through another method.

Whether or not you work onsite or remotely, you’ll need to be comfortable accessing, working on and submitting your work through a computer system. Being computer-savvy can enable you to work more quickly, support better accuracy and take advantage of various transcription tools such as spell check, text expanders, foot pedals and audio enhancers.

There are various courses you can take to improve your computer skills in general or your transcription skills in particular, and it’s also a good idea to familiarise yourself with the latest software programs being used by an organisation before applying for a position as a transcriptionist.

7. Analytical and problem solving skills

Some medical-transcription roles will require the creation of more complex reports and some level of document editing according to provided formats. In this case, you might need to have analytical and problem solving skills to generate these complex reports from raw audio data. Strong analytical skills will also allow you to catch any inconsistencies and errors before the documents are submitted.

It’s possible to develop your analytical and problem solving skills, and the way to do this is by practising them constantly. For example, when you read a book, look at the story from the perspectives of the various characters. This will help you to think in new ways, which is a critical part of problem solving.Building on your mathematical skills is also useful, as calculus, algebra and statistics all make use of analytical thinking.

8. Strong listening skills

If you have sound listening skills and a good memory for complex terms, you might be suited to medical transcription work. Medical terminology involves unusual words that are often based on Greek or Latin, and sometimes the person dictating may have a strong accent.

If you’re able to pick these terms up quickly, retain them and accurately identify them in an audio file, you could make an excellent medical transcriptionist.

Using the HURIER model is an effective way to improve your listening skills. It involves 6 steps; Hearing, Understanding, Remembering, Interpreting, Evaluating and Responding. More effective listening can be achieved by looking at each of the steps in this process and making conscious improvements to those that we don’t do as well in as the others.

9. Research skills and openness to learning

Medical transcriptionists should be able to identify crucial elements of an audio file, including hospital names, doctors, medications and unusual abbreviations. But while medical transcription work usually requires prior knowledge of medical terms, it’s not always possible to know every single word spoken in an audio file.

So openness to learning and research skills are also valuable qualities in a medical transcriptionist. Circumstances where research may be needed can include where the speaker has a heavy accent, is using jargon from a particular industry or slang words common to a specific region, or where certain words are not clearly audible due to influences such as car noise or wind.

Smaller queries such as hospital names or abbreviations can often be resolved by a quick browse online, although you should always be sure to verify the source when taking information from the Internet.

10. Focus and concentration

Medical transcriptionists work on an autonomous, self-guided basis and so you’ll need to be able to concentrate on work for long periods of time without becoming distracted or restless. Having good focus and an ability to concentrate for extended periods can support accuracy, timeliness and overall quality of work.

Good techniques for staying focused can include having an uncluttered workplace with as few distractions as possible, clearing your mind of all thoughts apart from what you’re working on, and breaking your task down into palatable segments and prioritising each according to importance.

A good working knowledge of the technology you’re using will also ensure you stay focused on the task at hand, as there’s nothing more distracting that knowing what you need to do but not being able to do it because you don’t know the basic procedure involved.

11. Attention to detail

Successful medical transcriptionists require strong attention to detail, as every individual letter and word in a report or transcription matters. In the healthcare field, attention to detail can be vital when it comes to medication, quantities and terminology.

Having strong attention to detail and being able to sustain a high level of detail throughout your working day is therefore a strong quality that will appeal to prospective employers.

Ways to develop this important skill can include being organised in everything you do, making bullet point lists to remind you of important details, ensuring distractions are kept to a minimum, taking regular breaks to prevent burnout, prioritising tasks according to importance and following set routines and ways of doing things.

12. Self-motivation and diligence

As a medical transcriptionist, much of your work is self-guided and autonomous. You’ll work to deadlines, but the way you work will probably be determined by you. Being self-motivated and diligent, and being able to work on an individual basis, can be an attractive quality for employers in this field.

Skills involved in being self-motivated and diligent can include:

  • Setting yourself high goals, but ensuring they’re realistic as well.
  • Taking risks when necessary, but ensuring they’re calculated risks with a good chance of success.
  • Being prepared to work hard and go that extra mile.
  • Being open to and actively seek feedback on ways to improve.
  • Coping with setbacks without allowing them to divert you from your goals.
  • Being positive at all times and avoiding negative people.
  • Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses and working to improve them.
  • Doing rather than procrastinating (walking the talk).
  • Not being afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Do you have the skills?

Medical transcription can be a fulfilling occupation that offers generous remuneration, flexibility and a variety of interesting work. If you think you can produce accurate reports and work autonomously without constant supervision, it might be the path for you.

As we’ve shown here, there are a number of attributes that a good medical transcriptionist should have and the more of these you possess naturally or actively cultivate, the higher your chances of being chosen for a position in this highly demanding but extremely rewarding career. Good luck!