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How to Get Started as a Medical Transcriptionist

AUTHOR: SyberScribe, December 15th, 2021

Medical transcriptionists are more in demand than ever. Their services positively impact the quality of care offered by clinics of all sizes and specialties. Medical transcription may be a career that not many people know about, but it is a career of opportunity. 

Copywriters who are looking for a career change, or people looking for something which is flexible and pays well, are taking an interest in medical transcription. 

In this article, we will walk you through what you can expect as a medical transcriptionist, key considerations for hours and remuneration as well as smart ways to make the most of your new skill.

Choosing a career as a medical transcriptionist

The role of a medical transcriptionist revolves around listening to and transcribing medical reports that have been recorded by doctors, specialists, and other healthcare professionals. 

Along with transcribing the recorded reports, medical transcriptionists are required to review and edit the documents, focusing on interpreting medical terminology used in order to prepare an accurately written document. The best medical transcriptionists possess a range of personal and professional skills. 

Superior organisation and time management skills are amongst the most important personal skills while fast typing, word processing, and administration skills are critical in terms of professional proficiencies. Everyone will require some level of healthcare at one point or another in their life. This simple fact means that well-trained medical transcriptionists will always be in demand, offering financial stability and job security to those who decide to become qualified. 

While changing trends are undoubtedly common in the medical industry, the demand for human transcriptionists remains. Despite technological developments like speech recognition software, human transcriptionists are still considered the more reliable and trusted choice.

Pros & cons of working as a medical transcriptionist

Like any career, there are pros and cons when it comes to working as a medical transcriptionist.

In fact, some of the things that make working as a medical transcriptionist so great can actually work against people who are not quite suited for the job. 

Pros

1. Flexible Hours 

The freedom to choose your hours is what attracts many people to a career as a qualified medical transcriptionist. Building your own working routine can be very rewarding, as you hold yourself accountable for your work-related deadlines as well as keeping on top of your daily or weekly personal commitments.

2. Work From Home 

Transcribing from a home office is the norm for those working on a contractor basis. In the same vein as working your own hours, this gives you full autonomy over when you work and how you complete the jobs you accept. Having this type of control over your working conditions can take time to adjust to, but in the short term, you will see yourself spending less without the usual commuting and meal costs associated with an office job.

3. Service More Clients in a Secure Job

Working with interstate clients is the cornerstone of a remote-based medical transcription job. By seeking business beyond your local area, you will be able to market your services to a bigger base of potential clients and actively pursue the right relationships for repeat business. In addition, the industry for the specialised service you provide is active and growing, offering you peace of mind in terms of future opportunities.

Cons

1. Discipline and Time Management are Non-negotiables 

You are 100% responsible for your efficiency as a medical transcriptionist and it takes a lot of self-discipline to ensure that your working conditions are suitable for your needs and sustainable in the long term. In this arrangement, no one will be keeping track of your work outputs, so fine-tuning your time management skills and using your self-appointed working schedule to meet deadlines will be your top priorities. 

This means you will have to become comfortable with conducting mini-assessments of your hours, workload, and personal commitments (e.g choosing a daycare for your children if distractions run high at home) in order to maintain a high quality of work. 

2. Workload is Sedentary

This career involves a lot of sitting at a computer or desk and typing for extended periods of time. If you work efficiently, you might be able to enjoy a few hours outside, but for the most part, you will have to be comfortable sitting while you work from home. 

Some transcriptionists use their downtime for physical exercise (e.g team sports or going to the gym) to compensate for their desk job, which could be a good way to stay motivated for keeping healthy habits outside of your working hours.

Job Expectations & Remuneration

When it comes to remuneration for a medical transcriptionist, it is important to set your expectations appropriately by understanding the industry and factors which will impact your income.

Many companies will pay medical transcriptionists on what is called a line rate – the common unit of productivity – which contains 65 characters or keystrokes. This includes everything from spaces and commas to question marks and numbers.

It is important to note that medical transcriptionists work in a variety of settings:

  • Onsite work: Going into work to perform specific duties.
  • Home-based work: Your employer has allowed you to work from home. This means that all the work you do relates to the specific facility where you work.
  • Remote work: Work from home and complete a variety of transcription tasks from various hospitals, clinics, or practices.

How much money does a medical transcriptionist make?

A medical transcriptionist who is mid-career has the potential to earn upwards of $40-50,000 a year, however, this is dependent on hours, clients, and rates of remuneration. 

As with any self-employment, the income range can vary substantially because it depends on availability, the volume of work coming in, and a contractor’s personal motivations to seek out extra work with other companies or find more clients on their own. 

For new typists, it is common to treat this new skill as a means to ‘top up’ income or successfully fulfill a need for a part-time income. This said it is possible for a medical typist to earn the equivalent of around $20 per hour and look to earn more if they work directly with a client rather than through a transcription company.

Studying and becoming certified

Thanks to the popularity of this career, there are a growing number of medical transcription courses in Australia. 

The institutions providing these courses offer a variety of end qualifications such as certificates or diplomas. Generally, each course will cover everything from medical terminology and patient records to confidentiality and medical letter formatting. Keyboard skills and Microsoft Word essentials are key competencies, however, not all courses will cover this in their syllabus so keep this in mind for any additional study or practice.

As many medical transcription courses use either online, face-to-face learning or even a combination of the two, it is important that individuals choose the course that will suit their finances, study habits, and experience level.

Studying via an online course is a great way to become accustomed to the style of work a fully qualified medical transcriptionist will do. As this career largely sees people working from home, studying online makes for good practice for an average day on the job. 

Making the Most of Your New Skill Set 

After completing a medical transcription course, you are ready to embark on a new professional chapter.

As many qualified medical transcriptionists will transition straight into working from home, making the most of this new skill starts here:

Set up your home office

Depending on your living situation, it could take some time to find the most appropriate working environment, so be sure to give yourself enough time before commencing work to get this right. 

  • As a general rule of thumb, your space will need to be quiet, light-filled, and spacious enough for you and all the necessary equipment needed to perform your daily tasks.
  • Use an office tech checklist to ensure you are set up for success. For example, a strong internet connection and abiding by OH&S recommendations with power boards and cords ensures you are both productive and safe in your new place of work. 

Forge new connections

Once you are set up, it now becomes a question of actually having work to do.

  • Sign up for job alerts to ensure that you are the first to know local and interstate jobs. 
  • Grow your network, starting with making new contacts at your local doctor’s office or hospital. If you have worked in a similar industry or made connections during your studies, reconnect with some likely allies via LinkedIn. You might be surprised how many connections you might have access to through someone already in your network.

Stay informed on industry changes

Medical transcription is a career that is always evolving and as the years go on, this will become a habit, if you’re interested in getting started as a medical transcriptionist, contact us now.