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Cheat Sheet

Medical Transcription For Dummies

From Medical Transcription For Dummies by Anne Martinez

When researching or starting a new medical transcription career, information is power. You need to know which reference books provide the info you need to do your job and where you can go to get medical transcription training. You may have heard of medical transcription certification and not been sure if it's right for you. And finally, medical transcription job scams are prevalent, so knowing how to spot them is key to getting your career off to a great start.

Five References Every Medical Transcriptionist Needs

The following proven performers should be on your reference bookshelf as a medical transcriptionist. All of them are available in both print and electronic versions.

  • An illustrated medical dictionary — either Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary (published by Elsevier Saunders) or Stedman's Medical Dictionary (published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins)

  • The Book of Style for Medical Transcription (published by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity)

  • Stedman's Medical Abbreviations, Acronyms & Symbols (published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins)

  • Quick Look Drug Book (published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins)

  • Stedman's Medical & Surgical Equipment Words (published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins)

The choice between print and electronic is partly a matter of personal preference and partly a matter of value. From the value perspective, remember that medical transcriptionists are paid based on the number of lines transcribed, and time spent looking stuff up is time taken away from producing lines. Opting for a print version may be cheaper in the short term, but if the electronic version enables you to find answers twice as fast, it's earning money for you every time you use it. If it's a reference you'll use frequently, that can quickly add up to an amount that dwarfs whatever you may have saved initially by picking the paper edition.

Where to Get Medical Transcription Training

The two primary sources of medical transcription education are community colleges and online schools, and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Here’s how they compare:

Community College Strengths Community College Drawbacks
Tuition is affordable. You can’t proceed at your own pace.
The program comes with a fixed schedule to help keep you on track. You can enroll only at certain times of the year.
The program is operated by an accredited institution. You have to travel to the campus for most or all courses.
Community colleges often offer internship opportunities through relationships with employers. The admission process is more complex and stringent; it often includes submitting a high school transcript, among other steps.
You may be able to use federal financial aid programs to help fund your education.
Because you register and pay for semesters one at a time, there is less financial risk if you change your mind.
Online Medical Transcription School Strengths Online Medical Transcription School Drawbacks
You can study from anywhere you can access the Internet. They’re usually more expensive than community college programs.
You set your own study schedule and proceed at your own pace. You must be totally self-motivated and self-disciplined or you won’t finish.
You must exercise greater caution when selecting a school due to lack of accreditation.
Tuition is less likely to be eligible for federal financial aid programs.

Medical Transcription Certifications

You don't need a certification to become a medical transcriptionist, and potential employers won't hold it against you if you don't have one. The key to breaking in to a career as a medical transcriptionist is formal training, not certification. However, you may want to earn a certification anyway to give yourself an edge over non-certified individuals competing for the same position, or simply to challenge yourself and see if you can pass the certification exam.

There are only two recognized certifications for medical transcriptionists:

  • Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT): The RMT exam tests core medical transcription knowledge skills expected of entry-level MTs. This credential is the only one that is realistic for new graduates of medical transcription programs and fledgling medical transcriptionists with little or no work experience.

  • Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT): This certification is for medical transcriptionists with at least two years of experience in acute-care transcription or a multispecialty environment. It's not an entry-level credential.

Both of these credentials are offered exclusively through the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI). The only way to earn either one is to pass the exams administered by the AHDI.

If any other organization says it can make you a certified medical transcriptionist, run — don't walk — in the other direction.

Avoid Medical Transcriptionist Job Scams

Unscrupulous individuals launch scams to prey on people who want to become medical transcriptionists. Two especially prevalent schemes to watch out for are the following:

  • Medical transcription employment scams: The scammer offers to give you on-the-job training. All you have to do is buy their transcription software and/or work for them for free until you become skilled, and then they'll start paying you. The only problem is, nobody ever gets good enough to get paid. How they suck in victims: Through posting fake medical transcription "job openings" on job boards, luring unwary victims to contact them.

  • Medical transcription training scams: Either the school doesn't exist at all, or it's of such poor or limited quality that any certificate you obtain from it will be worthless. How they suck in victims: Through attractive websites, classified ads in print publications, or unsolicited e-mails offering to train you at home for "a lucrative career in medical transcription."

Protect yourself from these con artists by always doing your homework. Don't rely strictly on testimonials or references provided by the company you're researching — they might be planted. Instead, check independent sources such as online medical transcription community websites. MTDaily and the Medical Transcription Networking Corner on Facebook are good places to start your research.

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