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Ten Keys to Career Success in Medical Transcription

Desire and determination underlie every successful medical transcription (MT) career, but it doesn’t hurt to have a few guiding principles handy too. Here are ten of them to help you build a satisfying and enduring career in medical transcription.

Use the right medical transcription tools

You wouldn’t try to mow a lawn with a pair of scissors. If you try to transcribe on a laptop at the dining room table with the Internet as your only reference, you’re pretty much attempting the same thing. You can equip yourself with the tools of the trade without breaking the bank.

A solid reference library and a well set-up work area aren’t “nice to have” — they’re required. The investment you make in them will pay off many times over.

If your budget is tight or you just enjoy being frugal, pick up as much as you can used from sources like Amazon.com and eBay. A drug reference such as the Quick Look Drug Book (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins) needs to be the latest version available. A medical dictionary, such as Stedman’s or Dorland’s, doesn’t have to be up to the minute to be incredibly useful, as long as it’s recent.

Craft a regular work routine and stick to it

The familiar saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” is right on the mark for home-based medical transcriptionists. Determine what your work schedule needs to be, and adhere to it just as if you were going to an office each day.

If you’re employment arrangement allows it, pick a structure and work hours that leverage your personal strengths. If you’re most productive first thing in the morning, start work at the crack of dawn. If you’re a night owl, schedule yourself to hit the keyboard when others are hitting the sack.

If you don’t want to or can’t complete your work in a single sitting, divide your workday hours into two sessions with a break in the middle. Whatever schedule you come up with, stick to it. This can require major self-discipline but brings multiple payoffs.

Become a master of faster

Love it or hate it, medical transcription is a pay-for-production proposition. You have to be quick and efficient to earn a living in this profession. To crack the upper echelons of medical transcriptionist income, you’ll need to be faster still, without sacrificing accuracy.

This isn’t just a matter of increasing your keyboarding speed, although that matters; it’s about employing proven techniques to elevate your production far above the simply fast fingered.

Mind your body in medical transcription

Take ergonomics seriously from day one; don’t wait until you start getting aches and pains from spending long hours at a desk. Although you can get away with ignoring ergonomics for a while, it will catch up with you.

At the very least, you’ll end up uncomfortable, but that can progress to a debilitating condition such as carpal tunnel syndrome that could put your medical transcriptionist career on hold or end it entirely.

Project professionalism

Don’t let a casual work environment trigger a casual attitude. Whether you’re wearing your pajamas and slippers or dressed to impress, be sure to don the hat of professionalism every day. As a remote worker, how you look is irrelevant, but how you come across in e-mail and phone calls becomes more important than ever.

Above all, be dependable and responsible, and always deliver work that you can take pride in.

Get a medical transcriptionist mentor

Support and advice from a trusted advisor is valuable in any profession. For medical transcriptionists who work independently, it’s a major leg up. Seek out an experienced medical transcriptionist who is willing to answer your questions and provide support and guidance.

The best way to find a mentor is to ask other medical transcriptionists you know and respect if they would be willing to serve as a mentor or can suggest a colleague. If you don’t know any working medical transcriptionists yet, seek out earlier graduates from the program you attended.

Tune in to the medical transcriptionist network

Working from home can be fantastically freeing, but at times it may leave you feeling isolated. If there is no co-worker beside you, who do you turn to for opinions on professional issues? How do you stay attuned to what’s happening in your field?

The answer to both questions is to join the vibrant online community of home-based medical transcriptionists. You’ll be able to meet other medical transcriptionists, learn about new references and resources, and keep abreast of industry news such as which companies are acquiring, hiring, or laying off.

Keep your work/life balance

Most people view their work schedules from the perspective of when they’ll work, not when they won’t. It’s more beneficial to instead look at it as both a framework to ensure you work and a container to keep work in its place.

With your office just a few steps away and the potential to earn more if you work more, that desk can pull on you like a magnet. If you’re not careful, one day you may wake up and realize you’re spending a lot more time there than you ever intended, and the rest of your life is paying the price.

Work will expand to fill all available time if you let it, and more. You won’t be happy, your family won’t be happy, and physical and mental burnout are likely imminent.

Don’t get sucked into a negativity vortex

It’s human nature to get frustrated with your job from time to time, no matter what it is. It’s also human nature to seek out confirmation and support when that happens. But what do you do if you work from home and there’s no one around to discuss it with?

A lot of people go to an online medical transcriptionist community and air their grievances there. People who are happy and doing well rarely go online and post about it, but for someone who is frustrated, discouraged, or lonely, the opportunity to complain publicly yet anonymously can be enormously attractive. As a result, negative opinions and events appear much more prevalent than they actually are.

Be adaptable, embrace change, nourish your career

Medical transcriptionists must continuously learn new terminology, new technologies, and new ways of working, something that most accomplish with pleasure and no small amount of pride. The pace of technological change has picked up considerably in recent years, and the changes are coming larger and faster.

If you’re going to surf instead of sink, start by sizing up the incoming wave and the angles you might take. Right now, that means keeping a close eye on the migration to electronic health records (EHR) and changes to healthcare documentation regulations, and envisioning your place within them.

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