Medical transcriptionists are responsible for transcribing recordings of medical reports to make computerized documents, editing as needed for clarity, for proper medical terminology and for grammatical accuracy. The reports typically describe patient condition and medical procedures and are usually dictated by physicians and other health care professionals onto tape or digital voice files. This document is returned to the health care provider who dictated it and, after approval, becomes part of the patient's official medical record.
Day in the Life of a Medical Transcriptionist
As patients, most of us interact primarily with doctors, nurses and medical secretaries. But there are many other people working critical jobs behind the scenes in the health care system. Medical transcriptionists (also called MTs) are among these people, as they play a pivotal role in patient care by creating a written record of doctor/patient interactions.
After seeing a patient, a doctor dictates a description of the interaction and sends the recording to an MT, who then listens and transcribes what the doctor has said. In this process, the MT calls upon her training in medical terminology and health care practices to interpret abbreviations, and to catch and correct errors in the doctor's audio report.
This document is then returned to the doctor (or another health care provider who dictated it) and, after being approved, it is considered a part of the patient's official medical record.
Medical transcriptionists can be found working in hospitals, private doctors' offices, labs, outpatient clinics and residential care centers. Some MTs work on a freelance basis or are contract employees for medical transcription companies; these MTs often work from home.
Important Characteristics for a Medical Transcriptionist
To be successful as a medical transcriptionist, an applicant should have excellent hearing, a firm grasp of grammar and the English language, knowledge of medical jargon and a working proficiency with computers and applicable software. An MT should also be scrupulous, detail-oriented and exercise good judgment.
There are no strict medical transcriptionist education requirements, but most MTs choose to earn an associate degree or a certificate in medical transcription. Medical transcription training programs are available at community colleges and vocational schools, and as distance learning programs. Be sure to choose a school accredited by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI). Medical transcriptionist programs typically last one year and often include hands-on training.
An alternative to earning an associate degree is to pursue an apprenticeship program offered by the Medical Transcription Industry Association, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor. Candidates must have graduated from an ACCP-approved program and have earned the RMT credential (see below). The apprenticeship offers a structured form of on-the-job learning and technical instruction.
Certification is not required to work as an MT, but many employers prefer to hire candidates who have been certified in medical transcription. The Approval Committee for Certificate Programs, established jointly by the AHDI and the American Health Information Management Association, offers two voluntary designations for MTs:
- Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT) — MTs with fewer than two years of experience in acute care or who have just graduated from an MT program are eligible for this designation. The RMT makes you eligible for a Registered Apprenticeship Program (see above).
- Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT) — MTs with more than two years of acute care experience are eligible for the CMT. Earning this certification may help you position yourself to take on more complex assignments and train other MTs.
- Be tech-savvy. Technology plays a large role in the medical field, and it is ever-evolving. Keeping up with the latest technology may provide greater job security as time goes on.
- Upgrade your certification. As soon as you are eligible, consider taking your career to the next level by passing a test to become a Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT).
- Medical Transcriptionists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
- Summary Report for Medical Transcriptionists, O*NET OnLine, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/31-9094.00, accessed September 2017