How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist
Transcriptionists listen to dictated recordings made by physicians and other healthcare professionals and transcribe them into medical reports, correspondence, and other administrative material.
Medical transcriptionists typically need postsecondary education. Some choose to become certified.
Employers prefer to hire transcriptionists who have completed postsecondary education in medical transcription, which is offered by vocational schools, community colleges, and distance-learning programs. Medical transcription programs are typically 1-year certificate programs, although there are also associate’s degree programs.
Programs normally include coursework in anatomy, medical terminology, risk management, legal issues relating to healthcare documentation, and English grammar and punctuation. Many of these programs include supervised on-the-job experience. Some transcriptionists, especially those already familiar with medical terminology from previous experience as a nursing assistant or medical secretary, become proficient through refresher courses and training.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although certification is not required, some medical transcriptionists choose to become certified. The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity offers the Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) and the Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS) certifications. Both certifications require passing an exam and periodic retesting or continuing education.
The RHDS certification, formerly known as the Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT), is for recent graduates with less than 2 years of experience and who work in a single specialty environment, such as a clinic or a doctor’s office.
The CHDS certification, formerly known as the Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT), is for transcriptionists who hold the RHDS designation. In addition, CHDS candidates must have at least 2 years of acute care experience, including experience handling dictation in various medical specialties.
To maintain certification, medical transcriptionists must complete continuing education requirements every 3 years.
Computer skills. Medical transcriptionists must be comfortable using computers and word-processing software, because those tools are an essential part of their jobs. They also may need to know how to operate electronic health records (EHR) systems.
Critical-thinking skills. Medical transcriptionists must assess medical reports and spot any inaccuracies and inconsistencies in finished drafts. They must also think critically when doing research to find the information that they need and to ensure that sources are both accurate and reliable.
Listening skills. Medical transcriptionists must listen carefully to dictation from physicians. They need to hear and interpret the intended meaning of the medical report.
Time-management skills. Because dictation must be done quickly, medical transcriptionists should be comfortable working under short deadlines.
Writing skills. Medical transcriptionists need a good understanding of the English language and grammar.