The Perfect Medical Transcriptionist

The Perfect Medical Transcriptionist

by: Margery Hinman

As a medical language specialist, we are responsible for the accuracy and professionalism of the patient’s medical report. Is there such a thing as the perfect MT? I say there is, and as an owner of a several successful MT businesses, I can tell you exactly what employers like me are looking for.
When thinking of the perfect MT (medical transcriptionist) several things come to mind. First the MT should have the necessary medical knowledge needed to make sound judgment calls when the dictator misspeaks or gives a wrong word accidentally. A good transcriptionist knows the difference between aphasia and aphagia and when to use which term. In addition, many times the physician will dictate a surgery note on the right foot when, in the last sentence, accidentally says left foot. A good medical transcriptionist has been trained to catch that.
Good medical knowledge starts with a top rate MT school and the learning continues throughout the career of the MT. (That’s why experienced MTs are usually preferred over new graduates, except in certain cases.) The transcriptionist should understand the physiology of the human body and know why body systems work the way they do. They must know the drug names, dosages, and usages for hundreds of medications. They will know when the drug is dictated as 50 mg that it is actually in 15 mg because 50 mg would be an overdose. They must know lab normals so as not to put a ridiculous number when this is what they “hear” the dictator saying. This is all necessary not only for the accuracy of the report, but ultimately for the safety of the patient whose report is being transcribed.
The perfect MT should have an excellent command of the English language. Not only must we know grammar and punctuation, but also our spelling should be exact. As healthcare becomes more and more competitive in today’s world, the professionalism of reports is paramount in the specialist’s mind as he endeavors to impress his colleagues with prompt, professional consultation reports. A report with no punctuation, spelling, or grammatical errors goes a long way in differentiating an excellent MT from an average one.
Now, for the remainder of the qualities of the perfect MT, put yourself in the service owner’s shoes. What other attributes would you, as an owner, need from your people in order to make your business successful? It’s a well-known fact that in addition to top-notch medical anatomy, physiology and terminology training, the perfect MT should have certain characteristics which cannot be learned. This being said, however, these characteristics are vital to the success of the transcription service and the transcriptionist’s career.
The first characteristic which comes to mind is dependability – old fashioned reliability. A good transcriptionist does what he/she says and says what he/she does. It does no good to hire an employee who comes from the best online school with a 4.0 grade average and perfect punctuation and grammar skills, if the employee does not turn her work in on time. Dependability is, in fact, so important that it is the #1 thing that service owners look for in a subcontractor or employee. I cannot tell you the number of times I have had a subcontractor take 2 hours’ worth of dictation, only to find that barely 20 minutes of the work was actually transcribed. This obviously leaves the service owner to scramble to get the work done urgently by another subcontractor (who already has their work for the day) and to have to explain to the client why the work was not turned in on time as promised. (Good communication requirements on the part of the service play a big part in solving these issues.) This affects the reputation of the service and could ultimately cost the service the contract.
In severe cases or in cases of contractual obligation, the client must be given a discount on the work that is late, leaving the service owner with little to no profit for that day’s work and, more than likely, costing them money in the long run since the discount was in excess of the profit the owner would have made for the day. Therefore, a transcriptionist that keeps her word is worth her weight in gold.
Another characteristic equally important is that of attitude, yet another attribute that cannot be learned. How much more pleasant is it to work for someone who is appreciative of you, or even neutral, compared to someone that constantly complains, nitpicks, and whines? While transcriptionists are looking for good employers, good employers are also looking for transcriptionists with these attributes. A good attitude for an MT would consist of not complaining when the doctor dictates an extra few reports for the day (flexibility on the part of the transcriptionist), going the extra mile when the dictator asks for format changes (patience), and keeping the service informed of specific requests the dictator asks for (conscientiousness). A good transcriptionist will stay on an account for an extra few days after notice has been given, rather than leaving the service owner high and dry without someone on the account. A good transcriptionist will take constructive critique in a good manner and leave her ego behind. A good transcriptionist, therefore, works together with the service owner in almost what could be construed as a “partnership,” where each party does his best to help the other achieve their mutual goals. In this case, both the transcriptionist and the service owner work in synchronicity to serve the client, which ultimately serves the patient himself.
Another characteristic that comes to mind in a great transcriptionist is that of willingness to take on more than is necessary. So many times, employees will say something to the effect of “that’s not my job.” A great transcriptionist will gladly jump in and do what is necessary to get the job done. Although not mandatory to do more than promised, service owners know that being able to call on someone who will help them in a pinch makes the MT more valuable than a co-worker who will not.
Of course, good transcription service owners realize that perfect MTs don’t grow on trees. If you do your job well and have the characteristics mentioned above, you should expect top pay in your profession as well as a pleasant work environment. For the at-home transcriptionist, a pleasant work environment, in my opinion, would consist of few, if any, interruptions from the service owner, consistent work from the service (so as to guarantee a paycheck), and protection from cherrypickers (finicky transcriptionists who take the best work and skip over the harder, more difficult work.) I can think of at least a dozen more attributes that the service owner should possess, but that is best explained fully in a separate article.
The bottom line is…in order to become more valuable to your employer (more valuable = better compensation,) begin to think like an owner. If you see an opportunity for improvement, mention it. If you can help out in emergencies, do so. Above all, never forget that a perfect transcriptionist begins with the proper training. Adhering to these recommendations will ensure a transcriptionist that is happy, productive, and is making the income she deserves.

About The Author

Margery Hinman, CMT, is owner and Director of Education for MT Advantage Career Center, a comprehensive, online, advanced medical transcription training program. With over 20 years in the transcription industry, Margery owns a number of transcription services and has mentored and trained hundreds of students in the field of transcription. She has taught medical transcription at Tidewater Community College and has authored and published the MT Advantage Career Center curriculum as well as other numerous articles throughout the years. For a free e-book on medical transcription please visit You can reach Margery at
Copyright 2005 Margery Hinman, CMT

This article was posted on April 01, 2005