Medical Transcription


This is a process whereby dictation from doctors and other healthcare providers is transcribed and formatted into a medical document. The dictation occurs after a patient has seen a physician and then he dictates the results of that visit. A medical transcriptionist (MT) listens to the dictation and translates into a word processor (such as WordPerfect or Word), or in some cases using a typewriter (very few, if any, still use typewriters now). Types of reports include history and physicals, consultations, clinical notes, psychiatric evaluations, discharge summaries, x-ray reports, laboratory / pathology reports, and emergency department records. This document then becomes part of a patient's medical record.

A medical transcriptionist can receive dictation several different ways. Sometimes tapes are used (micro, mini or regular sized) and can be played back on a transcriber machine with a foot pedal (which rewinds or forwards the dictation). Some doctors use a call-in digital system to do their dictation and then a transcriptionist uses a special phone (C-phone or similar) to call in and retrieve the dictation. Another method of receiving dictation is with use of voice files using a digital recorder and then the transcriptionist receives the voice files to transcribe.

A medical transcriptionist has to have excellent medical terminology skills, computer and word processing skills, excellent listening skills, and must have a good grasp of the English language as well as excellent grammar skills. Training includes medical terminology, diseases processes, systems review, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, legal issues / confidentiality guidelines, etc.

Medical transcriptionists can work in hospitals, medical clinics, physician offices, transcription services or at home. Most transcriptionists require anywhere from 2 to 5 years of MT experience working in a hospital setting / clinical setting before they can work at home. Starting off working from home can be done but it is very difficult and most hospitals / services prefer 2 to 5 years of MT experience.

What equipment is needed ?:

Medical transcriptionists need a computer to transcribe, to include a word processing program (usually WordPerfect or Word, although some companies have designed their own word processing program), headphones, wav player program, transcriber or special phone for call-in dictation, and resource books including medical dictionary, drug index, lab word book and other specialty books (ie pathology, cardiology, medical / surgical equipment, etc.). Also with use of a word processing program, a medical spell checker is a necessity. Some transcriptionist use short cut programs (to create abbreviations for longer words), which may include Instant Text, Speedtype, Shortcut or others.

How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist:

A transcriptionist can be trained on the job but it requires a lot of training, including medical terminology, computer skills, word processing skills, etc. Most transcriptionists are trained through smaller local colleges or on-line MT courses. Learning to become a medical transcriptionist takes a lot of time and is not something that can be learned over time. In fact, it is an ongoing learning experience as new drugs are always coming out, equipment changes, etc.

Recommended On-Line Training Courses:

Over the past 10 years, I have communicated and socialized with many MTs. Below I have listed some reputable on-line courses available for transcription training:


Career Step —

Andrews School —

There are many more training courses available and a lot of small colleges even offer MT training. Again, these are courses that have a good reputation by many MTs whom I have interacted with over the years.

Transcription Pay:

Transcriptionists can be paid different ways, by the line, by the page, by the hour, or salary. Most independent transcriptionists working at home are paid by the line or page. Most MTs working in the hospital are paid by the hour. Salaries can fluctuate depending on many variables. Independent transcriptionists sometimes make more because they are paid by the line and that with increased speed, they produce more lines, then more. However, independent transcriptionists have to pay all of their taxes. Transcriptionists can also be a statutory employee, which is basically an independent contractor except that the company pays a portion of the taxes.

Visit this link to get a general idea of ​​the pay scale for MTs:

Transcriptions do not start out making a lot of money as some advertisements suggest, especially if you are paid by the line. It takes time to learn terminology, get used to different dictators, and lots of time is spent researching. Transcriptionists have to be very disciplined due to the amount of time spent at the computer and because of deadlines for the work to be returned.

Basic Recommended Books for Medical Transcriptionists:

Medical Dictionary

Drug index (ie Quick Look Drug Book)

Abbreviation book

Pathology and Lab Word Book

Med / Surg Equipment Word Book

Where to Find Medical Transcription Jobs:


Medical Clinics

Physician Offices

Where to get books and equipment: — Books, transcribers, etc. — Books, spellcheckers, etc. — Wav players, foot pedals, etc.

For more information, please visit

Michelle Ooley