Monday, October 6, 2008

Day Job

You asked for it, EtsyBloggers blog carnival! Time to talk about the day job. Actually, people are usually quite interested in what I do for a living -- medical transcription -- mainly because I have worked from home for the past 12 years (with a full time job break here and there, but I was still doing the transcription part time... can't resist the extra money). Everybody would love to work from home. Wouldn't they?

Well, I love it. I have juuuuust barely enough self-discipline to keep up with my work (I have to type whatever doctors dictate in a given day, whether it's a lot or a little). It's flexible, so I can cram in some jewelry making, rearrange work for weekday appointments, be there for my son's school events, decide on a whim to go for a hike in the middle of the day with my husband when he's off work... you get the idea. And if I can't sleep (which happens often), I can stumble in my jammies to the computer and get my work done at 3 a.m. because I know I'll be sleeping in the next day.

So, how did you get involved in this wonder of home labor, people ask me. I'm not much help there, I'm afraid. I'm a good speller, I bought a medical terminology book or three, I had a quasi-medical background in the veterinary field as vet tech, and my mom was doing it and had decided she was sick of it, so she taught me. Sat with me as I typed and whenever I was stumped on what a doc was saying (trust me, most of them do NOT speak carefully, and those are the ones whose primary language is English!), she'd help me out. After that, whenever I was stumped (which still happens 12 years later, but not that much), my really fantastic boss will listen to the tape and tell me what I'm hearing.

What exactly do you do? A doctor speaks into a machine that turns his babbling into a sound file. My boss emails me the sound file, which is basically a patient record, or sometimes letters to other doctors. I listen to it and type (all run through my computer, with a USB pedal that controls the playback -- in the old days we had a minicasette machine). I then email the completed medical document back to her, she double checks it and sends it back to the doctor's office. I've worked for my boss for 12 years and have met her face to face exactly once. I moved from Ohio to Tennessee and still work for the same company. How cool is that? Depends on how much of a people person you are, I suppose. I do sometimes miss the human contact.

So, how can YOU get into this field? First, caveat emptor. There are as many medical transcription scams out there as any other work at home deal. While I won't endorse anything as I have no experience with it, this website is a good place to start: and this course looked good enough to bookmark when I was interested in certification: Be prepared to pay for a course.

Are you cut out for this? Some considerations:
1) Are you a good speller? Good with words? Most medical words are combinations of latin and greek root words, so once you learn basic medical terminology it's pretty easy to put most things together, with some exceptions because, well, this is English.
2) Are you a fast typist? Most employers pay by the keystroke, which means the faster you type, the more you get paid by the hour. And if you're really fast, and you know how to maximize the AutoText in MS Word and other features of your WP program, you can make GOOD GOOD money for the time.
3) How self-disciplined are you? Working from home isn't easy. Your family might seem supportive now, but they know your work is flexible and they WILL ask you to drive crap they forgot to work/school, take them places, help with stuff.... even if they feel bad when you're still working at 9 p.m. You HAVE to learn to make work time work time (at least most of the time), stay OFF the phone (your friends will understand even less how valuable your time is), and say no sometimes. And sometimes the midmorning nap has to wait till you get work done (I know, sounds rough, doesn't it?). If you've got a toddler who isn't good at entertaining themselves for hours at a time (are any of them?), I'd recommend getting someone to watch them for a few hours a day anyway, either in family or out.
4) Got a hubby with a good job that provides health insurance? Cause I've never come across the work at home med trans opportunity that provides it. Sadly. Also, nearly all places have you working, not as an employee, but as an independent contractor. Translation: you are your own business, and therefore must pay both employer and employee taxes. Translation: tax time is a bitch. So being disciplined with sending in that quarterly tax money is a plus (haven't mastered this yet myself).
5) One caveat: with advancements in voice software, I have a little bit of concern about the future of my job, but since doctors, as previously mentioned, do not speak slowly and carefully, so far they have not been able to be trained to create medical records without a lackey to translate for them. This may change in the future though.

A few other recommendations, if you get into the field: Stedman's is your friend. Their medical spellchecker will save you HOURS of thumbing through books looking for a word. And I'd definitely say to get a Word Book on your particular field of medicine. Check and Amazon's used books, although I'd recommend getting the latest version of the spellchecker.

If you're REALLY interested and have questions, I'm open to emails from other Etsians (but not the world at large).

Can't think of much else at the moment. If you're not interested this'll probably have been an excruciatingly boring blog post, but I do get a lot of people asking questions, so there it is. Since I currently spend far more on chainmaille & wire wrapping supplies than I am making from it, I won't be quitting the day job any time soon!


Jen said...

Absolutely fascinating! I love learning about what other folks do. Thanks so much for sharing!

storybeader said...

wow - very information and good tips. I'd love to work from home, and I'm a good speller and have discipline - but I love my job, and my husband doesn't have insurance. Oh, and I'm not a great typist. I get by, though. Sounds like you found a good job for yourself...