Time for medical transcriptionists to hang up their keyboards?

ctrl-shift-escapeLet me clarify that title: time for US-based medical transcriptionists to hang up their keyboards?

Some who seem to have found the few rays of sunshine still beaming down onto the medical transcription industry seem to have suddenly noticed that it’s dark in the room and the blinds are open – and joined me on the dark side to warn of the depressing downward spiral of medical transcription.

In a Facebook post on his Proud to Be a Medical Transcriptionist page, Jay Vance writes (in part – follow the link for the entire post):

We can debate and discuss the M*Modal layoffs specifically ad nauseum, but the bottom line is that MTs would be wise to begin casting a wider net with regard to their career future. And this is coming from someone who until recently was a diehard proponent of MT training for a career that still had some legs to it. I’m no longer comfortable with that position. My advice is to look at where the healthcare industry is going and where the demand for jobs is going to be in the next few years, and begin working in that direction.

I’m not happy about people who’ve previously insisted that medical transcription was still a viable career are finally beginning to see the writing on the wall. I’m as sad as Jay. I made good money working at home as an MT – but those days are long gone. I finally shut down my business in early 2008, primarily because all my clients either went to large companies or electronic medical records and I was left with a few doctors whose dictation was so awful it took me three times longer to transcribe their dictation, with no better dictators to offset the loss in production.

Since then, the number of MTs I see posting on Facebook and other forums about how they are making less and less money per hour, spending more and more time waiting for jobs to appear in their queue, and in general seeing the writing on the wall has grown larger and larger. Over the years, veterans have been maligned and told they’re just expecting too much, that the “good-old days” might have been better, but for people entering the field, it’s not so bad. I wonder how long those newbies worked making less than minimum wage before they finally realized the problem wasn’t just a comparison between the “good-old days” and the present reality.

I spent a lot of time learning MT. It wasn’t easy. It’s not an easy field to learn or to break into. And I feel that’s worth something. So if I compare making minimum wage as a medical transcriptionist versus making minimum wage as – say, a barista at Starbucks – I’ll choose the barista at Starbucks. Being a barista has few responsibilities, only a little training, and as long as you show up, you get paid. Being an MT, on the other hand, requires much, much more and there’s absolutely no guaranty that showing up will result in any activity that results in being paid. Soooo…. if I’m going to be paid the same amount for both jobs, I’ll take the one that didn’t require years of training and experience because I’m not going to give away my experience and training to someone who doesn’t appreciate it enough to compensate me adequately for it and treat me fairly.

And unfortunately, there is no Santa Claus, Virginia. Anyone who thinks this will all turn around just as soon as anyone whose opinion makes a difference suddenly and miraculously realizes there are errors in the records and it must be due to the fact that good-ole American MTs are no longer on the job is just deluding themselves. Turn off the sun lamp before you get badly burned; there is no comfort in false sunshine. The declining commitment to accuracy in written communications is evident everywhere. Professionals write their own letters (full of errors). Authors publish their own books, usually without any editing, and usually full of errors. Those of us who love punctuation in any form (including semicolons), well-constructed sentences, and know the difference between a possessive and a plural just cringe and cry. Everyone else just accepts it as a necessary evil of faster communication; unless, of course, they’re in the generation that just solves the problem by writing U R instead of trying to figure out if what they need is your or you’re. Doctors and hospitals are more than willing to accept a degradation in accuracy in exchange for records that are faster and cheaper. And I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the cheaper part of the equation.

Time to execute that escape plan, folks. It’s not going to get any better out there.

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14 thoughts on “Time for medical transcriptionists to hang up their keyboards?”

  1. Does anybody out there have any ideas for a transition to another line of work? Especially when a person is in their 50s or older, this can be difficult!

  2. Hi:

    I was recently laid off as a radiology transcriptionist down here in San Antonio, Texas. I was working for many hospitals down here for the past 30 years. I have not been able to find anything as everything has gone to other places which do not pay much to type for them. Also, the voice recognition system has also put a lot of people out of work down here also. Any advice or comments?


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