In a previous article, we explored some of the variables that can affect a medical transcriptionist’s or editor’s paycheck because, let’s face it, whether we’re working to pay bills or working to have a little something set aside for a rainy day, money matters. We took a look at hourly wage, production pay, shifts and flexibility, and so on in hopes of providing enough information to help you make an informed decision, but sometimes you can carefully select what you think will be the highest paying job only to find yourself making peanuts, quickly becoming discouraged. You might start to consider leaving the field for greener pastures when really all that’s needed is a bit more time for the grass to grow.
There are some main hurdles transcriptionists and editors alike often run into when first starting out. If you become aware of these hurdles before your first day of work, you won’t have to deal with the element of surprise and can devise a plan as to how you can tackle these hurdles head-on.
Even if you have complete confidence in your abilities, your new employer probably won’t. Because they have a limited number of staff who can assist you and edit your work, be prepared for restrictions to be put on the amount of work you’re allowed to do or the number of dictators or accounts assigned to you. For example, a company might start new transcriptionists out with a maximum of 5 reports per day. If those reports average 60 lines each, you might be able to enjoy a nice juicy hamburger with your first paycheck and not much else. Knowing the policy of the company you will be working for before that first day of work will allow you to plan your finances accordingly.
If you find they do have restrictions for newbies, inquire as to what the requirements are in order for those restrictions to be lifted. You might need to work for a certain number of days or weeks, or you might need to reach a certain level of accuracy. Knowing what the requirements are will help you set goals to achieve them, even if the goal is simply to be patient long enough to make it to the end of a 2-week trial period before restrictions can be lifted.
All transcription companies have a pool of dictation ready to be transcribed or edited; it’s just a matter of whether or not you can see it and how it’s controlled. A handful of companies have what I call a free-for-all style, allowing all transcriptionists and editors assigned to the account grab whatever work they want and however much work they please. This is rare because it often causes problems with meeting turn-around-times, playing favorites, and hoarding work. Most companies will either have what I call a regulated pool or a behind-the-scenes pool. A regulated pool is visible to everyone assigned to the account but it has regulations that must be followed when selecting work, such as how many dictations you can select at a time and how long those dictations can be in your possession before they must be completed. As you can guess, a behind-the-scenes pool would be one you can’t see. When the dictation is ready to be worked, the powers-that-be divide the work up so that transcriptionists and editors can only see the work that has been assigned to them. Once they’ve completed their work, they might be able to request additional work but are at the mercy of those assigning it out.
You might be wondering what dictation pools have to do with your paycheck. Depending on the company, it could be very little. They might have ample work that is made available to their transcriptionists and editors in a very timely fashion so that workflow seems seamless. On the other hand, regulated pools that aren’t properly regulated can result in cherry-picking that is obvious and frustrating to those who play by the rules (and you should always play by the rules in this regard, even though it can be very tempting at times not to) and behind-the-scene pools that aren’t checked on enough can leave work building up, causing it to come in waves of not-enough-work and too-much-work (I guess at that point you could call it a wave pool).
Workflow can significantly affect your paycheck. If you experience chronic workflow problems, don’t just vent and fume about it but find out why. It could be there just isn’t very much work available during your preferred shift, or it could be too many transcriptionists and editors have been assigned to an account. For the most part, companies should be able to rectify the problem providing the problem is brought to their attention.
You have likely played a game at some point in your life that was so simple to learn you almost didn’t even need instructions in order to play. Some accounts are like that and it’s a pretty sweet deal when they are. Being able to just hit the ground running with simple instructions to transcribe or edit essentially verbatim and change only what is absolutely necessary for correct grammar and punctuation can be rather liberating. But have you ever played a game that is so complicated you find yourself re-reading the instructions every time you play and dreading having to teach someone who’s never played it before? There are accounts like that as well. It is not unheard of for an account to come with 30-plus pages of instructions or even for individual dictators on an account to have their own specific way of doing things. Don’t just read these account instructions—memorize them. Of course, don’t try to tackle it all at once; make small goals so that over time you make progress with learning the instructions. If you allow yourself to rely on the instructions all the time, your brain will never realize a need to remember them and you will lose valuable production time as you flip through their pages when you could be transcribing or editing.
Hurdles are meant to be jumped over, not run through, but if you are distracted by your surroundings—and as a new transcriptionist or editor, you probably will be—you won’t realize a hurdle is there until you’ve gotten yourself tangled up in it. There are more hurdles ahead than the ones mentioned here, so be sure to check back for upcoming articles that will help you navigate the course!