How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist in Washington

Medical transcriptionists are skilled typists who turn audio files into written reports for doctors’ offices and other healthcare facilities. If you have superior listening and word processing skills and an understanding of medical terminology, you should consider a career as a medical transcriptionist. The demand for medical transcriptionists isn’t as strong as it once was, but these highly trained specialists are still an integral part of the healthcare system and a necessity for many facilities.

Medical transcriptionists ensure that a doctor’s verbal exam notes, diagnostic tests and surgical records are written up quickly and accurately and added to the patient’s permanent medical record. They do more than just converting audio files to text, however. Medical transcriptionists translate medical jargon, acronyms and drug names in their reports and also look for inaccurate or missing information. You’ll find medical transcriptionists filling a vital role in doctor and dentist offices, hospitals and medical research facilities across Washington State.

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Requirements for Medical Transcriptionists in Washington

There are no regulations or license requirements for becoming a medical transcriptionist in Washington. Since these are skilled positions and require working with sensitive and personal patient information, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old and have your high school diploma or GED. You’ll likely have to submit to a background check, and most employers will also require you to pass a drug test.

There are several routes to becoming a medical transcriptionist. The easiest way to secure employment is to get your associate degree (AS) in medical information management or a related field to develop your skills in medical terminology and the writing styles used in various types of medical reports. Alternatively, if you have solid word processing skills and experience working as an audio transcriptionist or in a medical office, you could take a couple of short online courses in medical terminology and medical transcription before you transition into your new career path.

Professional Certification for Medical Transcriptionists

If you want to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate your skills to potential employers, you should consider getting professional certification as a medical transcriptionist through the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI). After you pass their multiple-choice exam and transcription tests, you’ll be granted certification for three years. You can maintain your certification beyond this period, but you’ll have to take a recertification course and pass the exam once again.

There are two levels of certification for medical transcriptionists through AHDI. If you have less than two years’ experience or work in a single-specialty environment, you’ll be eligible for certification as a Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS). More experienced transcriptionists and those working in a multiple-specialty facility can take the exam to become a Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS).

Educational Programs in Washington

There are currently no on-site programs for medical transcriptionists in the state of Washington that lead directly to an associate degree. You may be able to take a course in medical transcription as part of a wider healthcare-related associate degree program, however, and several schools offer online courses in medical terminology and transcription.

Some programs you might consider in Washington include:

  • Everett Community College (ECC). One of the few schools in Washington to have a dedicated program for Medical Transcriptionists and Editors (MT/MTE), you can complete this online 43-credit course and earn your certificate of completion in four quarters. You’ll learn the basics of human anatomy, physiology and disease processes, medical terminology, English grammar and medical writing, and get a lot of experience using audio equipment and speech recognition software. This AHDI-approved program will get you ready to pass the certification test for your RHDS, and the college offers job placement services to their graduates. Be aware that this program will cease accepting new students at the end of 2020.
  • Walla Walla Community College (WWCC). WWCC is one of the 34 schools that make up the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. Their AS degree program in Health Information Technology is ideal for future medical transcriptionists, since it covers topics such as medical terminology, writing and advanced word processing. Once you’ve completed your degree, you’ll just need to take an online class in medical transcription to be ready for an entry-level position.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were 1,190 medical transcriptionists working in Washington in 2018, and they made an average of $18.87 per hour or about $39,240 a year for full-time employment. This is higher than the national average of $16.72 per hour or $34,770 annually for this career.

Unfortunately, the field of medical transcription is shrinking as new technologies make the process faster and more automated. While medical transcriptionists in Washington State often earn more than the national average, it is projected that the number of new openings will continue to decrease by 9 percent by 2026.

The good news is that healthcare is a growing field in Washington, and new medical transcriptionists are still in demand locally, with approximately 140 job openings a year reported by Projections Central. You’ll also have the option of working remotely via the Internet if you choose that option.

Working as a Medical Transcriptionist in Washington

As technology continues to evolve, healthcare systems are undergoing rapid changes as they adopt new ways to efficiently update and maintain patient records. As a medical transcriptionist in Washington, you’ll be an important part of the team as more services go online and become integrated into computerized medical records. You may find work at a local clinic or hospital, or for an agency that specializes in medical information. Many medical transcriptionists work full-time, but this is a great career option if you value flexibility as well. The option to work remotely and on your own schedule also gives you the opportunity to apply for jobs anywhere in the country, so you’re not just limited to positions within Washington or neighboring states.