As the health information industry evolves, we’re all looking ahead to the changes that are coming; Natural Language Processing, EHRs and speech rec are already here, but they haven’t yet changed the way we all do business on a daily basis.
For transcription teacher Paula Goode, the changes just over the horizon bring to mind the industry’s last big change.
Paula began teaching medical transcription full-time at Sheridan Technical Center in Florida (part of the Broward County School System) 8 years ago. Four years ago, everything changed when she switched from a classroom format to online classes.
The difference between in-person classes and virtual classes is dramatic, she said, with each having its good points and bad.
For one thing, it was easier to help students when they were sitting in a classroom.
“If a student was struggling, I could immediately walk over with a reference book and show them how to use it,” she said. “I could make a difference immediately.”
The downside, of course, was wasted time.
“There’s a lot of stagnant time because they’re transcribing and you’re watching people type,” she said.
There was another more serious problem as well: transcription careers appeal to people who can’t schedule be-in-the-office-at-the-same-time-every-day jobs. Requiring students to be in the classroom at the same time every day eliminates a lot of people who would otherwise make good MTs. That’s particularly true because transcriptionists tend to be women and women tend to carry more of a family’s childcare responsibilities.
“If you have to be at my school at 7 a.m., how are you going to get the children to school at 8 a.m.?” Paula asked. “That was an issue for a lot of prospective students.”
Switching to an online format helped there.
It also had another benefit:
Transcription is a self-motivated and self-paced job. In an online classroom, students discover more quickly whether they are suited for that type of work-from-home career.
“In our specific career, working independently is so important,” Paula said. “When you’re taking classes on your own time, there’s no one to tell you ‘put that book away,’ or ‘stop playing on the Internet.’ You learn that discipline on your own.”
Sheridan’s transcription classes are 11 months long and Puala said she can usually tell by three months which students will be good independent workers.
“The number of emailed questions and the amount of hand-holding goes down tremendously,” she said.
Of course gaining independence also requires some guidelines from the teacher.
Paula said she gives her students an analogy: “If you are going to go to school in the morning but your car won’t start, you don’t call your teacher to fix it, you call a mechanic. If you sit down to transcribe and your computer won’t start, don’t call your teacher to fix it, call a computer technician.”
Those lessons carry over well to the business world in an industry where most MTs work from home.
“Of course I still miss the interaction,” Paula said. “I get to see them only once a week when the students who live close by come in for an in-person session.”
Overall though, Paula said the transition has been smooth.
And now she’s preparing for the next big change – the move to speech recognition.
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