Patricia Donmall is Cape Town based medical transcriptionist (MT) that has been working in the field since 2002 when she started working for an American based company.
1. In your own words, could you give us a brief breakdown of what MT is?
An MT is in essence a medical language specialist who takes the dictations of patient/doctor encounters (be it surgery, x-rays, general check-ups, etc) and translates them into an accurate physical record.
2. Tell us something about your background and how you got into MT?
I’ve always worked in the administrative field and thoroughly enjoyed it. In 2002, I was retrenched from an Investment Company and was applying for jobs in the paper as I had a son to support. Having applied for the job, I was called for an interview, did a short typing/medical test. I was offered the job within an hour of my interview.
Due to personal reasons at the time I was very keen and glad that I had the opportunity to work for the company at that time.
3. How many years have you been in the field?
I’ve been working as an MT for almost 7 years now and loving every minute of it.
4. What specific field of MT are you in?
I don’t have any one specialty that I work with. My usual day compromises of a combination of the following: orthopaedics, OB/GYN, ENT, Physical Therapy/Rehabilitation, and Renal. I have also typed cardiology, oncology, general medicine, and a variety of others.
5. What specific field would it be good for newbie MTs to get into today?
Orthopaedics is generally considered to be one of the easiest specialties to work with, but from my personal experience I would say that there is no one “easy” field. There are how ever easy and bad dictators.
6. Do you have any advice for newbie MTs starting out today?
You need to have a love of learning to be an MT. The medical field changes and advances so fast, that you will often come across terms that refer to new procedures, drugs etc. Also be prepared that no matter what your experience there is going to be a learning curve to get into full swing in the job. Even an experienced MT when starting with a new company/dictator will have to go through the learning curve to get up to full speed.
7. What courses did you study?
I have no formal training as an MT. The American company I started working for in 2002 provided in-house training for new MTs. For me this was a two week period. After that I started typing what is called “live” work and have learnt everything else since then on the job, on the fly. I am lucky that I work with an incredibly experienced MT in America who I can call on for help and assistance when I have a problem.
8. Did you find it easy to break into the field after you’d completed your studies?
Not having had any formal training, I can’t answer this question personally but generally I think it is fairly easy for MTs to get their foot in the door.
9. What are the pros and cons about being an MT in South Africa today?
The main con about working as an MT in South Africa is that a lot of the doctors in South Africa, are either currently unaware of the availability of MTs to outsource their work to or are concerned about confidentiality and have the work done in house by their receptionists.
Also a lot of the doctors in South Africa have not yet moved towards digital recording yet and are still using analogue dictaphones. This by necessity requires the MT to be fairly near to the doctor to be able to offer a fairly quick turn around time.
The pros are that as an up and coming field in South Africa, it is great to talk to people/doctors who do not know of the career and that I can actively promote the benefits of outsourcing the work.
10. What are the benefits to an MT of belonging to a group like TAVASA?
While MTs are very common in the US and to a certain extent in the UK, they are not that many in SA, and most of those don’t actually work independently but rather work for either American or UK based companies.
I therefore find the camaraderie and friendship of TAVASA a great help to me.
11. Do you have anything else you would like to add?
It is a really interesting and exciting career to have provided you have the diligence to sit and work when the work is in, and that you have a great love of learning.