Medical Transcription Field Follows Military Spouse Moves

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 22, 2007 - The Defense Department is partnering with the Department of Labor and private-sector health care associations to promote the medical transcription field as an ideal career choice for spouses who make frequent moves with their military mates.

"Collectively, we see medical transcription as an important career option for thousands of military spouses nationwide," Leslye A. Arsht, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy, told about 100 Florida-based military spouses and other attendees at a medical transcription association-hosted seminar held in Jacksonville, Fla., yesterday.

The new initiative is titled, "Mission Medical Transcription: A Career That Moves With You."

Medical transcription specialists translate and transcribe patient medical records, including diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and outcomes, from oral to written form on paper or electronically, according to the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity, formerly the American Association for Medical Transcription.

"We see medical transcription as a natural career choice for a mobile military lifestyle," Arsht said. "Military spouses can live, learn, work and serve clients in multiple states, making this career a great match for the military spouse on the move."

The AHDI and the Medical Transcription Industry Association are partnering with the defense and labor departments to promote medical transcription as a viable career for military spouses who make frequent moves, Arsht said.

The two associations "have realized the talent available in our military spouses and are one of the first industries to reach out to our talented community," Arsht said. "We are moving forward and are eager to forge this new path together."

More than half of today's 1.3 million active-duty servicemembers are married, Arsht remarked, noting that 70 percent of the about 750,000 military spouses are in the work force.

"These spouses represent a significant, young, diverse and well-educated component of America's labor force," she said.

Nevertheless, many stateside-based military spouses live in areas with scant employment opportunities, Arsht said. Job opportunities for spouses living overseas are often more limited still, she said, due to language differences and agreements with host countries that limit employment on the local economy.

The key element limiting good employment opportunities for military spouses, however, "is the frequent relocation required by the active-duty spouse's military mission," Arsht pointed out. Therefore, she said, military spouses require skilled career opportunities that are in demand and are portable.

The medical transcription field fits that need, she said.

"It's a match that makes sense," Arsht said. The Defense Department has a young, talented pool of military spouses seeking careers that dovetail with their unique, mobile lives, she said, and the medical transcription career field needs such talent.

"Our spouses have been telling us for some time that they desire a career that fits with their mobile military lifestyle," Arsht said. The AHDI has received e-mails from more than 2,000 military spouses who have indicated interest in learning more about the medical transcription career field, she noted.

"When I initially started pursuing this career, I did not realize how perfectly it would fit into my lifestyle," Debbie Kean, a Marine Corps spouse, stated in an article she wrote for the February issue of the Journal of the American Association for Medical Transcription.

Kean recommends medical transcription as an ideal career choice for military spouses, citing its work-at-home aspects, as well as providing the ability to budget her time throughout the day to attend to her children and other needs. Medical transcription companies often provide employees a 12-hour window to complete their daily allotment of work, she explained.

The average cost of medical transcription training is about $3,000, including tuition and books, for the typical 18-month program, Arsht said. Compensation for certified transcription specialists ranges from $11 to $19 an hour, she said, noting the pay is based on productivity.

Graduates of selected medical transcription training programs who earn the registered medical transcription credential are eligible to participate in the Labor Department's approved registered apprenticeship program, Arsht said.

Additionally, the two associations "will assist military spouses in transitioning from school to work by linking them up with employers participating in the apprenticeship program," Arsht said.

She said a number of schools, including Central Texas College, offer financial support or discounts for military spouses taking medical transcription training.

"We appreciate that nine schools are making training, scholarships and employment immediately available," Arsht said.

The medical transcription career field is expanding, Arsht pointed out, as federal government and private-sector health care providers work to replace all paper-based medical records with more accurate and efficient electronic versions. Labor Department statistics indicate that the need for medical transcription specialists is projected to be strong through 2014, she said.

"As our nation looks to making the electronic health record a reality for all patients, medical transcription will grow in demand," Arsht predicted.

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