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In the United States, it is required by law that all medical doctors keep records of all patient meetings and treatments. The doctor, however, has a busy schedule, and probably couldn't do their own record keeping even if they wanted to. So, the job falls to the Medical Transcriptionists.

Current information technology has made the job much easier. In the bad old days, doctors dictated to audio cassettes, which were then delivered to the medical transcriptionist to type. On a typewriter, of course. Now medical transcriptionists have Dictaphones, computers, servers, and other gadgets which increase productivity. When they aren't crashing.

Another nicety of the job are the doctors themselves. First, there are the residents. they are so nervous about their first real work, that their transcriptions are tedious. They go over every single little nit-picky detail at least 3 times. Then, there are the foriegners. Their accents are often so bad that dictation is nearly impossible - as much as half the document consists of blank spaces. But worse than them, are the lazy doctors. Most dictaphone systems require that the doctor input a number indicating the type of report. 100 for a H and P, 900 for emergency room reports, et cetera. Certain doctors cannot be bothered to type the right number; 000 and 999 are favorites.

The medical terminology itself is an adventure. There are homophones whose spelling can only be deduced by context; not being MDs, transcriptionists sometimes lack this context. For example, there's aphasia and aphagia; both are pronounced uh-FEY-shiuh; the former means inability to speak, the latter is the inability to swallow. Both involve the throat, so unless the doctor is specific about symptoms, the transcriptionist has to guess. Then there's Latin. Since no one really speaks it anymore, there are numerous mispronunciations for a single Latin term. Then, of course, there are the oddballs. Terms a transcriptionist has never heard, much less know how to spell. Time to hit the medical dictionary (and screw up your line count; another shining example of mutually exclusive goals) English is an especially fun language for this; the pronunciation of a word is often completely unrelated to is spelling, as in ptosed: it is pronounced "toast", and means prolapsed.

The job has its joys, however. The occasional gork manages to send the transcriptionists into titters. They all have their favorite stories, but you aren't allowed to name names.

My favorite: A patient with schizophrenia met with its psychologist. Its television spoke to it, telling the patient to kill itself, all the time. One day, the patient unplugged its television, in an attempt to silence the voices. They stopped. To reward itself, the patient went to the kitchen for a snack. The refrigerator started telling the patient to "plug the television back in".

did I mention I am not a medical transcriptionist?

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