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Medical transcriptionist shows no tedium in book

If you think being a medical transcriptionist is a methodical, tedious and dull way to make a living, you haven’t read Sara Burns’ book.

“You’re A Medical What?!,” is now available at area book stores, and no, she didn’t publish it herself.

“Self-published books don’t hold near the seriousness of other books; I managed to land a publisher,” which is in Oregon.



The book outlines Burns’ 30-plus years of typing up medical records for doctors. Some of those doctors unknowingly added dreaded background noise to their dictations with parrots on their shoulders or while wives were doing dishes in the background.

The physicians she worked with run the gamut of society.




“There are the curmudgeons and the sweethearts; the perfectionists; the ‘regular guys’ and the prima donnas; the tyrants and the pussycats;” Burns writes in Chapter 9.

Now semi-retired and living near Nevada City with a few local accounts, Burns said she made $40,000 to $50,000 a year as a hospital-based transcriptionist in Los Angeles.

Being an independent contractor was when Burns really enjoyed her job, although the pay dipped to about $35,000 with job expenses.

“I got to stay at home and work there, which is what I always wanted to do,” Burns said. It has its advantages, you can work at your own pace, you don’t have to get all dressed up, you don’t have to drive anywhere and you don’t have to put up with a boss.”

Admittedly, there are also disadvantages to being an independent transcriptionist, Burns said.

“It’s hard to get away and find time for a vacation,” she said. “You have to be a self-starter, no one will tell you to get the work done.”

The transcriptionist got an associate degree from a Southern California community college and says that’s the best way to go for those contemplating the profession.

“The ones on TV offer you a six-month program but you’re not ready,” Burns said. “That’s not enough time to learn the craft. You need two solid years of training and you must work in a hospital or clinic to get experience.”

Medical transcriptionists can work anywhere in the world because of telecommunications and numerous organizations that know about jobs, Burns said.

“It’s a solid career and wonderful for stay-at-home moms,” Burns said.

The industry is changing somewhat with voice recognition computers and templates for reports turning transcriptionists into editors, Burns said.

Like many other U.S. businesses, medical transcription work is being outsourced to other countries, but many customers have returned to American contractors because of quality issues, Burns said.

“We are still very much in demand.”

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To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

Finding Sara Burns’ book

“You’re a Medical What?!, by Sara Burns is available at Harmony Books in Nevada City and The Book Seller in Grass Valley.

It will soon be at the Sierra College book store on the Grass Valley campus and is already in the library there.

You can also get a copy by calling Burns at 265-2488.


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