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Medical Transcription Job Appeals To Rural Residents
by Dave Kolpack, AP


Medical Transcription Job Appeals To Rural Residents

WAHPETON, N.D. - Colleen Keller has been driving about 2 1/2 hours a day for the last nine months to learn how to transcribe medical reports. Her next commute should be down the hallway of her rural Gwinner home.

Keller is joining a growing number of rural North Dakota residents who are working from home on their computers. She's one of about 30 students enrolled in the one-year medical transcription program at North Dakota State College of Science.

"To be able to work for a big facility and stay in the rural area is a huge benefit," said Keller, 43.

Eide Bailly, an accountancy and consulting firm with offices in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Iowa and Arizona, has announced it will hire about 100 medical transcriptionists in the next year, and up to 300 in the next five years.

"There are so many people in small communities that are looking for opportunities like that," said Penny Fedje, director of the medical transcription program and NDSCS. "This is something that can keep younger people in the state."

Of the 15 transcriptionists working out of Eide Bailly's Minot office, nine of them live in rural areas or small towns, said site manager Ann Solberg.

"We're flexible with scheduling, which can be good for a farm family that may have chores or other work to do," Solberg said. "And someone with experience can make a pretty darn decent wage."

Patty Munro, 33, of rural Page, quit her job as an accountant in town to raise her children and help her husband on the farm. She decided to enroll in the NDSCS program after it was advertised as a well-kept secret.

"To be able to work from home and have the benefits and the pay I'm getting, I don't think I could be doing anything better," said Munro, who works for Fargo-based MeritCare.

Transcriptionists are paid on performance, but most earn between $17,000 and $22,000 a year, an NDSCS report said. Top workers can make more than $20 an hour, Solberg said.

Vicki Brakke works as a transcriptionist near Aneta, where her husband is a farmer. She packs up her computer before Thanksgiving and moves to the Seattle area, where they spend winters.

"I just take the job along," Brakke said. "I love telecommuting. It's really the ideal job for people who live in rural areas."

Medical transcriptionists listen to dictated recordings by physicians and other health care professionals and transcribe them into documents. It requires an understanding of medical technology, anatomy, procedures and treatment.

"Medical is its own language altogether," Fedje said.

Transcriptionists must achieve a 98 percent accuracy rate, Keller said.

"That's not much room for error," she said. "That's good, because it needs to be correct, but it does put a lot of pressure on you initially."

About 75 students have completed the NDSCS program since it began in 2000. Eide Bailly recently gave the college hardware and software to help with the training, which also is available through the Internet, Fedje said.

Not all graduates of the program are qualified to work from home, Fedje said. Some students are required to work on site for six months to a year, depending on ability.

"I really enjoy typing and I think it's a career where you're always learning new things," said Jessica Kubischta, 20, from Dickinson, who's set to graduate. "And being able to eventually work from home is a good deal, too."

Reprinted from Article by Dave Kolpack, AP.

Medical Billing, Medical Transcription Related

by Dave Kolpack, AP:
Dave Kolpack, now the Associated Press correspondent in Fargo, was a Forum sports correspondent in Grand Forks while he was attending the University of North Dakota from 1978 to 1982. He was a reporter for the Watertown (S.D.) Public Opinion from 1982 to 1984, covered sports for the Bismarck (N.D.) Tribune from 1984 to 1989, then joined The Forum, covering sports and other news until 2002, when he joined the AP in Bismarck. He became the AP correspondent in Fargo in 2003; his office is in The Forum building.

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