Vol. 16 •Issue 14 • Page 18
The Apprentice Medical Transcription’s Big Summer Hit!
An apprentice program for MTs could impact the crippling labor shortage felt nationwide.
NBC’s hit reality show “The Apprentice” focuses on one thing: money and who’s best suited to make the most of the “mean green” for host Donald Trump.
An apprentice program in medical transcription won’t exactly focus on money (i.e., salaries), but it will establish who’s best suited to be hired as a qualified MT.
ADVANCE received positive reactions from our readers interested in learning more about the program and who are excited about its possibilities, so it seems the MT apprentice program has the potential to become a hit!
The American Association for Medical Transcription (AAMT), the Medical Transcription Industry Association (MTIA), and the Department of Labor (DOL) are backing this effort.
But what does the new apprentice program mean for MTs and the future of the profession? And how did this idea come to fruition?
How It All Started
Peter Preziosi, PhD, CAE, executive director, AAMT, recalled that the original idea for the program was conceived at an AAMT Educator’s Summit held in Nashville, TN, in April 2004.
P.J. Posey, CMT, transcription coordinator, El Centro College, Dallas, and chair, MTIA workforce development, concurred and explained Pat Forbis, CMT, discussed the medical transcription industry’s struggle to find jobs for new grads when 2-3 years’ experience is required. “[Forbis] stated that it would be helpful to have an apprentice-ship/internship program for MTs,” Posey recalled.
“And this idea compelled educators and business owners to consider ways to correct this issue,” related Preziosi.
So the motivation behind the new MT apprentice program originated with the educators, who are always looking out for the best interest of their medical transcription students.
One “way” AAMT decided to move forward was by creating an externship program. As an educator for the last 9 years, Posey is passionate about helping her students find appropriate jobs, so she chaired AAMT’s externship committee. The committee came up with a model, but didn’t get further than that. “We worked on it and refined it as much as we could, but in April 2005 it just didn’t go any further,” Posey explained. “We didn’t have a way to administer such a program and that’s where it got stuck.”
During that year, Posey realized that a lot of companies were doing externship/apprenticeship programs in-house to train their own employees. She also found, by speaking to various health care facilities and medical transcription companies, offshore outsourcing wasn’t only used for cost savings, it was used because there weren’t enough qualified MTs to fill the positions. “I was surprised when employers would say they had openings for 50 or more MTs, and I knew something had to be done,” she explained.
At AAMT’s 2005 annual conference in Hawaii, Posey spoke to several employers about the externship program, including Keith Flannery, Medware Inc., vice president of MTIA. “I spoke to [Posey] about Medware’s attempt to solve their recruiting and labor shortages individually by offering training programs within our company,” Flannery explained. “But to make a real impact that could potentially make great strides in solving the labor shortage for the entire industry, this issue needed the participation of the associations that represent the industry.”
Posey couldn’t have agreed more, and finally after reaching many dead ends due to local limitations within her state and community college, she reached out to the DOL’s Federal Bureau of Apprenticeship Training (BAT) and connected with her state’s representative Kathryn Erdmann.
Together AAMT, MTIA and the DOL set out to establish medical transcription as a registered apprenticeship program, which means the occupation will be recognized nationwide; there are no boundaries.
“Apprenticeships are a way of standardizing training on a national basis and establishing a nationwide pool of reliably qualified people, as opposed to the chaos we have now in medical transcription,” explained Rebecca A. McSwain, PhD, CMT, medical transcription consultant for a national staffing service.
Erdmann helped with the various steps needed to get started.
First, the two organizations had to make medical transcription an apprentice occupation. Medical transcription already had the required O*NET code (a job code), so the next step was to answer four questions:
1) Does it involve technical skills?
2) Can it be learned in a practical way and in the same manner?
3) Does it require related instruction as a supplement to on-the-job training?
4) Is it clearly identified and recognized throughout the industry?
And clearly, the medical transcription profession can answer “yes” to all the questions, so the answers were handed in, and the occupation became an eligible apprenticeship on March 7, 2006.
“I was so excited; we were finally making progress!” Posey stated.
The following step was actually determining the program. There were a lot of areas to consider, Posey explained. There are 22 standards under the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR Title 29, Part 29) an apprentice program must meet (for the complete list visit www.advanceweb.com/him), so the two organizations made sure to meet the various requirements. During this time, MTIA was named the sponsor of the program because of its association with employers. “The employers will be the ones benefiting from this program and because MTIA is the industry association for employers, it only made sense for them to sponsor the effort,” Posey explained.
Flannery agreed, “The apprenticeship program is a demand-driven program and the sponsor must be thoroughly aware of those ever-changing demands and must have input into the standards and training of MTs,” he stated.
On May 31, the national standards were submitted to the DOL, and now AAMT and MTIA are waiting to hear back.
Some of the Specifics
The plan is for the apprentice program to start accepting applications this fall. Part of the minimum qualifications required relies on AAMT standards and credentialing. Students must complete an approved medical transcription program and pass the registered medical transcription (RMT) exam to be eligible for acceptance.
“Ellen Drake is our director of education and credentialing, and she’s heading up the development of the exam. We’re in the beta phase right now,” Preziosi explained. “We’re looking at an official launch date of September 2006, and we’ll be giving an update at the AAMT annual conference in Boston this August.”
The first apprentice program is a 2-year program focusing on acute care MTs, but if it is successful, it can be applied to the vast amount of specialty areas. “We started with acute care because of the changes in credentialing requirements for the CMT exam; it now requires 2 years of acute care experience, and if you don’t have that you can’t sit for the credential exam,” Posey stated. “This apprentice program will enable students to be put into the acute care setting immediately.”
Because the interest in the apprentice program has been so great and the benefits continue to grow, its popularity may be overwhelming.
There are 3,500 workforce offices nationwide that have information about the various apprenticeship programs, and now medical transcription is included in that list. “All of this information will filter down to the local workforce offices, which is great for our profession, but I hope we can handle the large number of people who will now be inter-ested in our industry as the program gets started,” Posey stated. She feels strong administrative procedures must be in place to meet the demands.
Another area of concern is cost. Jill Mickelson, CMT, FAAMT, owner, Professional Medical Transcription Inc., Yorkville, IL, explained, “Small businesses have expressed concerns with the cost of paying by the hour vs. by the line, but this is a voluntary program.”
And Dr. McSwain added, “So if there’s any hope of attracting people to medical transcription, I think wages are going to have to go up, which may not be negative after all.”
Carolyn Will, CMT, an ADVANCE subscriber, asked if this new apprentice program implied that AAMT would become a “union” entity, similar to a trade union. Preziosi explained that he didn’t think so at all, and that it’s not the goal of the program.
“This program is more about raising the bar,” Posey related. “Quality will play into the business end of it, but what we want is to meet the skill demand and the capacity demand.”
Focus on the Positive
Mickelson urged the industry to stay focused on the initial motivator for the program. “[It] will help bridge the current gap in medical transcription. It will be an entry point for MTs that would otherwise not be hired because of their lack of experience. They can earn while they learn!”
Tricia Cassidy is an associate editor at ADVANCE.
DOL’s Apprentice Program Standards
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Federal Bureau of Apprenticeship Training (BAT), Employer and Labor Services established 22 standards that programs must meet to qualify as an apprenticeship. On our Web site, www.advanceweb.com/him, is a list of the standards in detail and how the medical transcription apprentice program plans to meet those standards.