Invisible Jobs, Spiritual Currency

It is the Winter Solstice, the longest night.  A time for reflection and celebration.

I have been reflecting on jobs, since it seems to be the key word of 2011.  I have now completed 8 months of refraining from my usual pattern of working 2 jobs, and I have learned some things:  1) I am able to take care of myself better when working a single job, 2) I am more relaxed because I sleep more, 3) I am broke but learning to embrace it.  Well, almost.  I am about to fall off the fence about applying for a 2nd job at this very moment because I want to be able to afford things like hair cuts again (I’m verging on  an Einstein look-alike at the moment), and not needing to make choices between heat in winter or gifts for family.  There seems to be this tipping point between the irritability I have from being unable to do even the smallest things I would like to do, like having dimes to rub together to pay for my daughter’s activities or go to a movie or a meal out once in a while, and the irritability I have at being overworked.  So now is the moment I get to choose my form of irritability : )

Or simply continue to live with spiritual currency.  Spiritual currency is the kind of wealth one has when one believes in the power and sustenance of the unseen as much as the seen, the invisible as much as the visible, the energetic on par with the physical.  Let’s face it, every building you see was once an idea in someone’s mind, every sculpture an artist’s dream, every scientific discovery a flash of intuition.  At times I find it mildly amusing that I came from the same environment and public schools as my siblings, all of whom earn double, triple and quadruple my income.  There could be all sorts of psychological and personality differences at the root, but I find I feel wealthier and wealthier the more I focus on spiritual currency and so I wonder if income is even a good measure for life success.

And now for a few words about invisible jobs.  Mike Rowe made certain invisible jobs famous on “Dirty Jobs” of Discovery Channel.  Well, my job is not dirty, but it sure is invisible.  I have not met in person any manager, supervisor or coworker in 10 years.  All my job interviews have been by long distance phone, and I have worked for hospital networks from Florida to Long Island to Wisconsin to Nevada to California.  Even people working in health care often do not understand what my job is, and certainly people outside the medical professions come up with all sorts of misunderstandings when I tell them what I do for a living.

Medical transcription is accurately converting recorded voice to computer or paper chart documents.  Every patient encounter in a hospital or clinic is legally required to be documented.  Add to the mix all the non-native-English speaking physicians in the US, and you have a task that is a cross between UN Interpreter and medical language artist.  These documents can be used by nurses and other care providers to obtain medication lists, lab tests, and exam findings for future care of a patient, but thanks to such a litigious society, their primary use is to cover someone in court.  I listen to the summary of what occurred and what the care provider was thinking when he/she made a diagnosis.  I often wonder what would happen if I was dropped into a situation where I had to make a diagnosis.  Over time, after transcribing roughly 1.5 million histories, physicals, discharge summaries, operative reports in my career, I can spell any drug and surgical equipment out there, I have absorbed what the “normal” ranges are for electrolytes in the blood stream, and I have listened to enough descriptions of cardiac surgeries to feel I could do one in my sleep (dangerous), yet if I actually came face to face with what I transcribe, I would be quite unprepared.

One hundred years ago my job was the equivalent of sitting down with a doctor and taking short-hand to paper every time he saw a patient (I met a 95-year-old who actually did this).  The first electric typewriters made the job easier.  Then came word processing, then Google (I became an MT in the BG era – Before Google where things called books were used as references).  Now that there is a federal mandate for electronic health record systems and voice recognition has become a huge component of the job, what I do has morphed into partial transcribing and partial editing of voice recognition-captured documents.  Easier on the hands with less typing, but just as hard on the ears.  I always thought my hands would go before my ears, but I’m at the first stages of hearing loss and my hands are fine.

In case you think medical transcription is for you, here are some pros and cons:

PROS:  There is always work available.  If you are a good listener, keyboarder, and learner, you can work from home and avoid the costs of commuting and work clothes.  The job is perfect for stay-at-home parents, single people, or second/part-time incomes.   A college degree is not a requirement for the job, though most of the best I have met have a degree.

CONS:  Be prepared to have your pay stay the same with no upward mobility.

Here’s to more jobs in 2012 and even more spiritual currency!


About Erin W

A sensitive plant, bamboo strong.
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