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CMT Pros and Cons

Certified Medical Transcriptionist Program

Posted by Carole Gilbert on December 09, 1997

I know in the "real world" letters behind someone's name does not always equate with quality, but in many ways, having CMT (or ART, or RRA, etc) can show the effort you have put forth to achieve a certain goal--that being certification.

From my perspective, having a CMT does not seem to have much meaning at this moment, except for personal satisfaction. On specific accounts, we offer a little more per line if you are a CMT, and it seems to take some MTs by surprise when they are told this. We also pay 1/2 the cost of the test once it is passed. I believe that unless we who are MTs place some value on becoming a CMT, why should others? If there were more CMTs, I think the profession as a whole would benefit from added value.

Do I like the test now? No. I don't like the idea of irrelevant questions, subjective grammar, tricky questions, not having feedback on what was missed, and I absolutely think it is ridiculous not to allow the use of reference material. If I had one statement to live by, it is "Know what you don't know, and then know where to find it"
I commit almost nothing to memory (age could be a factor here!)

I do like having a test in 2 parts because I think both elements are key in what we do. But there is a lot of room for improvement.

6/6/97, from an unnamed MT:

I work in a hospital transcription department with 12 other employees, none of whom are cetified. I have worked there for 5 years, straight out of college. I am scheduled to take part I of the certification exam in a couple of weeks. However, most of the other employees who have been working as MTs in excess of 15-20 years have been quite negative. They have said the test is extremely difficult, and "just not worth it." And some have said, it wasn't required of my job and they don't see why I would do it. It is worth it to me, as this is my career. I would appreciate any advice on how to deal with this potentially "awkward" situation with other employees. Would it be best to certify, and keep it under my hat? Maybe someone who has had to deal with a situation of this nature can offer input.

Posted by Mary on June 06, 1997:

You ask a good question. CMT is good for your status with the other 3000 CMTs. Some jobs will like it. It is an incentive to study and perfect your work.

CMT doesn't mean much; it can mean different things; it can be oppressive to non-CMTs.

Experience doesn't mean much either. What matters is if you have had good training and proofreading and feedback.

My reason for giving mine up was in protest to AAMT's public insults and rejection of online networking by MTs a couple years ago. When they join us in networking, I will rejoin AAMT.

AAMT is about setting standards but the CMT has had mixed messages (grandfathering, changes, etc.). Some standards have to emerge, they can't be imposed. MT is changing so fast, yesterday's standards don't always apply.

If you pass, we will celebrate with you, and you might want to throw your fellow MTs a party and let them know you respect them as superior in experience to you still. :)

Posted by Cate Doefer on June 06, 1997:

The first part of the test is multiple choice. It's 120 questions or so, if I remember correctly. There are some difficult physiology questions, but I really think they don't put enough of those in to screw up your score even if you get all the hard ones wrong, but there are a lot of grammar-type quesitons in it too. It took me about 20 minutes to finish it. The practical part is the same as transcription you do every day. One was pathology, one was radiology, one was a foreign guy not even slightly hard to understand for most people. I think people at my former job got freaked out by the test, because they were an ER transcription company, and they had a big fear about other kinds of dictation. I borrowed a friend's practice test though (it has a self-grading part in the back) so I could see how they graded it and the format they used. Since then, it hasn't mattered to any employer. It hasn't meant any more money. Some of the places I've worked don't even seem to know what a "CMT" is. I've still had to test everywhere. So, good luck to you.

Posted by Cate Doefer on June 06, 1997

Now I'm wondering if it's worth it to recertify. It was such a pain to jump through the hoops in the first place, you know? I hate to let it go, but there is no way I'm going to join AAMT and go to their "professional" meeetings. That's just not my thing. I like networking, but I'm just not going to show up. Anyway, I like being able to put CMT behind my name on a resume, but as far as I can tell, it hasn't made any difference.

Posted by Mary on 6/6/97:

Cate, Thanks for your comments on the CMT. If they would include online research and networking as an option for recertification, that would help. I wonder if they have yet? I did summaries of articles in JAAMT for a while, but then decided the internet was richer than that but wouldn't give me credit. I have heard of some lapsed CMTs claiming to be CMTs still...

Posted by Carol Reese on June 06, 1997:

Well, like Mary, I am of mixed mind about the certification program. When I took the test, the AAMT sponsored it at their convention in Dallas and actually gave a discount on the cost. By then, they had rewritten it an an entry level test. There were several people there taking it for the 3rd,4th,5th, etc. time, some with 20-30 years experience. It wasn't so bad and I would expect that anyone who had just finished a basic course COULD have passed it. I did--and without studying and with having done only radiology for several years. Well, I went on and set up to take the practical. Felt really good about, but missed passing by 2 "points" (it is a scaled score). So I have not retried and probably will not. I have never been anywhere I was asked if I was a CMT and I don't see where it makes much difference. Like Mary, I think they have sent mixed messages about CMT. They have done some good like with the Style manual which appears to be well respected by employers. But I know that many many many many more of us are qualified who don't pass the test and who, like Mary and myself, have some disagreement with their inconsistencies. Without those, they could be a really powerful force for all transcriptionists. Well, as things change, so will others and maybe they will too! But I wouldn't let any of that stop me from taking the test. I expect your coworkers have had experiences similar to Mary's and/or mine. Good luck to you!

Posted by Patricia Caliguire on June 06, 1997:

I think some of the push for certification depends on where you live. When we considered moving to a larger city in Florida, we were torn between Orlando and Tampa. All the transcription services I called in Orlando at the time very much preferred their employees be CMTs. When I called the services in Tampa, most did not care whether an MT was a CMT or not. The service I work for in the Tampa area is owned by a CMT, and maybe one or two others out of about 37 transcriptionists are CMTs. I joined AAMT in 1993 and planned to take the CMT exam, but I thought the $300 fee was excessive (my nursing license was less than that!), and as it seemed to have no bearing on my employment in the area, I decided against taking the test. Perhaps you should base it on the prevailing attitude in your area, or go ahead and take it if you're considering moving to another part of the country.

Posted by Carol Reese on June 06, 1997

Well, here's my second 2 cents worth on this subject. I agree that the $300 fee is excessive. At least they split it and you pay 150 for the written and then the 150 for the practical only when yoy have passed the written. But it is still a lot. I know they have expenses setting it up, etc, but it still seems excessive. Well, maybe that another penny's worth :-)!

Posted by Maria Stahl (yes a CMT) on June 06, 1997

I became a CMT only for my own benefit. I was unsure about my abilities and had taken some heat from the senior MTs in the area for my relative newness to the field. I set myself the goal of getting both parts of the test out of the way before my son was born (and took part II when eight months or so pregnant).

I felt it was a fair test if the goal is to identify competent entry-level medical transcriptionists. I don't know what benefit it is to finding a job, since I've concentrated on freelancing, but do know it gives me some credibility with prospective new clients. If they don't know what CMT means (frequently it gets mixed up with Certified Massage Therapist!) I just tell them it means that I've passed a multidisciplinary test in transcription skills and medical knowledge, and that I keep up with the field through continuing education requirements. That makes sense to most of them, since they have to do the same thing in their own fields.

Overall I've been glad I did it. I balked a bit at recertifying, but found that it was easy to get credits in little spots of spare time by reading articles from the New England Journal of Medicine (which I like to read anyway) and writing short summaries of them.

In short, if you feel it will bolster your own feelings of worth as a transcriptionist, then it doesn't matter if it earns you more money or if your peers think you're putting on airs. It doesn't make you any better than them, just shows you're competent. I liked Mary's suggestion of celebrating with a little party for your peers, and taking that opportunity to show how much you respect their years of experience.

Posted by Carol Reese on June 06, 1997 at 17:37:12:

Your comments make a lot of sense. I still probably won't take the test again, but you make some very very good points that might make me change my mind if I were in No Name's position!

6/11/97 Kimberly Laughrey:

In response to unnamed MT...

I would like to be able to give you a "Pollyanna" view of things; however, realism is my game. In 14 years, I have never been turned away from an MT job because I did not have my CMT. Unfortunate, but true. There are no great rewards for obtaining it; there also, in most cases, is no reimbursement for taking it. Again, unfortunately, AAMT has made it so outrageously expensive that most MT's have to forego certification in order to be able to afford to feed and clothe their families... Tough choice, not...

In 20 years, AAMT has not made any big differences in the life of an MT. The only way to gain respect in this field is to pursue it on your own. The majority of MTs believe that respect is something we will never get. I disagree vehemently... I am one of the few who believes that what you project is what comes back to you.

Whether you decide to go for your CMT or not, you can continue to strive to better yourself professionally and personally. While on duty, you can act professionally, dress professionally, and project the correct image (medical language specialist - highly technical, highly qualified, on par with RNs and other degree-holding specialists in the healthcare field; much, much more than a secretary/typist as people always want to label us); I have found that these simple steps have boosted my own self-esteem and confidence and, in turn, all of my colleagues treat me with more esteem and respect.

Take every occasion to educate people on what it is that you actually do and the education required to perform your duties. Your decision is your own regarding AAMT; give thought to what they actually do for your membership fee. Maybe $50 a year is a bit much for 4 magazines a year for you, maybe not. Do realize that there are very, very few companies, hospitals, or services, etc. who will turn away a qualified transcriptionist for lack of a CMT certification. Best of luck to you.

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