Business Trips for MTs

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6/96: From Mary Morken:
Proposal: Many MTs are isolated and have limited income; traveling with business purposes is tax-deductible and of real benefit to our work, just as online networking is, even if one only meets with fellow MTs known from the online community to share helpful information to improve performance, or takes a laptop along to keep working. If only part of the trip is devoted to business, expenses can be deducted for that percentage.

Reasons: There are many reasons for MTs to travel on the asphalt-reality superhighways. Job searches, research on the MT market, continuing education on both medical language and computer skills, research for writing articles for online MTs or journals, forming networking alliances with other MTs, teaching MTs in other areas, sharing about MT equipment and business, consulting with other MTs about present work or brainstorming about future projects, touring facilities, speaking in MT classes, interviewing MT leaders for writing articles online or for journals, doing surveys, selling books or software.

Practical Matters: However you might combine your trip with vacationing or family visits, your business meetings must be documented and receipts of all expenses must be collected. Plan ahead and arrange appointments for interviews and group meetings. Clarify your purposes for each meeting. Make a list of questions you want to ask, information you want to share. Gather materials to take with you: Articles, free demonstration disks, a complete itinerary with directions for travel. Travel light and dress comfortably. Prepare to enjoy every smiling face and to enjoy the actual presence of persons and the nonverbal communication we miss online!

Accounts of Business Trips by MTs:

6/8-12/96, Mary Morken:
When I learned that an older brother died, my budget was already stretched and I did not think I could attend the family memorial in California, since I live in Virginia. Online we had been brainstorming about business trips to exotic places for conferences and even taking our work with us, and so I got the idea of turning this into a tax-deductible business trip, definitely a backdoor approach, but some of us are waking up slowly to the risks and benefits of being online and having friends all over the country!

Soon I had several meetings arranged with MTs in Southern California, an airplane ticket, a rental car reservation, and careful directions to crisscross the freeways to meet people I only knew by computer and phone. I grew up in Los Angeles, and I have only been back 2-3 times in the last 20 years. I asked Smartype to send me some demo disks and told Peg not to ship my copy of the MT Daily yearbook so I could pick it up in person. I printed off pages from MT Daily to share, including samples of abbreviations for speed typing.

My husband waved me off into the sky and I settled down to read Judith Marshall's humorous and stimulating books, Medicate Me and Medicate Me Again (from HPI), and the seven hours in the air flew as I devoured it. I laughed till I cried, and over the Grand Canyon I read the last sad chapter of her concern for AAMT in 1994. I was comforted to know that she had just come online in the last month. The books read like a history of MTs from 1982 to 1994, a collection of articles and speeches. I'll post a review of the books on another page here soon. Enough to say here that she upholds the dignity of the patient, the noble calling of the doctor, and the skillful service of the MT. I spent the last hour on the plane recovering from the book, too excited to sleep.

During that hour, I scanned a magazine about the web. Evaluated MT Daily by criteria of pointers for successful web business. We qualified for every point, but then, we are not yet successful measured by profit! "No one is as smart as everyone" was the line that stuck with me.

After the descent into the brown smog of Ontario, I picked up the rental car and drove to Covina. Familiar landmarks reassured me, but there were new coils of barbed wire around every highway sign. Everything looked gray and dirty, even the colorful flowers, but this was home. I passed the Pomona Hospital where my third child was born, then the street to my parents' last home. Memories flooded me and I was grateful I had a real and meaningful history to remember, but I was also glad to have new friends in this area.

For two days, I enjoyed the reunion with my large family, staying with my oldest brother and his wife in Covina, and their daughter who has had chronic fatigue syndrome for 23 years, probably due to having too much radiation at age three after stomach cancer surgery. There is some suspicion that CFS may be related to x-ray exposure, but this syndrome is still being researched and is hard to pin down. I spent a morning teaching her how to get on the web with the computer our family went together and bought her a month ago. She can only use it for a short time every other day or she gets much worse. There are about six of the family online now, and I could really see the benefits of it when I met them--we met like neighbors, not like ships that pass in the night. And when a spontaneous group discussion occurred among 20 of us for an hour, I wondered if we had a new ability to share as a group because some of us have been participating on public forums online.

Sunday morning I left the family to have breakfast with Pat Kuthe from the good old Prodigy days four years ago, and for two hours we took turns talking as fast as we could! We covered enough ground to make E-mail feel like tiny telegrams. Pat is a hard-working manager by day to keep her health insurance, doing MT from home and hoping to work from home someday full time. This conference was too much fun to qualify for business, surely! But I felt a new urgency of the need for health insurance for the self-employed.

Monday morning I headed for San Diego where Gail McClendon at California College of Health Sciences welcomed me. Soon Michele Chavez, Section Leader from the MT forum on Compuserve arrived from Palmdale and we toured the building. CCHS is a private school that teaches respiratory therapy and other occupations, giving college credit for their courses. They have over 2000 students, over 500 of them MT. We looked at their web site with their web master, and saw the new public forum installed there for students. I'll be installing the same thing here soon. Then we looked at the curriculum and I tried to imagine how students could be helped by learning a speed-typing system right from the first tape they transcribe. I was very encouraged that this idea could work yet. Gail told us that she proofreads the work of her students and gives them supportive feedback. While she still feels humbled to have this job as a transcriptionist with only a few years of experience, her years as a recreational therapist shines through and her having recently graduated from the CCHS course, with Pat Bowen as her mentor, is a real asset.

We had lunch together by the harbor and discussed AAMT and what could be done to help the organization change, and ideas for the next conference for online MTs that might be held in San Diego. We tried to think of everything we could share that would be helpful to each other, and we watched Michele take her blood glucose level, being newly diagnosed with diabetes. In the parking lot, Michele and I found a few more things to discuss but then we were too quickly on our way. What unlikely friends we are, yet what common ground we share! She is good for me, and I respect her much.

After spending the night with old friends in San Diego, I called a friend to see if there was any news and to talk about Smartype and the possibility of students learning it early in their course. Then I headed for Fullerton where Peg Brundige and her dear friend Carol welcomed me with a hot drink and a copy of the MT Daily Yearbook! Finding Peg a warm Texan, capable and responsible, taking care of Carol who has rheumatoid arthritis, I congratulated myself on being a good judge of character, trusting her with the printing and shipping of the yearbook, even though I only knew her from online. Peg has had a printing business for years and has just begun doing MT in the last two years. Soon her expert mentor arrived, Kathyrn Hunter-Dyer, and Barbara and Sheila, two other MTs who have been trained by Kathryn. When Mary Glaccum, THE Mary Glaccum arrived, we were a happy group of online and offline MTs. We showed the yearbook to everyone and explained how a web site worked. Then we talked about Kathryn's Orange County networking group and how it could be a model for the rest of the country. I offered her space on MT Daily and she agreed to get online soon. I asked her why she gave new MTs a chance, and how she made money doing that. She told me that through doing MT she had been able to raise her daughter alone and finance her through a master's degree, and she wanted to give to new MTs out of gratefulness.

We talked about AAMT and tried to understand its unfortunate decline. More importantly, we talked about what could be done to bring change, inside and outside of AAMT, and how online resources are changing the options and the landscape for MTs. I told Kathryn her group is the only one I know of that is doing the same thing we do online in a local gathering with a minimum of organization. Her leadership style has made it possible, energetic but not controlling.

Off I went to Your Office Genie in Monrovia. Having heard mixed reviews of this company, I wanted to see it for myself. A room full of MTs pounding away at their stations shocked me, and I felt a wave of nausea as I recalled my sweatshop days. Hopefully these MTs preferred office work to home! I was led to a conference room and noted that the offices were in the process of renovation. I met with one of the five computer men, a very impressive Ph.D. named Qing Hu, Senior Systems Analyst, who told me YOG plans a web site soon and is researching digital fast downloading of voice files of dictation. He told me the company was 27 years old with 250 MTs and 26 facilities. Owners and managers are Carole and Joe Patterson, and their daughter-in-law, Mary Patterson. Then I asked to interview one of their transcriptionists.

Dr. Hu brought me Julia Martina who does both hiring and quality assurance. I asked her to tell me her story. With a background in zoology, she fell into MT when they were using reel-to-reel tape recorders without a foot pedal 27 years ago for $2 an hour. She did industrial worker's compensation reports for 10 years, and then became supervisor of transcription for an HMO for six months. Eventually she joined YOG and has been doing QA for two years. She prefers the work of filling in blanks to the hiring role, and said they have many long-time MTs of 17 and 18 years still with them. They don't have a great need for new MTs and get many calls from MTs looking for work who don't have the required three years of hospital experience. She prefers that MTs wanting to apply simply fax or e-mail their resume. Fax number is 800, 743-6439. Office phone is 800, 743-6433. They do hire long-distance workers, and their pay is similar to the other large companies, as far as I could tell. They have 50 office staff employees for 24-hour stat service, and each home MT does 3-6 hospitals and clinics. They do have plans to increase their QA staff, and I was glad to hear it because Julia is a very hard-working woman! Her gentle spirit and winsome smile won me, and I wanted to run interference for her with applicants! This is a stable well-established company that doesn't need us as much as the younger growing companies, but they are moving ahead with technology. Two of their MTs online are Larry Wilson and Sandy Levine.

Traveling down the Pasadena freeway, I recalled my first day of driving a car in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl, and then along one stretch of the freeway before Avenue 60. My father helped to build this first freeway in LA during the depression days. Turning off there, I sat in the car and stared at the house I lived in my first 18 years, now with iron bars on the windows and no curtains. If I hadn't been so full of adventure in the present, I might have had a good cry. Instead I drove along Figueroa Avenue and recognized some of the old buildings, one now painted bright yellow, a Buddhist temple. Back on the freeway I sailed through downtown and recalled my first job, posting retirement contributions for the LA Board of Education on Saturdays. I was warned a computer would soon take my job, but it put me to sleep so I didn't care!

In West Los Angeles I found the Rapid Transcript office and two buoyant black women, Cristal and Ora, who have quite a story! I quickly told them they were the first online MTs that I knew of who were black, and I asked them if I could include this fact in my account, in hopes that other black online MTs might get in touch with them if they would like. I searched my conscience as we talked: Would I have treated them any different online or by phone if I had known? How little we know about each other here, and that has its advantages and disadvantages.

I was relieved to see that they accepted ME, and we exchanged stories of the 60s and the civil rights movement. Ora grew up on a farm in Alabama and Cristal grew up in Los Angeles. They looked like they were about 25, but they both have children in their teens or older. Conscience check again: Was I treating them better now than when I thought they were in their 20s? Again I was impressed that they were happy women with intact families who were not easily offended, and I felt at home.

RT has about 40 MTs now, having benefited from receiving many applications from online MTs. There is open communication between their remote MTs as they choose, and online communication from Cristal daily. They are wonderful friends and team leaders who are delighted to have "escaped" the hospital about seven years ago to go into business for themselves. They are on a daily adventure together, facing the challenges of preparing their system to handle more accounts, pleased with their MTs.

Then I drove around the corner and up the hill to Burt and Marsha Danet's place. Burt has been an MT for about seven years. I listened to the story of the earthquake and the loss of their condominium and had a guided tour of Burt's magnificent work station with a chair I immediately wanted! Burt works long hours in the supine position in this special chair to protect his back, having suffered some injuries from car accidents in the past. Knowing we had ongoing communication via computer with projects to work on, we relaxed and talked about things not so easily done by E-mail. I marveled at Burt's true wealth: a full-time devoted wife, poised and cultured, and his own experience in another profession for over 20 years. We discovered we share the same anniversary years, now at 30 and counting. I missed my husband as we ate dinner at the Marina Del Rey harbor together, and was glad it was time to get on the plane for the red-eye flight to Virginia. They graciously led me to the rental car return lot, and we parted like old friends, confident we were fellow travelers for this time for good purposes.

Three or four naps later, it was dawn over the Atlantic and the young man next to me was busy with business papers. He said he worked with office building management, not much new building of offices going on, due to home workers now. I told him what an MT does and he was very curious. I showed him the web site on paper, and told him what the web was like. As we grabbed our bags, he asked if I had children. I proudly held up one of my bags, "USNA Class of 1996" and told him my son's name was one of the 900 on the canvas list. He gasped, backed up and told me he was a graduate of West Point! I gulped as he told me he was raised to hate the Navy, but here we were, business traveling partners for a few hours. Rising above the rivalry, we wished each other well as we parted.

Home to a stack of E-mail and forum notes, pondering the two sides of communication: respect for the other person's self-expression, and respect for my own story, with a willingness to risk through self-disclosure. Thus grows a human community, online and offline, and prospers!

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