This article, "Cicero Teaches Dictation: Lessons From Ancient Rome", is intended for physicians, residents, interns, medical students, nurses, and physician assistants.

"Say not always what you know, but always know what you say." - Claudius (10 B.C. - 54 A.D.), Emperor of Rome

At this point, you are no doubt wondering how you're going to deal with all this, especially if you have yet to dictate your first report. Your MT will appreciate all of the following:

  1. Before you start, plan what you are going to say. Familiarize yourself with examples of the types of reports that you'll be dictating. If your hospital has standard formats for different types of reports, please follow them. Have all your papers in front of you.
  2. Always enunciate clearly. Speak as if you're leaving a message on someone's answering machine that must be understood. Don't speed up to an abnormally fast pace. We're not going to run out of tape any time soon!
  3. If you pause and then resume dictation, backspace the recording for about one second. This will help you avoid recording over your own words.
  4. Take care to differentiate between the words in the chart on the next page, Soundalikes and Ambiguities; this becomes doubly important if too little information is dictated to allow the MT to differentiate based on context.
  5. As much as possible, please use standardized phrases. Feel free to make up your own. If you use the same phrase or paragraph over and over, the MT can make up an expander for it. This can save a lot of time and reduce the chance of error.
  6. It is not necessary to spell names of drugs, etc., unless they're new and not in the reference books yet. One doctor I transcribed for used to say, "The patient was given a prescription for HCTZ, spelled H, C, T, Z." ROTFL!

    Still using tapes? Be aware that tapes don't
    last a long time under daily use. If you're using a
    portable of any kind, always check your batteries
    before dictating.

  7. You do need to spell names of towns, schools, nursing homes, etc. Give complete name and address information for any copies you would like to be sent.
  8. MT is only really learned by doing; if you doubt this, transcribe a few reports from your own or a colleague's dictation. Occasionally a newbie will type something like "bologna amputation"; this hopefully would be caught and corrected by the quality control department of the transcription service or hospital, and you would never see it. If you get a report for your signature that contains mistakes, by all means send it back for correction.
  9. Follow the instructions of the transcription service for punching in work types, dictation ID numbers, medical record numbers, etc. Medical information management today is highly automated, and every mainframe is set up differently.
  10. Please do not dictate from a car phone; it sounds muffled. Do not dictate in a noisy area or on a phone which you suspect is not working properly.
  11. And one more quote from Cicero:
"They are eloquent who can speak low things acutely, and of great things with dignity, and of moderate things with temper."

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