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Health Risks for Medical Transcriptionists

Jul 2, 2008
There are a few problems inherent in working at a computer all day. This is as true for medical transcriptionists as it is for computer programmers. But the more aware you are of the potential problems, the better you can set up your home office to deal with them.

Perhaps the best known hazard is carpal tunnel syndrome. Get a bad case of this, and it's going to be quite hard to work until you get it fixed, possibly surgically.

But that's not the only hazard. You may also develop a ganglion cyst. These are somewhat uncomfortable, but not too likely to keep you completely from working. They can be surgically removed or they may just go away on their own.

You may also develop eye strain from staring at your computer monitor too long. Turn your headphones up too high and you can damage your hearing. And of course there are all the health risks associated with inactivity. Medical transcriptionists generally spend hours each day typing, after all.

More important than knowing what the risks are, however, is knowing how to avoid them.

The very first thing you need is an ergonomic setup. This is more than getting a good keyboard. You need to place your keyboard at the right height. Your shoulders should be relaxed as you type, with your forearms at a 90 degree angle to your upper arms. Your wrists should be level - not flexed up or down, and not resting on anything as you type. That's not what wrist rests are for.

Your monitor should be about 18-30 inches away, with the top of the monitor at approximately eye level. Many people try to center the monitor for their eye level, but this can create strain in the neck as you look up just a little while you work.

You will also want to avoid having any glare on your screen. Glare can come from windows or overhead lights. If you need to get an anti-glare filter for your monitor, do so. This can relieve quite a bit of eye strain.

Hearing loss can be avoided by being conscious of how loud you have your headphones turned up. You'll have to turn them up sometimes; some doctors will speak really quietly relative to any background noise, or just in general, but be sure to turn them down again as soon as possible.

A highly adjustable, comfortable office chair is more than just a luxury. It's a necessity. You should be able to adjust the overall height, the back, the armrests and so forth to your own comfort levels. The height should be such that your feet are flat on the floor, and the back adjusted so that your spine is comfortably supported.

Arm rests should be adjusted so that when your arms are on them your shoulders are relaxed. You should not be using them as you type. Just like wrist rests, they are for when you're resting.

Take some time every hour to stretch for a couple minutes, and regularly during your work periods look away from the monitor. A little bit of activity can really refresh your body, and eyes do better if you sometimes change the distance at which they are focused.
About the Author
Stephanie Foster runs http://www.medicaltranscriptionbasics.com/ for those interested in getting an education in medical transcription. Find out if you have the skills to train in medical transcription at her site.
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