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What Are the Qualities of a Good Medical Secretary?

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A medical secretary plays a pertinent role in a doctor's office because keen precision in listening, spelling and typing is absolutely vital to a patient's treatment. A medical secretary is responsible for transcribing a doctor's verbal or handwritten words into a typewritten medical file. This type of secretary may have numerous tasks in a physician's office, and accuracy is absolutely key because the contents of a patient's medical file will be used to diagnose and treat medical conditions.

Keen Listening and Spelling

Medical secretaries must be able to focus and listen carefully to the words that a doctor says. In the medical field, many terms and words sound very similar but have completely different -- and even opposite -- meanings. For example, "hyperglycemia" and "hypoglycemia" sound almost identical when someone says them in a sentence. However, they are completely opposite conditions that require medications that act in opposite ways. In fact, treating a patient for hyperglycemia when she actually have hypoglycemia can literally be a deadly mistake. Whether the secretary uses dictation equipment and types the doctor's recorded words or medical staff is right there explaining something, it is essential that the correct words, terms and letters are heard, interpreted, spelled and typed for permanent record.


In general, secretaries are expected to be well-organized. In the medical industry, this organization is especially vital because a person's life may depend on the secretary's ability to grab a certain file quickly and find particular information within that file without hesitation. If papers are randomly dropped into files and those files are set aside for one bright day when the office staff has time to alphabetize them and put the files away, the chances of losing important information increases. A good medical secretary should also know how to prioritize her work duties throughout the day so that the most important tasks are completed, thereby eliminating the risk of a doctor needing information that doesn't yet exist because the secretary hasn't gotten around to that duty quite yet.

Fast Typing Speed

Medical secretaries are naturally transcriptionists. Most transcription schools certify only typists who have reached a minimum typing speed of 45 words per minute with 100 percent accuracy. Doctors who are looking to employ office secretaries will often give a test to confirm a potential employee's typing speed, looking to the testers with higher speeds more favorably because of the importance of keeping up with multiple records.

Good Computer Skills

With the development of modern-day technology such as the Internet, office programs and word-processing software, employers expect secretaries to have well-rounded knowledge and understanding of computers, document programs and virtual software. Since these technicalities are continuously evolving and changing, employers in the medical field are likely to expect office staff to stay on top of evolving programs and computer-related updates that will increase a facility's productivity.


Born and raised in western New York, Tonya Cunningham attended Niagara University until 1992 as a pre-law student. Today, Cunningham is a legal assistant and freelance writer looking forward to the completion of her first book.

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