3 Health Care Careers For Serious Note Takers

Some people love taking notes. Others find the task tedious and can’t wait to be done with school so that they can leave the pen and paper behind. If you’re in the former group, consider becoming a medical coder, a nurse researcher or a healthcare documentation specialist, as these are three health care careers that rely heavily on good notes.

Medical coders help physicians and hospitals get paid

Medical coders review medical records and assign codes to each health care service, procedure and piece of medical equipment mentioned to ensure that health care providers get reimbursed for the services they provide. Add this nonclinical position to your career ladder if your undergraduate studies were not directly related to a health care field. You can even get started while you’re still in school!

When you become a medical coder, be sure to:

  • Ask questions. Make sure you understand exactly what your employer wants and who you should go to with questions if you cannot understand their writing or are uncertain about which code to use.
  • Study existing records. You can learn a lot from previous records, especially the ones that have common procedures on them since they will be among your commonly used codes.
  • Avoid errors. When a bill is denied, your employer will have to pay money to fix it. Avoid this unnecessary cost by double checking all of the patient information and billing information as well as matching the codes with the description of the procedure.
  • Use your time well. Two monitors, or at the very least, a split screen can be immensely helpful, as well as setting boundaries on potentially distracting activities like checking email.


Nurse researchers let the data heal

Nurse researchers conduct research, analyze data and create studies to improve health, health care services and health care outcomes. The results of their studies have huge impacts on the medical community and on patients’ lives.  Because nurse researchers often rely on grants to fund their work, the ability to write grant proposals and meet certain reporting requirements is key — two tasks that benefit greatly from having good notes!

Nurse researchers follow a variety of education paths, though they all culminate with a PhD. Most nurse researchers spend time working as a registered nurse (RN) before going back to school. Certifications are also necessary for this position. The NCLEX-RN is a national licensing exam that each nurse must pass in order to practice. There are often other exams and certifications required for specialty areas of nursing, and there are four specific qualifications for the research field as well:

  1. Safety within the patient care environment
  2. Proven psychological integrity (through adaptability and coping mechanisms)
  3. Illness and injury prevention using promotional methods and health maintenance
  4. Displayed physiological integrity through physical care and comfort

Healthcare documentation specialists write it out

Also known as medical transcriptionists or medical documentation editors, healthcare documentation specialists transcribe recorded notes taken by health care professionals, sometimes doing so with the help of speech recognition technology. Healthcare documentation specialists transcribe a variety of recordings, including medical histories, discharge summaries and consultation reports. Many work from home as part-time employees or independent contractors. This career would be another great option if you’re pursuing health care education part time or want to take a break from full-time work for a few years.

Become a better note taker today

Becoming a better note taker is as easy as going the old school paper and pen route. While using a laptop or tablet to take notes in class is certainly faster than writing them out, it may not be your best option is you want to remember what you learned in class. In fact, the Association for Psychological Science suggests that taking notes by hand can provide better long-term comprehension.

An article on the NPR website backs this up with results from a study done by Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles. Mueller and Oppenheimer said that note taking can be categorized two ways: generative and nongenerative. Generative note taking pertains to “summarizing, paraphrasing, concept mapping,” while nongenerative note taking involves copying something verbatim.

“When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can,” Mueller told NPR’s Rachel Martin. “The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.”

If you decide to transition to handwritten notes, try these tips to make it seamless:

  • Start each new class on a new page, and be sure to date and number the pages.
  • Write on one side of the paper only, so you can lay your notes out when you review them later on.
  • Leave blank spaces. That way you can add notes later.
  • Write phrases or words instead of sentences and paragraphs.
  • Mark words you don’t know in some way (circle, star, etc.).
  • Develop a system of abbreviations and symbols — getting into this habit will be especially beneficial if you decide to go into medical coding!

Writing is a big part of studying for a health care career and, in many cases, of the career itself. As you work towards your degree, perfect your note-taking skills and you might be surprised at the career opportunities that you create for yourself.

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