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Virtual Assisting - An Old Profession?
by Linda Edwards

For the most part, virtual assisting is considered something new and innovative, but I am here to tell you that this is not a new and innovative concept. I was doing it 30 years ago.

When my marriage collapsed, I resigned as transcription manager at our local general hospital and left Virginia to return to my parents' home in Ohio. When I eventually came back, I went to work for a transcription service owned by a woman I knew and had helped get into the business.

One day while working at her office, it occurred to me that Easter vacation was coming up for my girls and I needed to be at home with them. I asked this woman if I could work from home for her and she absolutely refused. I broached the subject a few times and finally told her that if she didn't give in and let me work from home for a week that I would start a transcription service and blow her out of the water. She didn't believe me. She should have!

As I am sure you know, medical transcription is the process of listening to physicians dictating reports and typing what they say, producing medical and legal documents. Transcribing today is very conducive for virtual assistants. Dictation comes in over the internet and the transcription of the reports goes out over the internet; no muss, no fuss.

Not so 30 years ago. The dictation was on cassette tapes that had to be picked up from the physicians' offices and the typing was done on a typewriter and with multiple carbon copies! (Historical Note: There were no copy machines back then and so if you wanted more than the original of a document, you had to put what was called carbon paper in between each sheet of paper to provide the number of copies needed. These carbon copies are what the cc: on letters or reports is derived from.) Once the reports were typed and the cassettes erased, a trip had to be made back to the physicians' offices. You might not know, but no errors are allowed on medical reports, so you can imagine the frustration a transcriptionist had back then when she got to the bottom of an operative report and the physician says, "Oh crap, I meant the right breast and not the left, please correct." Correcting was starting the entire report over.

I believed that transcription was a perfect occupation that could be done from home. No one that I knew of was doing it in my area, so I began assembling my "virtual" business. Word spread that I was starting this "stay at home" business and a number of my previous employees quickly signed up. For each transcriptionist, I had to rent a typewriter and tape player with ear phones and a foot pedal. This was a successful business, but a labor intensive one. I had to check over all the reports from the various transcribers to be sure that there were no errors.


A woman approached me about coming to work for me. We had never met, but she had heard about my virtual business. She had worked for a neurosurgeon for 10 years and wanted to work from home, citing her desire to escape the office politics. She resigned from her position and came to work for me. About six months after she began, she came to me and said she had to quit. The reason she wanted to quit: she missed putting on pantyhose each morning!

This was a very telling moment for me. I learned that not everything you think you want is what you really need. If virtual assisting is something you have thought about, give it a try. You will soon see if you are able to circumvent distractions at home or if you need to put your pantyhose on!


About the author:

Linda Edwards is an accomplished writer, having written reviews for movies, restaurants, and general interest pieces. She also has extensive experience writing weekly newsletters on various topics. Additionally, Linda has created teaching materials for medical terminology and medical transcription courses.  As an experienced virtual assistant, she brings solid writing abilities, organization and administrative skills, and last, but not least, a good sense of humor. She can be reached at

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