Education · Grammar

Capitalization of the department name in medical transcription

Would you think that if it’s a name, then always capitalize? So did I, until I learned that in medical transcription, this is not always so. I’ve also learned it through the help of the amazing instructors of CanScribe Career College where I am currently studying online and through a professional text on style called the AHDI Book of Style for Medical Transcription and the school’s webinars. Without all this, I would not have learned these important ways to determine whether a department should have a capital or not in a medical report.

Capitalizing a department such as emergency room, renal unit, anesthesia, etc., this was one of the hardest rules for me to master, actually, I am still trying to master it. I might get a lot better at it, but I think this will always be one that when I am stumped, I will be consulting with colleagues wiser than me for advice.

There are several points to note about capitalizing department names in medical documents.  I’d like to say here that I am speaking of my personal experience, and you should always look to your instructors and resources or more experienced colleagues that are recommended to you by your school or workplace before reading something online and going by what you’ve read there, because this and other websites, while well intentioned, and though we are doing our best to be posting correct information, may be incorrect for your particular situation because there are always exceptions to rules. What you read here is not the the be-all and end-all of certain grammar and medical transcription rules and styles.

I think I’m on the brink of mastering this one–but now watch, just because I said that… 😉  One way to determine whether a department should be capitalized is to sub in and compare:

  1. Read the sentence with the definition of the word in the space where the department name appears.  If the meaning of the sentence keeps its context, then you do not capitalize it.
  2. Read the sentence with the department name itself. If it makes sense, then capitalize it.

That being said, I just learned recently that we also do not capitalize if the department name appears with another word such as department, clinic, service, etc.

Also, sometimes, but not always, the words for and to determine the function of the department. I haven’t got any more to say on this point, because I am still trying to figure it out, but I put it here because you might get it. I’ll get it eventually, I have lots of practice ahead of me.

Just to complicate things all the more, yet this is by far the easiest rule to remember about whether or not to capitalize a department name, and this is likely the one I get correct most of the time. If the department name comes directly before the name of a hospital or university, you capitalize it. For example: The patient was sent to me by the University of Some Made Up Place, Oncology Department. 

And, this is a fun way to tell whether you should capitalize a department name or not when transcribing a medical record, just make sure that you double check it with resources that have been recommended to you before submitting it, because there are always exceptions that change the rules: if you can read “Dr. So-and-so” in the place of the department name and the sentence still makes perfect sense, then capitalize!

  1. For example: The patient was sent to me by “Dr. Klaudeman.”  Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it, so in this case it would then be correct to transcribe the department name with a capital: “The patient was sent to me by Emergency,” not, “The patient was sent to me by emergency.”
  2. If you have a different sentence, and it turns out that reading it with “Dr. Klaudeman” just confuses the sentence, then don’t capitalize it: “The patient was in stable condition and was taken to the Dr. Klaudeman room.” Now this–you don’t capitalize. You would for certain type it like this: “The patient was in stable condition and was taken to the recovery room.” See how easy and fun that is?! But again, in medical transcription there are always exceptions to the rules. Actually, this is a ‘help’ or a ‘trick’, not a rule.

Now if you’re a thinker, and I’ll just bet you might be, this might be the way you would like to figure out whether to capitalize that department name, and you might find this really simple. I don’t, but that’s because I don’t process this way, or if I did, I’d be sitting here ’till next year trying to figure it out: If it’s a personified entity, then capitalize it. I sure appreciate the giftedness of those that ‘get it’ like this:

If the department name is a personified entity, then capitalize it. That is, if it requires a person to do it, then capitalize; when it is the common meaning that is being referred to, as in a common noun, do not capitalize.

Once I learn the variations to the common rules, I get a feeling of accomplishment, and as I see myself making those mistakes less often in the course, I begin to feel more confident.  My past lack of confidence with a certain type of grammar rule fades away, and I realize how learning these things change me.  I’m blooming, very slowly blooming, step by step, into a professional medical transcriptionist.


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