Angela Norlien is a full-time medical transcriptionist/healthcare documentation specialist and mother of six who works from home on the night shift for a medical clinic. April and Angela actually worked together on the overnight and weekend shifts and became close friends, virtually, even before they met each other in person. They talk about ditching the commute, what it was like working with infants, clocking in as hourly employees, and staying awake on long overnight shifts. Angela shares about how she got into medical transcription and what it's like to work in an shrinking field as the methods for producing a medical record have changed over time.
Angela also talks about how she decided to work from home and how it's made it possible to raise their children with little to no outside childcare over the last 14 years, given that she and her husband have chosen to work opposite shifts. They live with their family near the Minnesota/Wisconsin border in Southeastern Minnesota and are involved in their community with their schools, Girl Scouts, and plenty of outdoor activities.
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April Malone 0:03
Hello, Hello. My name is April Malone and I'm with Yes, I Work From Home; and this is the podcast. Today, I have my good friend Angela Norlien with me. And Angela, I go way back to Minnesota. She's still there. Angela is a medical transcriptionist, otherwise known as a health documentation specialist; and we used to work together for a long time. So, thank you for coming today, Angela.
Angela Norlien 0:25
Oh, you're welcome.
April Malone 0:27
So Angela and I met each other--let's talk about how we met for the first time.
Angela Norlien 0:33
Okay, yeah. We met at your wedding, didn't we? Like we worked together, but we never actually met each other. And then, yeah, you got married; and I was like, I'm gonna come to your wedding. So, yeah, that was the first time we actually met.
April Malone 0:49
And I'm so glad you did.
Angela Norlien 0:49
April Malone 0:50
And you brought along another lady who has now left us. But, like, that was great; because we actually were really close friends, even at that time. We had never met each other in person. But I think we had been working together for what, a year and a half, two years before that?
Angela Norlien 1:08
April Malone 1:08
We started working together in July of 2008. Right when I bought a house during the like housing market crash problem, and you were just coming back from maternity leave, was that like Fall of 2008?
Angela Norlien 1:15
Let's see. So, that would have been like around June or July of 2009.
April Malone 1:50
Right. Okay. Okay. So I had been doing this by myself without you for a year? The reason I think we got connected is because we were both working that third-shift schedule, and we usually didn't have supervisors with us. And, so, a lot of times, when we were having, you know, technical problems or troubleshooting, we would have to rely on one another, to try to problem solve. So Angela, how long have you been doing this kind of work, medical transcription?
Angela Norlien 2:18
So, I have been working at the clinic for 23 years. I started out as a medical secretary and worked on campus. And, then, after my second baby was born, I needed to work a job that was an off shift. So, I transitioned from medical secretary to transcription; because transcription was a 24/7 operation. So, I worked second shift for a couple of years; and, then, now, I've been working third shift for 14 years.
April Malone 2:54
When you had your first baby, what were you doing when you were on site? Was that baby going to daycare? Or, how were you taking care of that one?
Angela Norlien 3:02
Yes. So, she was going to daycare; and then my sister and my mom weren't working at the time; so, they would pick her up. So she would only go for a few hours a day to daycare. But then they both started working; so, then, she was going full time. And when I was pregnant with my second baby and then after my second baby was born was when I decided I don't want two kids in daycare, full time. And so my husband's job--
April Malone 3:33
So, you wanted to pick an off shift.
Angela Norlien 3:34
Yep. So that's why I switched out. So then I worked second shift, so I would go to work when my husband came home. And, so, yeah, that worked pretty well. But I've always been kind of a night person. So, when the opportunity came for me to go to third shift, I jumped on it.
April Malone 3:52
So what kind of hours were you working when you finally went to third shift?
Angela Norlien 3:57
So I was mainly working like an 11 to 7 kind of shift or 11 to 7;30. And then they allowed us to work 10-hour days, so; and that's what I do now. So, now I work Monday through Thursday from, like, 9pm until 7:30am.
April Malone 4:15
I feel like you and I used to work the weekends together a lot, too. When I was originally hired into that position, I was working--it was terrible--I was hired in, you know, new. And, so, I got the worst shift; and I was working 11pm until 9am, but it was like Friday, Saturday--Thursday, Friday, Saturday night. So that was basically my whole weekend. I think you've, over the years, been able to kind of finagle a schedule that you like a little bit better. Is that right?
Angela Norlien 4:40
Yeah. Oh, yeah, for sure. Yep. I used to work weekends, too. And then, probably about five or six years ago, I got promoted to a lead position on overnights; and there were two leads. The other lady that got hired, we both worked four 10s; and she didn't mind working weekends. So, she worked Thursday through Sunday; and I worked Sunday through Wednesday. So, it worked out pretty good for me that she didn't mind working weekends.
April Malone 5:11
Oh, yeah, I remember that. That was great. And that was right around the time that I had my third child. And actually, there was a big organization change in our department where all of a sudden people who always had to work nights and weekends were given the opportunity to change their shifts.
Angela Norlien 5:25
April Malone 5:25
And I think we both agreed to stay on nights. Like, at some point, we decided that was better for our family.
Angela Norlien 5:32
April Malone 5:32
Because of childcare. Right?
Angela Norlien 5:35
Right. And, just because--
April Malone 5:35
I was able to take that time--
Angela Norlien 5:36
I was just gonna say just because--I prefer to work overnights, I just have always been a night person, ever since I was little. We just did a shift change at work a couple of months ago, and I could have gone to first shift. And I said, "Nope."
April Malone 5:55
Still, even though your kids are at school now you still wanted to keep third shift. Why is that?
Angela Norlien 6:06
I think I'm just used to it. I like--I mean, I work from home, obviously; but it's quieter at night. You know, I don't have to deal with like--I shouldn't say deal with people--but there's very few of us on nights; and we're, like, a tight knit group. And there's a big shift diff too, like a shift differential pay that you get. So, I didn't want to give that up either. And, like I said--
April Malone 6:34
Angela Norlien 6:34
I've just always been a night person.
April Malone 6:36
When I was working part time, it was--I think I was working point seven. So that'd be like 33 hours a week or so. But I was actually asking paid about the same as working full time.
Angela Norlien 6:40
April Malone 6:41
So, it's like you sacrifice your nights and your weekends; but you only have to work four days a week instead of five or something like that. I think I'd work three days one week and four days the next week.
Angela Norlien 6:58
April Malone 7:00
Yeah. Let's talk about your husband and what he does and how you guys juggle having--how many kids do you have?
Angela Norlien 7:08
Well, we have six kids, but are our youngest is five and our oldest is 20. So, our 20-year-old is away at college. And she's married. She got married this past summer, her husband is in the Air Force. So, we don't see her very often; because she's at college; and when she has a break from college, she usually goes to see him instead.
April Malone 7:29
Yeah, she has like two homes right now. Right?
Angela Norlien 7:33
Right. Yeah, like three. I mean, she still--I guess she doesn't really consider our house her home anymore; but she's got her her dorm room where she lives with her three friends on campus and then her house on base in North Dakota.
April Malone 7:48
Right. And so you guys were able to juggle your shifts? So that you could--are you still using daycare in any way right now? Or are all the kids in school now?
Angela Norlien 7:59
We've never, we haven't used a daycare since I started working in my current position. Especially, since I've been working from home, we haven't had to use daycare, because-- Well, I mean, I work at night. So, usually the kids are in bed when I'm working anyway; but, even if they're up, they can--they're older now. So, they are self sufficient and don't bother me too much. But yeah, so.
April Malone 8:29
And then you finish before they get to school?
Angela Norlien 8:31
Yeah, I get off work right before I have to get them up and get them ready for school. So yeah, it's perfect hours.
April Malone 8:39
I feel like you always handled the third shift a little bit better than I did. Because I would always try to like sneak off and take a nap on my lunch hour, and I feel like you were able to just power through.
Angela Norlien 8:51
Yeah, I never needed to take a nap. I was always afraid I wouldn't wake up, for one thing. And yeah, I've just always--
April Malone 9:00
Probably because you knew that happened to me a few times. I remember I had a few of you--I would tell you, I'm like "I'm so tired. I'm worried I won't wake up. So here's my phone number." And that's probably how we really started to get to know each other. There were a few of us that--like, if I'd say "If I'm not back by such and such time, could you please just like ring my phone, even if you don't talk to me or just anything, just I need that extra security." There were a couple of us that did that back and forth, and it saved our butts a few times. There was a pretty strict policy about, you know, absences.
Angela Norlien 9:31
April Malone 9:31
And it wasn't anything to fool around with so.
Angela Norlien 9:35
April Malone 9:37
All right. So, let's change gears a tiny bit and just chat about like how you got started. Did you do any other work before you became a medical secretary/transcriptionist/documentation specialist?
Angela Norlien 9:51
Yeah, so, in high school, I worked at a group home. And then, after my senior year, when I grew up graduated, my husband and I were already engaged. We were highschool sweethearts. We've been together for a long time. And I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. So I just decided to take a year off and just work full time at the group home. And, one night, I was working with my good friend, Beth; and she was like, "You know, I'm really tired of this job, I'm gonna go to the tech school tomorrow and just see what they have to offer." And I was like, "Hey, I have tomorrow off, I'll go with you. So we went to the tech school, and she was talking to the counselor, and I was in there with her. And she decided to sign up for this medical secretary program. And, so, I was like, "You know, I think I'm going to do that with you." So I signed up, too.
April Malone 10:43
Did you have to pay for it?
Angela Norlien 10:43
Yeah, yes. We had to. I had to pay for it. It wasn't that much. I mean, it was 25 years, 23 years ago, 24 years ago. But yeah, I had to pay for it.
April Malone 10:55
When I was hired, they actually were sponsoring people to--I think they must have a shortage.
Angela Norlien 11:01
April Malone 11:01
And, so, they actually paid for it. I had to go through like a crash course. It was like three months, super intense, eight hours a day, but they were paying us, like, our hourly wage to go to school and study.
Angela Norlien 11:12
Yeah, I know. I wish they would have had that.
April Malone 11:13
And then, at the end, we were basically guaranteed a job.
Angela Norlien 11:15
April Malone 11:16
As long as we passed the test, but they took that away years ago. Yeah, I think that towards the end, this field has become so competitive that even that organization was only hiring, like, people from across the country who, you know, previously owned like a medical transcription company, or like were educators or--you know, it was extremely competitive. So let's talk about the the change of that field over the years. What have you seen happen at your organization?
Angela Norlien 11:45
Oh, there's been so many changes. I mean, from, like, the programs that we use. We went from straight typing to, like, proofing, you know, gosh, I'm blanking.
April Malone 12:02
The voice recognition technology has really changed that whole game.
Angela Norlien 12:05
Yeah. So now we're not--most of the notes come through already typed up, and we just have to listen through and make corrections. So it's not so much straight typing anymore, it's more proofing and editing.
April Malone 12:21
Mm hmm. So, for those of you who aren't medical transcriptionists, it's kind of like when you're using Siri or Alexa or whoever to, like, dictate something. And it makes a lot of mistakes, and, like, you say something super embarrassing. That also happens to the doctors. Or it's not even just embarrassing, but it can actually be, like, medically dangerous. If the voice recognition technology hears the wrong medication, you don't want someone basing, you know, further recommendations or treatment or even surgical decisions based on an error in a note. But quality is an issue right now, because a lot of companies are pushing more and more for the doctors to do their own proofing or for outsourcing places, here in the States and also elsewhere, all of the people who are transcribing aren't necessarily medically trained.
Angela Norlien 13:15
Right. So, and at the clinic where I work, there are, in the last two years, our department has gone from about 240 transcriptionists down to 49. There's only 49 of us left. And I mean, they cut nearly 200 people. Because, you know, a lot of doctors are self entering now. There's like--the younger generation of doctors are coming in; and they're, you know, self entering their own notes. And we have actually more people in our QA department right now than we have in our actual transcription department. There are more people working in QA and proofing doctors' self-entered notes than there are doctors dictating for us to transcribe. So, yeah, it's changed a lot.
April Malone 14:16
And I think that some of that has been pushed as like they've changed formats or platforms for the electronic record. So I think, now, a lot of platforms that people are using are more dependent on, like, forms and, you know, just ticking the boxes. And that's one reason that you see doctors looking at the computer while they're in the room with you, because they're doing their note while they're talking to you.
Angela Norlien 14:18
April Malone 14:20
It's a lot to ask for a doctor to be responsible for all of that.
Angela Norlien 14:43
Yeah, I think it's very time consuming for them. I think it would just be easier for them to you know, to pick up the dictaphone and say what they want their note--you know, I think, but times are changing.
April Malone 14:54
I think that the old way with the dictation, they were able to give a more personal narrative of the patient, like to talk about their journey and, like, you know the story of what happened and how they got here and what they've done. And now it's more, like I said, just ticking the boxes, and it's not as personalized. So I think you lose a little bit in that; but I understand, like, they're all trying to save money and, you know, meet regulations, and all of that. So, let's talk about what does your husband do?
Angela Norlien 15:29
He works for a malting company. He's the head of the maintenance department there. So he--
April Malone 15:36
What is malting? I didn't know what you meant by it the first time you said it.
Angela Norlien 15:38
So, malting is. So, they make malt for like beer and a lot of malt for, like, Kraft products, and like the new--
April Malone 15:39
I don't even know what Kraft products you would use malt in?
Angela Norlien 15:55
Yeah, I don't know, either. But, yeah, one of their biggest suppliers is Kraft. And, then, also like the new, you know, there's a like a lot of people starting up their own brewing company. So, they do a lot of the malt for those small companies also. So he works--there are three branches. The main company is out of Europe. And then there's three plants in the United States, one in Minnesota, one in Wisconsin, and one in Montana.
April Malone 16:04
And has he always done that, or has he done other work, too?
Angela Norlien 16:37
You know, he's done other work, too. He went to school for carpentry, and so he did that for a while.
April Malone 16:45
I didn't even know that.
Angela Norlien 16:46
And then he worked at the company.--yeah. He went to the company where he's working now and got laid off. And, then, while he was laid off, he started working at Slumberland selling furniture. And while he was doing that, that's when my job decided that we could work from home. So, this was 13 years ago. So, he said, "You know, I think I'm going to go to school for that; and then you and I can just work at home together." And, so he did; and he--while he was in school, about a month before he finished school, someone from the company that he works at now came in to Slumberland to buy furniture. And they were like, "Hey, how come you never came back?" And he said, "Well, they never called me back." And so the guy said, "Well, we have an opening right now, you should come right now and apply. And, so, he went there that day and got a job. And he did finish the medical transcription program, but he never actually worked as a medical transcriptionist.
April Malone 16:50
Angela Norlien 16:52
And he's he started out in production, just on the production side of things; and then, about four years ago, he got promoted to a management position.
April Malone 18:01
So, medical transcription is kind of that work-from-home job that most people think of first, like a lot of people that know about working from home think about medical transcription and are like, "I should just go through a program right now." What do you say to people who are interested in doing what you do? What do you say now? Knowing what you know.
Angela Norlien 18:21
I don't even know. Yeah, I don't even know if they like offer it as a program anymore. I mean, I think that they probably offer like the medical secretary side of things which also includes transcription. But I'm not sure that I would, like, encourage someone to go into this field right now, just because things are changing so much. And I think until things kind of stabilize, and--I don't know, stabilize really isn't the right word--But I think that our skill set is still very useful, but they're not needing us as much as they were, you know, in the last 20 years. So, I think our jobs are going to be changing, over the next 20 years, to more of like a quality--kind of like our quality department, where we're going to be more proofing notes that doctor self enter than actually transcribing ourselves.
April Malone 19:31
When I started, we were still literally typing every single word that they said, from scratch.
Angela Norlien 19:36
April Malone 19:36
I think when my first daughter was born, that's when they--so we had been working from home for some time, and we never had to go onsite, but we all were basically forced to go onsite to go through the training to learn how to use the voice recognition technology.
Angela Norlien 19:52
April Malone 19:52
A lot of people know the program like, is it Dragon or--that's not what we used, but we used something similar to it and just having to like learn how to follow along and learn new keyboard shortcuts and just ways to navigate to follow along and make those changes effectively and efficiently. And it did speed us up. I would say we probably increased our speed by, what, like, double? I don't know, a lot.
Angela Norlien 20:18
Yeah, I would say so. Like, I would say, when we were straight hand typing, I was typing like, 14 or 15 minutes per hour of dictation.
April Malone 20:31
Which is really fast, because Angela, you're like a rockstar at transcription?
Angela Norlien 20:38
Thank you. But, once the voice recognition and Fluency program came along, you know, most people are up to 20 to 30 minutes per hour of dictation. So that just means for, like, every hour that someone talks, like if someone dictated a note that was 30 minutes long, it would take someone about an hour to an hour and a half to type that note.
April Malone 21:10
Now a lot of people are trying to get hired through programs like Rev or something like that, but they often pay you based on your productivity or how many words you transcribe.
Angela Norlien 21:21
Yeah, like your line count.
April Malone 21:23
There is a tool that a lot of us transcriptionists use which is a foot pedal, and I think if you don't have that foot pedal, it would really slow you down. Do you still use it all the time now, or is it gone?
Angela Norlien 21:33
Oh my gosh, yes. Oh, no, you still use a foot pedal.
April Malone 21:36
How does it work? Tell us.
Angela Norlien 21:37
I don't even know. I don't even know how--So the foot pedal is basically like a sewing machine pedal, on each--So, to play the dictation, you just put your foot in the middle of the foot pedal. And, then, on one side, there's like a lever for rewind and a lever for fast forward. And, so, you basically just step on it like a sewing machine pedal, and then the voice comes through your headset.
April Malone 22:08
And you lift up your foot, and it pauses; and I actually was starting to experience getting tendinitis in my wrists from typing so much. And I also was getting it in my ankle, or my foot from that motion. You have to be kind of careful about your ergonomics.
Angela Norlien 22:22
Oh, really? Yeah.
April Malone 22:22
Yeah, I probably had bad habits and a lot of stress in my life. And there's even a thing that you can do. So, for those of you who are needing to transcribe anything for yourself, like, for instance, okay, for this interview, we're putting this not only into the podcast world on Apple Podcast and Spotify and Stitcher and everything, but we're also putting it onto YouTube. And I'm actually doing closed captioning for this. And I've been doing them myself recently. I use a voice recognition technology program called Otter.ai, and that helps me transcribe my own note. But, again, it's just filled, riddled with bad punctuation, and you know, all the things that it's autocorrecting that's not right. Anyway, it still takes me a really long time. And one thing that I learned is that, if you can slow down the speed of that voice, when you are actually going through and editing and typing, it can actually help you type faster. I don't know if you did that?
Angela Norlien 22:24
April Malone 22:26
But it helped me a lot, when I--I always thought that in order to type faster, I would need to like listen faster and just be faster.
Angela Norlien 23:26
April Malone 23:26
But, actually, I didn't have to pause and like rewind as often if I could just let it keep going. So, when I listen to a podcast or a video, I almost always turn it up to like 1.5 or 2x the speed; but if I'm actually transcribing, I'm like at 0.75. What about you? What do you do?
Angela Norlien 23:49
It often depends on, like, the dictator of the note, if it's like a foreign doctor, a lot of times I will slow them down, because they're harder to understand. If it's a doctor that talks super slow--
April Malone 24:14
That's our favorite kind, isn't it?
Angela Norlien 24:17
Yes! Because you can, like, speed it up to like 1.5; and you can finish a 20-minute note in 15 minutes.
April Malone 24:24
It makes your productivity look amazing!
Angela Norlien 24:26
Yes, it really does.
April Malone 24:27
For those of us who are on a production schedule, you know, there's a lot of metrics that they're following to see, like, how fast are you? How much are you producing in one shift? We were hourly--I was an hourly worker, you are. And there are a lot of, I guess, for them it's safeguards, to make sure that we're not just slacking off at home; but they can actually see how much you're pushing that pedal, how much you're letting up the pedal, how long you've had pauses. Like, did you take a 15 minute break three times in that shift? There's a lot that they're following. So, I remember there was a specific doctor who we would just basically, like, rejoice if we got his note; because they'd be like 45 minutes long, and you could like speed type it.
Angela Norlien 25:05
Yes! I have a few of those, where they pop up, and I'm like, "Oh, thank you."
April Malone 25:12
Yes. It saves the day. Let's talk about being an hourly worker. You have to clock in and clock out. What's that like?
Angela Norlien 25:24
Yeah, it's fine. So, right now, with my position, I have a window. So my window is 8pm to 8am. And just, in that window, I need to work 10 hours. But I can't work 10 hours straight. If you work more than six hours, you need to take a lunch break. So, basically, between 8pm and 8am, I need to put in 10 and a half hours. Unless I took like an hour break somewhere, then I would just, you know, work five hours, take an hour break, work five hours. So, I basically, my window starts at eight; and I normally just start at like 8:45 or 9, because I have to get my kids up at 7:30. So, I mean, it doesn't really pay for me; and then I can spend more time with them before I start work and before they go to bed. We just have, like, a timecard program on our on the computer that, it's basically like a like a punch card, you know, so you just go in and punch in and use that same system to punch out for breaks or punch out for lunch. Or, if you're watching a meeting, you have to punch out of, like, a productivity pay code into a miscellaneous pay code.
April Malone 26:54
Or education or something like that.
Angela Norlien 26:55
April Malone 26:56
Yeah. When I was working with you, they were much more strict about our schedule. We had to log in at a certain time.
Angela Norlien 26:56
April Malone 27:01
We had to have approval ahead of time if we wanted to take time off; but actually, because it was 24/7, and for a hospital environment, we had to work holidays. And, so, I know you and I worked a lot of Thanksgivings and Christmases and all the things together , which--we only had to work one out of six in a year, but I was usually working five or six; and do you want to talk about why? Do you remember the coupon? Do they still give coupons now?
Angela Norlien 27:29
Oh, yes. Yeah, they used to give you coupons if you volunteered to work. And then it was like undeniable PTO; so, if you wanted a day off and it wasn't available, you could cash in your coupon to be able to take it.
April Malone 27:40
What was terrible, though, was the people who were working Monday through Friday, they had every weekend off. But we were scheduled to work every weekend; and if we wanted to take a Saturday night off for, like, a wedding or something like that, we actually had to take paid time off. And so, you know, the fact that we were already working three or four days a week, or at least I was, you know, we had a few days built in, but they weren't the days that you wanted to take off. And, so, I was working, you known, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day... When I was working, and I moved moved away, I actually could work onsite. Like, I could drive back in, up to Minnesota, to see my family, and I could actually drive onsite and go work. They had like a drop-in desk, a few of them, for people that, like, if they had technical problems. Did you ever have to use that?
Angela Norlien 27:56
No, I never did. I should knock on wood. No, I never.
April Malone 28:40
Oh, my goodness. I always lived too far away to actually have to be able to go in during technical problems. I just had to, like, talk to the supervisor and make it up somehow. But when I was coming home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, it kind of stunk. Because, you know, I would go and see my family and then I would have to drive in and sit all night and work. And, actually, like when I was nursing the babies and everything, my husband would even have to drive them in; and I'd have to, like, get him logged in, in the middle of the night into this building. I'd have to like go up and like sign him into a book. And he would come in, and we would go into that lactation room; and I would like literally nurse the baby in the lactation room; and, then, he would leave and drive home. It was a 20-minute drive.
Angela Norlien 29:25
April Malone 29:26
But let's talk about the commute. So, you used to commute. It was--You don't live close to where you work?
Angela Norlien 29:33
No, it's a it's an hour, one way. So, I was commuting two hours a day, back and forth. So, when I was working 10 hours, it was a 12-hour day for me, with the commune.
April Malone 29:47
We were talking the other day, and you added it up. How many hours a week were you commuting?
Angela Norlien 30:05
Yeah, so it was like 12 hours? No, it was like 14 and a half, once you added in, like, because it took an hour to get there. But, then, you know, to be able to park your car and get into the building and, you know, get situated and punch in. You know, it ended up being like--so a two-hour drive each day but then half an hour extra just to get--so it was--Yeah, like 14 and a half hours, 15 hours a week, just in the commute, yeah.
April Malone 30:35
Right. So now you have six kids.
Angela Norlien 30:38
Right. And which I tell everyone, there's no way that we would have been able to have such a large family if I was still commuting to work.
April Malone 30:48
So, let's talk about that. We both had pregnancies while we were working together. And because my family lives far away, I'm in Arizona now, and my family's in Minnesota. And my husband's is in Arkansas and Missouri and Tennessee and everywhere. So he always wanted to kind of keep it quiet if we were pregnant in order to, you know, be able to tell family in person, but I just couldn't contain myself; and, so, Angela, I think was the first to know, um, basically every time I got pregnant.
Angela Norlien 31:20
I know, and I think you were the first to know with at least the last two, if not the last three.
April Malone 31:28
Angela Norlien 31:28
And I think actually, with the last two, you might have known before my husband even knew; because, like, I would take a pregnancy test at night, and you'd be working. And I'd be like, "Oh my gosh!"
April Malone 31:40
I think my husband knew first, but, yeah, that's possible that could have happened. But you gave me some excellent advice, because I was really nervous, like, how am I going to be able to work and have a newborn in the house? And I asked you, what do you do like, 'cause you can, especially back then, when they were really strict about how often we could take a lunch, it was strict. They were 30 minutes, and if you wanted to go and do an hour, I think you sometimes even had to ask permission. And they were very, you know, you had to log in at a certain time and log out. And when--about five years ago, when we both had our last kid, we were given the opportunity to change our schedule. And, like I said earlier, we both ended up keeping the third shift. And that's when I used my opportunity to advocate for myself. I had read Tim Ferriss's book on The 4-Hour Workweek. And even though none of the stuff that he talked about applied to me as an employee like that, something that he said, just sparked something in me; and I went to the supervisor, and I was like, "Hey, I'll do this for you; but this is what I want you to do for me." And I actually was able to get a 90-minute flexible lunch. And, so, they basically said I could take 90 minutes of lunch every night. And I could take it as three 30-minute lunches or two 45-minute lunches or an hour and then 30 minutes.
Angela Norlien 32:55
April Malone 32:55
So, it was amazing for when I was able to, you know, have my baby, especially that third one, because it was, you know, my husband would take the baby to me; and the advice that you gave me was put a pillow on your lap. Normally, you don't want to try to type with a baby in your lap, but if you need to, it's not great for your arms; but it can get you through in a pinch.
Angela Norlien 33:18
Right? I did that a lot.
April Malone 33:19
I learned it from you.
Angela Norlien 33:22
Yeah, I did that with my last four kids. Every single one of them nursed for 18 months, never once had a bottle, and never, ever pumped. Yeah, I would just lay a pillow in my lap, and they would nurse; and I would just type over the top of them.
April Malone 33:40
I have a lot of respect for people who do pump and all of that, because it's very time consuming--
Angela Norlien 33:45
Oh my gosh, yeah.
April Malone 33:45
And I feel like we were able to just save a lot of money. We didn't have to buy all of that stuff, and we were able to save a lot of time to just get it one and done. You know? I remember I asked you, before--I think I must have been pregnant. And I think I just asked you "Do you feel like you're a stay-at-home mom? Or do you feel like you're working mom?" Because you're at home! Do you remember what you said?
Angela Norlien 34:08
Right. I don't remember what I said. But I think, I mean, I feel like a working mom. I mean, although like a lot of people--a lot of like my kids' friends' parents are like, "Oh, so you just are a stay-at-home mom?" And I was like, "No, I work." You know, some people don't even realize that I work; because I work from home and I don't really, you know, talk about it much or whatever, it doesn't come up or whatever. But, yeah, I think a lot of people don't realize that I do have a full-time job. I do work.
April Malone 34:46
"I worked all night, actually, while you were sleeping."
Angela Norlien 34:50
April Malone 34:51
I had to start telling my friends "I work third shift, and I've only slept like 90 minutes last night. So, if I can't make words today, that's why."
Angela Norlien 34:58
April Malone 35:01
And, then, so you met me at my wedding. It was actually my wedding reception, up in Minnesota. And then, the next time I saw you, you gave me four totes of baby clothes. So I had only met Angela one time, and she had already had four girls, and she didn't know if she was going to have any more kids and gave me all of her baby clothes which was amazing, because I was having a girl. And then you had--
Angela Norlien 35:28
And then I had another girl. And then I finally had a boy. So I've got five girls, and my youngest is a little guy.
April Malone 35:36
So I think we're a good example of people who have gotten to know each other virtually.
Angela Norlien 35:41
April Malone 35:41
We got to know each other virtually, through, like, the chat program, whatever it was called, like, the Skype version of whatever it was.
Angela Norlien 35:50
April Malone 35:50
Mostly just text, right? Like, we would try not to interrupt each other too much, but sometimes we would kind of get going a little bit. And so it's not like we're picking up the phone and talking, we were just texting on Skype or whatever it was called.
Angela Norlien 36:01
April Malone 36:03
But we've been able to meet up a few times, and I really appreciate having a friend I can go see when I go back to Minnesota, like you.
Angela Norlien 36:11
Yeah, it's fun.
April Malone 36:11
We've been camping, you came out and visited us at a campsite. And what else have we done? You guys came and visited us, when we had our second baby.
Angela Norlien 36:21
Yeah, when you--where were you? Were you in Springfield at the time, no, where were you?
April Malone 36:27
No, we were in Southern Illinois.
Angela Norlien 36:27
Oh yeah, that's right.
April Malone 36:28
You drove like 9 hours with all of your kids.
Angela Norlien 36:34
Yeah. That was fun, though, we had a blast that time when we came to see you. We did a lot of fun stuff.
April Malone 36:39
We went to the City Museum in St. Louis. Which, by the way, if you've never been there, in the middle of the United States in St. Louis, there's a place called City Museum, and it's good.
Angela Norlien 36:50
April Malone 36:50
So, how do you stay active? You work from home? And then you sleep in the daytime? What do you do to get out? How do you stay busy?
Angela Norlien 37:02
Well, I love to bike, and I like to walk. I don't run. My husband is a marathon runner. He just ran a half marathon last weekend. But I don't run.
April Malone 37:15
Angela Norlien 37:17
But I love to walk, and my husband and I walk every night together just to get kind of away from the kids for half hour, 45 minutes, and have an adult conversation without the kids around. So, we do that every every night; and then I try to bike at least a couple times a week when the weather's decent, but I've been slacking lately.
April Malone 37:44
Angela Norlien 37:46
Also, I am a Girl Scout leader for a couple of my kids' troops. So, I've been a leader for 12 years. So, that keeps me busy, too, just planning stuff for our meetings and and all of that. And then--
April Malone 38:06
It keeps you involved in the community, too.
Angela Norlien 38:08
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's a lot of fun. I like it. I have, between the two troops that I have, I have about 18 girls in my troops. So, it's fun, and then--
April Malone 38:22
Have you always done two troops? That's a lot.
Angela Norlien 38:23
No, I usually have only done one troop. But my youngest little girl, Peyton, when she was in kindergarten, there wasn't anybody to lead a troop for her. So I said, "Well, I guess I'll do it." So I have, in our small community that we live in, I am the Girl Scout leader for kindergarten, first, second, and third. And then No--Yeah. Basically, kindergarten through sixth grade. And then I have a helper that helps me with the third and fourth grade troop.
April Malone 39:02
Wow. And, now, you're in a small town, right? Right by the river?
Angela Norlien 39:07
April Malone 39:08
And your kids are at school?
Angela Norlien 39:10
Kind of on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. Yeah.
April Malone 39:13
And your kids are all going to school this year?
Angela Norlien 39:14
Yes. My kids are at school. Right. They're in school full-time right now. On Wednesdays, our elementary kids have a half-day of school, and our high school kids are distance learning on Wednesdays. So, in the mornings on Wednesdays, they do like a clean sweep of the high school, like a deep cleaning; and, then, once the elementary kids go home at noon, they do a deep cleaning of the elementary school. My husband is on the school board, so he was able to advocate for the kids going back to school. I know it's a hot topic right now, but my kids did not like the distance learning. Although, I realize that, for some people, that does work better; but, for us, my kids would rather be in school, and I would rather them be in school. I was just gonna say we live in a small community; and our rates are very, very, very low. So if I lived in a bigger community where the the cases were higher, I might have a different opinion on sending my kids back to school.
April Malone 40:49
Does your school offer any other choices this year?
Angela Norlien 40:54
Yeah, if you want to keep your kids distant learning, we have--the Minnesota Virtual Academy is actually based out of our high school. So, you can do the Minnesota Virtual Academy; or if you want to, like stay enrolled in the school, you can do the online learning with your class, some of the classrooms have cameras in the room; so, like, you are watching class on your computer and still able to participate, and the teacher can talk to you still.
April Malone 41:29
Wow, so there are two different virtual options.
Angela Norlien 41:33
April Malone 41:35
Wow. Oh, you haven't told me about your, your exercise bike inside?
Oh yeah! So, last year, my department--we had some special projects that we worked on that weren't transcription that we could do. We did it for like 2 hours of our shift, and they offered unlimited overtime doing it, and it was basically like chart review, so if a doctor sent in outside records, you could just go through and basically make sure that it got filed correctly, and the paper wasn't upside down or something like that. So, another way that I kept active then was that I had just a foot pedal under my bike, so when I was working--a foot pedal under my desk; so, when I was working, I would just pedal my foot pedal. I have it here, I can show it to you.
So, it's a foot pedal--it's not the same kind that you use for transcription. It's like your--Oh, it looks like a bike!
Angela Norlien 42:44
April Malone 42:46
So, you can put that under? So, it's like short. It's like, what, a foot and a half, two feet tall, and it's short, so you can put it under your desk and actually, like, use it, like you're pedaling, and you're sitting in your own chair? And you stick your feet in there? Do you feel like it helps you burn calories, or is it more for, like, motility and just keeping your body limber?
Angela Norlien 43:00
It definitely helped me burn calories, and I would put my Fitbit around my ankle, and then I would get steps for it, also. So when I was in, like, step challenges, I was really pedalling.
April Malone 43:20
Oh, and you mentioned earlier...
Angela Norlien 43:21
But I have to get my sister credit for that, because she was the one. She works at the same clinic as I do, and she used to do transcription; but now she switched to a different department. So that was her find. She found that on Amazon and got one, and then I was like, " I need one of those!"
April Malone 43:42
Yeah, so we were all together training for the... What did we call that? back in--right before I ended up leaving the clinic, we were all studying to be certified for, what was it called certified? Help me out.
Angela Norlien 43:56
Healthcare documentation. Oh, yeah. CHDS. So, Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist.
April Malone 44:02
And you went through with it. I actually ended up not finishing, because then I didn't end up staying at the clinic which worked out for me.
Angela Norlien 44:10
Yeah. So I went through all the training. And, then, I took the test; and it was a super intense test. So you--the first part of the test is Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist. So, you take that part of the test, and if you pass, you can move on to the second part of the test. So I took the test and I was--when I finished and submitted it, I was like, there's no way I passed that, but then I did pass it. And then I did the second part and passed that. So, yeah, so I got my certification three years ago; and then I just recertified this past July. So, and to stay certified, you have to get so many, like, education credits. So, it's like--
April Malone 45:03
It was, way more intense than what we studied to become medical transcriptionists. It was like, literally the next level. I felt like I was studying, like, to be a doctor. I mean, like, you really had to get in there and know those words.
Angela Norlien 45:06
Yeah. It was.
April Malone 45:15
I always tell people I can spell the words; but I don't necessarily know, like, where that is or what it means.
Angela Norlien 45:20
April Malone 45:21
And I think that, in order to go through that program, you really have to like, understand, so that you're less likely to make, you know, errors in the medical record.
Angela Norlien 45:29
April Malone 45:29
Do you feel like getting that certification helped you with your job security in terms of like, you know, they've had so much restructuring in your department now? You just talked about 200 people that got let go or were able to, like, I think they were able to get another job, or they had some time, right?
Angela Norlien 45:46
Yeah, they had some. The clinic helped them find other positions within the clinic, if that's what they wanted; or if they if they wanted to leave and look elsewhere, some people did that, too. But a lot of people stayed at the clinic and just transitioned into other roles. And I don't really know if it helped me, because--
April Malone 46:10
Like I said, you're a rock star. I mean, like, you definitely have been around and type super fast, and you have the certification, but you...
Angela Norlien 46:21
Yeah, some, some of my coworkers that had the certification got let go. And some of us got kept. So and some people that got kept don't have the certification. So, I don't know if it--I mean, it didn't hurt me, obviously, but I don't know if it was one of the factors in them keeping me.
April Malone 46:40
When I left the position, it was back when they offered like a separation package. And so they basically said, we're going to be restructuring, because we are implementing this new program, Epic; and it's just going to change the whole flow of the organization, and we're just not going to need as many--Over the years, I would give them credit, they really did a good job at always giving people a chance to get a different job. And this time, they're like, "You can voluntarily separate. It's not necessarily a severance." They call it the separation package. You're not being laid off. You're not being fired. You can choose. And at that point, I had already started teaching English as a second language. And I kept telling you and other people, I'm like, "Oh, my gosh, this is so fun. But of course, I need to stay, I've got my pension, I've got my benefits, I've got the health care, you know, insurance for our whole family at the time." And it was right after my husband was hired at his company. He had been contract before, and then this was his full-time position. And he, all of a sudden, had benefits. And, so, for the first time, I was like, oh, my goodness, I actually could, you know, do this English thing full time. And it really was fun.
Angela Norlien 47:55
April Malone 47:56
So, I was one of the few people who had training outside of transcription. A lot of people that are in that field have been doing it for 30-40 years.
Angela Norlien 48:05
April Malone 48:06
So. All right. Do you have anything else you want to share with people who are just getting started, not in medical transcription, but getting started working from home for the first time? Like, have you learned any tips or tricks along the way that you feel might be helpful to people?
Angela Norlien 48:28
I would say that, even though you're working from home, try to separate your work from your home life. Like, I don't even go near my workstation when I'm not scheduled to work. You know, I don't think about it. I don't turn on my computer. I try to separate my work from my home. Even though I work at home, I try to separate the two.
April Malone 48:57
Now, are you--Since you're hourly, you can. You can just turn it off at the end of your shift, and you don't have to keep coming back. But, do you ever have an opportunity to work extra? Like we talked about the vacations earlier?
Angela Norlien 49:09
Yeah. Right. Well, about a year ago, they were offering over time; and, so, I did work a lot of overtime, because my daughter was getting married, and I needed extra money. Yeah, but, if overtime is not available, then I don't.
April Malone 49:28
And I never asked you, where is your workstation set up in your home?
Angela Norlien 49:34
So it's set up, we have like a two-story house; and our downstairs is mainly just an open area, where we have, like, a family room/living room area and then the kitchen and the dining room; and, so, my workspace is just in a corner of our family room downstairs. And then, upstairs, is like a family room and all the--and there's a bathroom down here, and I said the kitchen. So, I decided to put my workstation down here; because, since I work third shift, everybody's asleep upstairs, and there's a bathroom down here and the kitchen. So, I don't have to, you know, go past anybody's bedroom to use the bathroom or get a drink or a snack or anything like that.
April Malone 50:25
I think being that close to the kitchen would be problematic for me.
Angela Norlien 50:31
It is sometimes very problematic; and, you know, sometimes, working at night you, I mean, you get tired; and you just need something crunchy to keep yourself awake.
April Malone 50:39
Yep! Carrots! Eat the carrots! Oh man! I have loved getting to see you. And I know that you aren't normally on camera. Like, this is kind of, well--for those of you who are listensing to the podcast, you can't see, but Angela is on camera with me today; and that's not part of your job. Like, you're not normally in meetings online, so--
Angela Norlien 50:58
No, I normally don't see anyone. I was like, "Oh my gosh, I get to, like, put some makeup and earrings on today." Yeah, because, working from home, I don't have--you know, a lot of times, it's a few days before I put actual clothes on if I don't have to go anywhere.
April Malone 51:13
Right, right. Yes. I enjoyed that. Now, I'm on camera all the time; but I enjoyed, like literally nobody could see you, like there wasn't a camera. Like, there was not like the possibility of there being a camera, because there just wasn't one; and that was kind of nice.
Angela Norlien 51:16
April Malone 51:16
Well, I know we could go on and on and on. But I think we're running out of time here. I want to thank you again for being brave and coming on camera with me today--
Angela Norlien 51:36
Well, thanks for asking me, it was fun.
April Malone 51:37
--and recording this podcast. It was so fun to get to catch up, too, so. All right! Well, this is Yes, I Work From Home. And thank you, Angela Norlien, for coming today. We'll see ya.
Angela Norlien 51:49
April Malone 51:50