Is being a medical scribe good clinical experience for pre-meds?

What’s a medical scribe?

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A medical scribe is an assistant who accompanies physicians (often in the Emergency Department, but sometimes in other settings), keeping notes on interactions with, evaluation of, and diagnosis and treatment of patients. It’s like paid shadowing, but the responsibilities are much greater. Scribes learn the basics of charting, and become well versed in medical terminology, common treatments and procedures, drugs and patient assessment. They cannot put in orders for prescriptions, X-rays or tests. They are unlicensed and require specialized training before beginning work.

With the federal government requiring hospitals to keep electronic health records, the number of medical scribes has grown exponentially since Obamacare passed, and will no doubt be a big part of the future of medicine. Nearly one in five physicians use a medical scribe at least some of the time.

What are the first steps to becoming a medical scribe?

There are various medical scribe companies that contract with hospitals to train and employ medical scribes. They are companies like PhysAssist Scribes, ScribeAmerica, and ProScribe. Your local hospital ED can direct you to the company they use. You’ll likely begin with a simple typing test, followed by drug testing and an update on any vaccinations. Then you’ll spend a few weeks preparing. You’ll probably have to memorize medical terms and do some online and in-person classroom training. Then you’ll do some shifts with a senior scribe to make sure you’re ready to work on your own. At PhysAssist, scribes get 40 hours of training, learning medical vocabulary, privacy law, and charting. Then they’ll do up to eight supervised shifts with a senior scribe.

What exactly do medical scribes do?

A medical scribe follows a physician from room to room, patient to patient. Using a tablet or laptop, the scribe takes notes on everything the physician does and says that relates to the patient. This includes but is not limited to patient physicals, imaging dictations, dictations on any procedures completed, diagnoses and tests ordered, patient pain assessments, etc. The scribe is basically taking notes and charting for the physician, saving them valuable time. It also allows physicians to spend more of their time interacting with patients rather than charting. The pay for a scribe often comes straight from the physician’s salary as they choose whether or not to use one. Scribes don’t have direct interaction with patients.

How long will I keep a medical scribe job?

There’s a steep learning curve and the longer you’re at it, the better you become. The training is invaluable, both in terms of learning medical practice and terminology, but also in getting familiar with charting techniques. So once you’re trained it’s a good idea to stick with it for awhile. In a year, you will have gained thousands of hours and observed thousands of patient interactions to bolster your understanding of the ER or other specialty where you scribe. Most scribes work 30-40 hours a week, and stay on the job a 6 months to a year.

How’s the pay

Is a medical scribe good paying? In fact, it’s terrible considering the valuable role you provide. Plan to make minimum wage, and maybe up to $12-15 per hour depending on the setting. Remember you are gaining valuable training that will prepare you for your future career, and medical scribing gives you infinitely more access to medicine than simply shadowing physicians.

What are the downsides?

You’re on your feet all the time, scrambling to keep up with the treating physician. The responsibility for getting things right in patients’ charts can be stressful. Depending on the ED or medical office, the job can also bring stress. Some scribe jobs are boring in a slow office or one that treats patients with the same complaints. And the pay is hardly rewarding.

What are the benefits of being a medical scribe job?

In addition to gaining specialized knowledge regarding the treatment, diagnosis, and care of patients, as well as charting techniques, you’ll have the chance to interact closely with medical staff and see what it’s like practicing medicine. Physicians are often willing to take time to discuss interesting cases with you when there is time. It’s also a great plus affiliating with physicians who can become role models, and who may feel comfortable writing a letter of recommendation for your med school application.

YES…medical scribe good choice for pre-meds

Working as a medical scribe is a great choice for pre-meds! Being a scribe is “behind the scenes” training for your future medical practice, in a limited sense. Getting this kind of up-close and personal experience is viewed positively by adcoms given its direct application to medical practice.

Here are some other considerations for pre-meds re: extracurriculars:

—Shadowing doctors: make the most of it

—Premed research: a beginner’s guide

—Extracurriculars for med school are golden