Undergraduate: James Madison University, 2010
Post-bacc: Virginia Commonwealth University
Medical school: Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, 2017
The medical scribe profession is an emerging field that some medical school applicants pursue while in college or during a gap year. The medical scribe profession is an emerging field that some medical school applicants pursue while in college or during a gap year. The benefits of being a medical scribe include gaining more experience in a medically related environment, earning income to pay off loans, saving money for medical school, and shadowing physicians while working closely alongside them.
What does a medical scribe do?
As a scribe, I was responsible for taking notes during a patient interview, writing up the encounter on a medical chart, and assisting with the flow of patients through the emergency department.
On a given day, I was scheduled to work with a single health care provider for the entire shift. After taking notes from the patient interview, if time permitted, I would enter the history of present illness (HPI), review of systems, and document physician dictated notes such as the physical exam, differential diagnoses, and progress notes.
There were also a number of small duties to manage at various times throughout the visit, such as calling consults and obtaining medical records from other facilities. The ultimate goal is to improve physician productivity by allowing them to focus on the medical decision making, thereby improving patient flow and overall outcomes.
How did you find out about medical scribing?
I found out about scribing from my undergraduate academic adviser. I received an email regarding an open position at a hospital about an hour away from my house. I applied but didn’t get the job. I then researched other programs in my area and was surprised to find a few located closer to my house. I applied to another program and was accepted.
How long did it take to be trained?
Once I was hired, there was a lengthy orientation session to teach the basics of the computer program our hospital used for electronic medical records (EMRs), the layout of a note, and how to write an HPI.
After this session, we were required to complete eight to 10 training sessions with another senior trainer. We were paid for all of the sessions (at a slightly lower rate than our base pay), and it took approximately two months from the time I was hired until I was permitted to scribe without supervision.
What is the job market like for scribe positions?
Every year, there are numerous positions that open up, mainly in the fall as senior scribes are entering their respective schools (medical, PA, nursing, M.H.A., etc.). Therefore, we begin hiring new scribes in March or April and continue until September or October. Hiring in the winter months is minimal and dependent on staffing requirements.
How did your experience as a scribe prepare you for applying to medical school?
It prepared me a great deal for both medical school and upper-level undergraduate courses. There is so much that you learn about physiology, anatomy, etc. that can be applied to real life cases. I tend to learn best when I see something in context, so making the connection between the classroom and the emergency room was extremely helpful for me.
In addition, there was an entire class dedicated to the physical exam and how to chart, something that I was intimately familiar with before entering medical school. I continued to work as a scribe through my first year of medical school because it was so beneficial.
Do you have any advice for someone interested in becoming a medical scribe?
I would say go for it, no matter what your level of experience or education. Apply early in undergrad and plan to stick with it for a while.
One of the untold benefits of being a scribe is the connections that you make with the providers you work with that will serve you well in the future. They were always willing to offer advice and assistance in any way possible.
Another piece of advice would be to stay humble. No amount of medical experience was necessary coming into the program, but the best scribes were always the ones who wanted to learn. After all, the medical profession is a continuous learning process, and being a scribe is just a starting point of a lifelong practice.
Finally, act like you really want the job. Don’t be afraid to apply twice, three times, whatever it takes.
Working as a scribe was one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had and it gave me a tremendous advantage during medical school. I felt very strong in my knowledge of medical terminology as well as performing a history and physical exam. I learned how to become a part of the health care team, which eased my transition into the clinical years of medical school. The people I worked with were amazing and it just made me all the more excited to begin my medical education. In fact, I loved my experience as a scribe so much, that I plan to make Emergency Medicine my career!
Christian Maloschik, Temple SOM 2009
"Being a scribe is a perfect job for anyone wanting to pursue a career in medicine. The job is not only a tremendous learning experience, but your actually making a difference by assisting the doctors to be more efficient so they can focus more on the quality of care for their patients."
Amy Hogan Quinnipiac University, CT 2010
"Working as a scribe was the single most reassuring experience I had prior to starting medical school and that a career in medicine was the right path for me. The physicians with whom I worked with at Tri-City were all eager mentors who encouraged my pursuit of medicine and were open to answering my questions and concerns about the profession. As a scribe I accumulated hundreds of hours of direct patient care experience, setting me far ahead of my medical school peers regarding patient interviewing skills. Now, having left ScribeAmerica and having started medical school, I have even greater admiration and appreciation for all that I learned, especially for the excitement this job instilled in me about my future career in medicine."
Lauren Davie, Tufts Medical College 2011
"Scribe America is a great program that prepared me in many ways for medical school. Working side by side with doctors in the emergency room gave me an incredible real-life experience to apply to all the classes I am taking now. Diagnosing is intimately related to recognizing patterns in patient symptoms and while working with Scribe America I was able to watch the physicians think their way through patient cases and absorb countless amounts of information. Having also volunteered in hospitals and taken part in research prior to entering medical school, I would say that my time with Scribe America was the most influential factor in giving me confidence in my decision to pursue a career in medicine. The one-on-one experience with physicians, the variety of patient cases and symptoms, the introduction to medical diagnostic techniques, and the vast amounts of medical terminology have all been invaluable to my current student status besides that I thoroughly enjoyed coming to work every day. I have and will continue to recommend Scribe America to any person contemplating medical school with a desire to learn and work hard."
Thanks for everything Sarah, I really had so much fun working at Hoag!
Kim Riegel, Loma Linda SOM 2011
"As a Scribe, I have learned so much in a short amount of time. I have become familiar with common illnesses, different types of drugs, lab results, and medical terminology. This variety of patients we treat in the Emergency Department has also helped me to narrow down my preferences in terms of which field of medicine I would like to pursue in the future. In addition, I have a more accurate perspective of the career of a PA from working alongside PAs and MDs while also benefiting from their teaching as we see patients together. Working as a scribe is a priceless experience and I now feel more prepared to begin my career as a PA. "
Stephanie Choi USC/MCPHS PA Program 2011
"As a Scribe, I got to see a little bit of everything on a daily basis. I learned what labs to order and when, common medications used, and how to interact with patients in stressful situations. In clinic, I am light years ahead of my peers who have never worked in an emergency room. I highly recommend being a Scribe as a great way to prepare for your future as a doctor."
Shannon Laing Western University DO Program 2011