If you’re considering a career in medicine, working as a medical scribe is a best bet for familiarizing yourself with patient care. A medical scribe works directly with physicians, primarily focused on charting patient encounters in the electronic medical record. What’s more, scribe positions can be full or part time, making it a viable job choice for a student.
If this sounds appealing, consider the following 10 reasons why prospective medical school students should consider becoming a medical scribe.
1. You will shadow physicians. Most admissions committees expect students to have had shadowing experiences before they apply to medical school. One of the greatest benefits of shadowing is that the experience will help you see how physicians handle being busy and stressed.
2. You will learn a great deal about medicine. As a scribe, you will start to listen for the signs and symptoms that help a physician come to a diagnosis or a differential diagnosis list. Over time, you will be able to anticipate what some of these diagnoses may be.
3. You will make money while you learn and shadow. Learning is inherent in this job, so think of it as a free education. You also won’t have to beg a physician to let you tag along on patient visits; you will actually be part of the health care team.
4. You will learn a lot about teamwork. You'll be able to observe the respect given to team members and watch them intuitively help one another. Many medical students have no idea what the roles of interdisciplinary providers are until they get to their third year. You will be better prepared to understand the role of a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner because you have seen them in action.
5. You will learn medical language. Over time, you will learn how to spell and pronounce the words, and what they mean. The more familiar you are with the terminology, the less you'll have to rely on rote memorization after you enter medical school. Humans more easily remember things through experience than simply by reading a text.
6. You will watch, hear and see how trust is developed. I think this is different than basic shadowing where the focus is on the physician. What I am talking about here is the dance between the patient and physician that generates caring and trust. For example, you might hear how the physician works to clearly understand what a patient said or you might see the doctor comfort a patient by touching the patient’s hand.
7. You will learn about the medical record. You will learn why the patient’s chief complaint is different from the history of present illness. You will understand the importance of the social history and mental status exam. The order will be more meaningful, and you will practice it so often that you could do it in your sleep.
8. You will learn about templates, checklists and smart phrases. All of these tools are to help physicians become more efficient, but clearly the tools aren't enough because they hired you to help.
9. You'll probably increase your typing speed and efficiency. Not only are these skills beneficial to you, but they’re important in terms of maintaining patient flow and reducing patient wait time.
10. You will get to listen to patients. This, in my opinion, is the most important reason. You will get to hear their story, their pain and their fears. You will learn to be in the moment and block out distractions, which is what all patients hope their doctors will do.