Extracurriculars related to medicine are very important for every premed student’s medical school application. One clinical experience that you might be thinking of is becoming a medical scribe, but is being a medical scribe really worth it?
The answer is yes, being a medical scribe is totally worth it. Not only does being a scribe boost your medical school application, but it has you work side by side with physicians. This kind of opportunity trains you to think like a physician and puts you in an excellent position to start networking.
But there is so much more to scribing that makes it worth it.
Let’s dig deeper into scribing so you can decide for yourself if it’s right for you.
What Do Medical Scribes Do?
In a nutshell, the primary duty of a medical scribe is to alleviate the workload of a physician primarily by doing his or her electronic charting. In addition to this, a scribe may help further assist with the workload by chasing down labs and scans, making phone calls, and other random tasks that don’t require a medical school education.
With the increase of charting responsibilities, physicians have been spending less and less time with their patients. In fact, on average physicians were spending only about 13-16 minutes per patient!
The electronic health record, or EHR, is arguably the largest reason why physicians struggle to spend enough time with their patients. The market’s solution: medical scribes.
Some brilliant entrepreneurs got the idea, let’s recruit pre-health students who are desperately looking for clinical experience for cheap scribe labor in order to remove those charting tasks from physicians.
It’s a win-win situation, scribe companies can offer their services to hospitals/doctors cheap and pre-health students can get valuable experience working right next to a physician.
Some people can get a little salty about how cheap scribe labor is for the amount of work you do. But at the end of the day, you are getting clinical experience for medical school so who cares. It’s just a small stepping stone to your overall future career in health care.
It’s important to understand that scribes are not transcriptionists. Scribes aren’t simply copying down everything a physician says. Yes, dictation is a big part of the job of the scribe, but you are doing much more than that.
Your main job as a scribe is to record everything you hear and see during the physician’s entire visit with a patient and record that information in the appropriate part of the electronic chart.
The chart itself will be broken down into segments like HPI (history of present illness) which is essentially a brief description of why the patient is there, a list of symptoms, the physical exam, studies ordered, the treatment plan, and any prescriptions the doctor orders.
A good scribe will observe everything during a physician-patient encounter and fill out those portions of the EHR with minimal instructions. There is quite a bit of “reading between the lines” with scribing. You may have to pick through a convoluted story from the patient and organize that into symptoms with medical terminology.
Also, scribes often work as personal assistants to the physician. You may be doing odd jobs like calling a lab to find out why a study is taking forever, track down an X-ray tech to find out when they are seeing a specific patient, contact a physician consultation, set up a translator on the phone, and much more.
What Do You Think Is Most Challenging About Working As A Medical Scribe?
The most challenging part about being a scribe is taking in a lot of information, sifting through it in order to distill the relevant information, and organizing that information into the rather confusing EHR chart.
And you are doing all of this at a fast pace seeing multiple patients in an hour.
This is the biggest learning curve to becoming a good scribe. Over time you will become a faster type and learn how to filter out the fluff in order to pick out the clinical gems.
Further Reading: 5 Important Medical Scribing Tips To Help You Improve
How Long Does It Take To Become A Scribe
Becoming a scribe is a very quick process. You can go from applying for a scribe job to working in as little as a couple of weeks.
Here is the general timeline of becoming a medical scribe:
- Apply to a scribing company.
- Interview with the scribing company.
- After you are given the job, you will be given a packet to study.
- This study packet is mainly about scribe responsibilities and common medical terminology.
- You will be given an orientation date, usually 1 or 2 days.
- During this orientation, you will take a test to prove that you studied the material they gave you.
- Then you will do training shifts with an experienced scribe
- I did 5 training shifts which were full length days with another scribe who showed me how to record information and chart
- Finally you officially starting working on your own.
- You will still be figuring things out but most of the time there will be other scribes working around you. If there aren’t, you can always ask the physician questions. They understand there is a learning curve for a new scribe.
How Much Do ER Scribes Make?
As I have alluded to earlier. Scribes really don’t make that much, unfortunately. The biggest value of being a medical scribe is the experience. That being said, an ER scribe can expect to make between $8/hr to $13/hr depending on the state and company.
A new scribe will have to first gain experience through a larger scribing company. There is pay variation between different scribe companies but they are generally the same. I worked for Docassist in 2016-2017 and was paid $10/hr.
Most new scribes end up with ER jobs, so these kinds of scribing jobs tend to pay on the lower end.
As you gain experience, you have other options. You can become a scribe lead or even get into management roles. Also, physicians in private practice tend to pay more but they want scribes with experience because they don’t have the time or resources to train them.
Is Scribing Good Clinical Experience?
Scribing is an amazing clinical experience. As a scribe, you will work very closely with physicians. You experience patient-physician interactions, the entire patient treatment process, the benefits of being a physician, and the stress of being a physician. Medical schools like the fact that you are really getting to know this profession so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not it’s the career for you.
Clinical experience is very important for medical school and scribing is a great way to obtain it.
Is Scribing Good For Medical School Applications?
Yes, being a medical scribe is great for your medical school application. Scribes work closely with physicians much like shadowing but with a more active role as a member of the team. Not only do you experience what a physician does day-to-day but you also gain valuable medical knowledge such as common procedures, common studies, and the uses of a wide variety of prescriptions.
Being a medical scribe bolsters multiple parts of your medical school application. Not only can you list it as an experience in the work and extracurriculars section, but it’s also a great experience to add to your personal statement and a great way to obtain letters of recommendation from physicians.
This is especially important for DO schools. Lots of DO schools require letters of recommendation from physicians and prefer letters specifically from DOs. As a scribe, you can expect to work with DOs giving you the valuable opportunity to obtain a DO letter.
Do You Have To Scribe To Get Into Medical School?
No, you don’t, there are other great clinical opportunities and plenty of premed students get into medical school without scribing.
Here are some examples of other clinical experiences that are helpful for your medical school application:
- Medical Interpreter
- Hospice worker/volunteer
- Certified Nursing Assistant
- Medical Assistant
- Medical Technician
Benefits Of Being A Medical Scribe
I would definitely recommend scribing to any premed student. Here is a recap of the benefits of scribing.
- Great clinical experience working close to a physician.
- Opportunity to obtain letters of recommendation from physicians which is especially important for DO schools.
- Can add a lot of content to your medical school application.
- Quick process to go from no experience to working as a scribe.
- Generally easy to schedule around a busy schedule. I didn’t mention this earlier but this is a benefit of being a medical scribe.
- Learn a lot of medical terminology which is relevant to medical school.
- You get to see a lot of cool medical procedures!
Cons Of Being A Medical Scribe
Every job is going to have its cons and scribing is not immune to this.
- Low paying.
- Difficult learning curve in the beginning.
- Most likely you will have to work an overnight shift.
- Can be very demanding and fast paced.