Medical Scribe Vs Medical Assistant (Premed Clinical Experience)

We all know that clinical experience is important for your medical school application. You need to get involved in the medical industry to get an idea of what you are getting yourself into. Two common premed clinical experiences are becoming a medical scribe or a medical assistant. Which one is better?

Both being a medical scribe and a medical assistant are great clinical experiences that are seen as competitive extracurriculars on your medical school applications. What it boils down to is scribing tends to be more medical knowledge-oriented while being a medical assistant is more patient care-focused. 

But there is a lot more to it! So that you can make a more informed decision, we dove deep into this topic to answer any questions you might have. 

What Is The Difference Between A Medical Scribe And A Medical Assistant?

In order to understand which position is better for your situation, we first need to understand the differences between these two jobs.

  • Medical assistants are in charge of multiple clinical and admin duties. Scheduling, registering patients, collecting specimens, assisting physicians with basic medical procedures. 
  • Medical scribes are purely focused on electronic documentation. Although sometimes medical scribes can be used for certain tasks normally covered by a medical assistant. This depends on the location they are working at and the physician they are assisting. 

Benefits Of Being A Medical Assistant For Medical School

Benefits of being a medical assistant for medical school

There are many benefits to being a medical assistant that will help you get into medical school and beyond. 

Everything will depend on the location you work at whether that is a hospital or a doctor’s clinic. You can expect to be assisting with procedures, chaperoning office visits, and helping with diagnostic tests. 

Very often you can be tasked with admin work which can be a good thing for your future career. More admin work leads to a better understanding of the medical system and the workflow for ordering labs, images, patient records, etc. 

Finally, the largest benefit of being a medical assistant before medical school is the constant engagement with patients. Scribes, on the other hand, will hardly have any patient interaction. 

Although students get into medical school without any experience with patient interaction all the time, you are at an advantage if you have that experience going in.

When you start rounding on patients in medical school, having previous patient interaction experience makes you more comfortable around them. You don’t have to deal with that learning curve of developing a good bedside manner like most students. 

Benefits of Being A Medical Scribe For Medical School

Being a medical scribe is a very popular clinical job among premed students. 

As a medical scribe, you have the opportunity to work very closely with physicians throughout they’re day to day routine. You are responsible for documenting all the charting involved with each patient that comes in. Depending on where you work, you may be asked to do other small tasks like assisting a physician in a procedure, calling labs, and fetching various equipment that the doctor needs to examine patients. 

Working closely with doctors is a great benefit. You are essentially shadowing them for long stretches of time. This way, you get to experience the pros and cons of pursuing a career as a physician which medical schools love to see. 

Because you are documenting everything a physician does, as a scribe you learn a lot more about how physicians treat different kinds of patients. This is an obvious advantage for medical school because you will understand well how a physician thinks before you even treat your own patients!

Even though you may get to assist physicians in things aside from scribing, you won’t get that patient interaction that a medical assistant benefits from. But hey, there are pros and cons to everything!

Can a Medical Assistant Be A Scribe?

Can a medical assistant be a scribe?

Is it possible to get the best of both worlds with these two jobs?

It depends on your work situation but a medical assistant can definitely do scribe work as well. This is more common in small practices where the medical assistants are more broadly utilized. 

Being a scribe doesn’t require any sort of certification or formal training.

Yes, there is a learning curve when it comes to learning how to fill out the electronic health record but it is possible to train your medical assistant to do this. In some practices, it makes sense for the doctor to put in the extra time to train a medical assistant to scribe as opposed to hiring a service. 

Are Medical Scribes In High Demand?

Yes, they are!

Since the introduction of the EHR (electronic health record) the physician’s workload has increased to the point of compromising proper patient care. In order to remedy this, hospitals and clinics started hiring medical scribes with the sole purpose of filling out these charts.

If you live in or close to a city, you should have no problem getting a job as a scribe. 

Conclusion: Medical Scribe Vs Medical Assistant

There really isn’t a right answer to this question. Both medical scribes and medical assistants have their advantages and disadvantages but ultimately both are seen as favorable in the eyes of a medical school. 

It really depends on your situation. The biggest difference between these two health care experiences is the patient interaction. 

If you feel that your application would benefit more from a patient interaction standpoint, then it may be better for you to become a medical assistant. One example of why you may opt for a more patient interaction experience would be due to a lack of volunteer work. 

If patient interaction is not as important to you and you want to challenge your medical knowledge, becoming a scribe might be best for you. 

Regardless of what you choose, make sure you are committed. I recommend devoting at least 1 full year (Part-time or full-time) to the job. This will demonstrate a level of commitment and give you enough experience to write about it on your medical school application. 

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