Prior to applying to medical school, I believed that in order to see if I was really cut out to be a doctor, I should first become a medical scribe. At the time, in 2008-09, medical scribes were not prevalent across the USA and only mainly in major cities. However, months passed and medical scribe companies began popping up in almost every region, giving the opportunity for pre-medical students to obtain medical experience AND get paid.
Gain medical experience AND get paid? Win-Win!
That sounds too good to be true for a college student, especially since most pre-med students have to either succumb to an unpaid internship or volunteer at a doctor’s office to beef up their resume. There are companies now that are hiring medical scribes to work in the ER of hospitals as well as in certain physician offices.
I became a medical scribe in an ER outside Washington DC. Most scribes had to work 8-12 hour shifts, mirroring the same shifts of an ER physician. After being accepted into the medical scribe position, you must study medical terms and writing style of physicians before passing an exam.
After training with the medical documentation software, you will be paired with an ER physician and make patient rounds with them. You must document the chief complaint, history of present illness, patient history, review of systems, and at times, order lab results and prepare discharge information. Medical scribes are constantly on their feet and help with the communication between doctors, nurses, and techs. The ability to learn how to chart effectively, learn firsthand from the physicians themselves, and learn bedside manners are valuable experiences that even medical students don’t experience in their first 2 years of medical school!
Medical scribes get paid roughly $10-20/hour depending on specific companies and location. It is important to scribe with a physician who can mentor you and write a strong personal recommendation letter. When I was scribing with a physician years ago, they told me that “what I was doing now, communicating with the doctors, nurses and lab techs, documenting the patient history and chief complaints is what you will learn in residency.” It also helps increase your confidence in communicating with patients across the whole spectrum – from geriatric patients to drug addicts, to children, and patients with terminal cancer. Learning how to handle those situations early in your medical path will ease the stress within your clinical years.
If you are interested in becoming a Medical Scribe in your location, you can find companies through a simple google search or glassdoor. Most companies tend to be flexible with college student’s class schedule and other students don’t mind taking shifts during the weekends. The experience is invaluable and adds to your resume as having clinical experience in a hospital setting.