How Working as an ER Scribe Prepared Me for Medical School

Note: this is the draft I submitted to KevinMD, you can see that post here.

After undergrad and before starting medical school I worked for two years as an ER Scribe. I followed emergency room physicians and completed theirThis looks familiar... charts as they saw patients. I would also remind the physicians of various tasks to complete, alert them of abnormal lab values and pull up x-rays to be interpreted.

One of the reasons I wanted the job was to gain experience in medicine, first as a litmus test to determine if medicine was right for me and then as sort of an early training grounds to help me succeed in medical school and beyond.

Now, as a second year medical student I see my experience as an ER Scribe as invaluable. Working as a scribe gave me a jump start into the world of medicine.

Here are a few specific areas where I have noticed an advantage:

Terminology

Medicine is a whole new language. The most difficult part of starting out as a scribe was learning how to spell and recognize the variety of foreign terms. Not to mentioning having a vague idea of their meaning. After a steep learning curve, I started to become comfortable with the language of the hospital. Now that language is used in my education and I don’t have to expend any more energy looking up definitions.

Taking a History

While taking a history in an ER is often a rushed affair, the basic structure still holds. I observed and recorded countless patient interviews, learning not just the structure of a history but how to alter and refine questions based on previous answers. When I work in clinic now taking a history usually flows quite naturally.

Clinical Knowledge

Working as a scribe I looked at hundreds of x-rays and recorded each interpretation by the physician into the chart. I am grateful for this little head start I have in interpreting x-rays.

I have even found benefits during exams and quizzes. On several occasions during exams I have come across a question I was not sure about but was able to think back to experiences as an ER Scribe and remember the treatment or disease.

While working as a Scribe was a great experience nothing can completely prepare you for the rigors of medical school. But any little edge helps!

Pre med students, if you are interested in becoming a scribe, search for jobs in your area. A pre med advisor at your college should be aware of any scribe programs nearby.

ER Physicians, please remember that your ER Scribe may be a future colleague. They may model how they practice medicine after you and if you take the time to teach them something, that knowledge will stay with them.

Medical Student Writers

Since I started compiling a list of every med student blog I have become astounded at the quality of writing my fellow med students produce. The talent and passion they have makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about the next generation of physicians.

That being said, I’ve been keeping track of some of the best posts I’ve run across over the past few months and I’d like to share them with you all so that you have the chance to appreciate their writing like I do. Enjoy!

We Work in the Dark is quickly becoming one of my favorite med student blogs. I mean in this epic post Osler’s beast takes themes from Star Trek and relates it to a profound tension in medicine, how can you not love that? I give you this quote from the article as a teaser:

“On one hand, this is an entertaining popular pulp science fiction show (deploying very loose interpretations of Freud). On the other hand, this captures a profound struggle in the aspiring physician-trainee: medicine aspires to be both Vulcan and Human.”

– Shara Yurkiewicz who writes at the PLOS Blog This May Hurt a Bit explores the physical boundaries between patients and physicians. The comments are great on this post as well.

– Rick at Little White Coats (I love that name) writes about The Good Old Days. Basically it’s about “enjoying the ride” which is a welcome reminder during med school.

– This med student writes at Drinking from the Fire Hose. I loved this post called The Art of Raising a Medical Student. A must read for attending physicians? Yes, but who am I to say?

– Proving that I’ve been collecting these posts for a while, I submit this great post exploring the controversy surrounding Plan B by Amanda Wingle at Una Seconda Possibilita. She dissects a complicated issue in a logical and sensitive manner. Kudos!

– This Canadian med student who writes at The Notwithstanding Blog has an excellent couple of posts refuting the idea that the United States is stealing the world’s doctors. Fascinating stuff.

Medaholic (who recently matched in Internal Medicine!) is creating a great list of resources for Medical School and Residency interviews. I especially appreciated the post on The Number One Question I Got Asked at Every Interview.

– Amanda Xi asks if it is possible to be too professional in this post at her blog And thus it begins.

– Allison Greco at MD2B explains her process of deciding a specialty. Reading posts like this make me feel better about not being sure what I want to do.

-For those of you who have USMLE Step 1 coming up I enjoyed this series of posts by Rishi Kumar at RK.MD.

-Speaking of Step 1, check out this Ultimate Guide to USMLE Step 1 and COMLEX at Mind on Medicine. Good stuff.

– Be sure to check out some soon to be medical students as well. Practical Pre Med and Phenomenemily will both be starting medical school this summer, congratulations!

There are many more blogs I will link to in the near future. In the meantime explore the rest on your own!