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.

8 thoughts on “How Working as an ER Scribe Prepared Me for Medical School”

  1. Hello!

    I am a college sophomore pre-med in the Boston area. I’m very interested in doing scribe work. How would I find out if hospitals have scribes? I was going to call up a number of hospitals, but the person on the other end of the telephone probably wouldn’t know off-hand and is probably busy (i.e. less than thrilled to help). Are there any resources or tips you would give to someone in my position? Thank you in advance!

    P.S. I love your blog and the collection of others you have listed. It gives me a much better picture of the looming future and removes a lot of the anxiety. I have mentioned your site to almost all of my pre-med acquaintances and link posts to Facebook. Keep it up for all of us!

  2. Wow great blog! I stumbled upon this while trying to find ER scribe agencies in the Seattle area but found myself looking through a bunch of your posts. I’m currently a sophomore pre-med student at the University of Washington. I’ve contacted a couple scribe training agencies that I found online (Emergency Medical Scribe Systems and Scribe America), but I was wondering if there are others you might now about in the Seattle area? Also I was wondering what hospital you worked at as a scribe?
    Thank you! Any information at all would be greatly appreciated :)

  3. Steve, in the quest to find more information on MedSchool and the whole experience, I stumbled upon your blog. Thank you for your effort to help share your experiences with us.

    I’m currently working as an ER Technician in effort to see whether medicine is for me or not. I can’t get enough of it. I think it’s critical that others looking to get into the medical field start out in an “entry level” position to truly appreciate all levels of health care!

    I do have one question for yah. Why’d you choose the MD route? Did you ever consider becoming a nurse or PA? (Yea that’s about 3 questions, I know).

    Thanks!

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