4 Ways Scribing Can Make Medical School Easier

No doubt medical school will be highly challenging, but can scribing help soften the blow?  One of my former scribe co-workers who is currently a med student had some useful insight into the benefits of scribing prior to medical school.

I was talking to this co-worker who claimed he was scribing for his summer off of medical school to make some extra cash.

“Working as a scribe,” he said, “honestly makes medical school easier. I was constantly reading about things from class that I could remember from scribing.  Also learning about medicine from a clinical setting first made the application into medical school material smoother.”

(Those aren’t the exact words he said, my conversation with him was a while ago, but that’s essentially what he said.)

Hearing directly from a medical student that scribing makes medical school easier justifies writing this post.  Now that I worked as a medical scribe for a year, I can see certain aspects that would benefit medical school.

#1 Scribing puts you in the mindset of a physician

This is hands down the most valuable aspect of scribing.  When you work as a scribe, you are typing up everything the doctor dictates to you and inserting it into the electronic chart.  This is only half the job.  In addition to this, you are going into the patient’s room, writing down the history obtained from the patient and his/or family, and then formulating a story (known as the HPI) the way that the doctor perceives the illness based off medical experience. 

When a patient comes in for chest pain, you have to make sure that you are very specific when typing up the kind of pain the patient is having, such as whether or not it is substernal, radiating towards the back, associated with left arm numbness, etc.  Another example would be if a patient comes in for abdominal pain.  You might be focused on writing about the location and type of pain while ignoring a fever that would indicate a UTI. 

Basically, when scribing for a doctor, you need to formulate a story by eliminating superfluous information while being detailed about the important information.  After practicing this, you will be able to think like the doctor while he figures out the diagnosis for the patient. 

#2 You learns lots of medical terminology

Well, this should be a given.  In medical school, you will be learning thousands of medical terminology.  As a scribe, you are expected to know a lot of medical terminologies so that your charts are professionally written.  You study a lot of this terminology prior to starting the job, but most of it you learn on the job.  As I said earlier, I have worked as a scribe for about a year, and I still have a lot to learn. 

Medicine is almost like its own language. The sooner you learn “the lingo” the more successful you will be when doing clinicals.

#3 You learn how to chart electronically

I want to stress the importance of this.  One thing you learn from scribing is that there is A LOT of charting you have to do.  Lots of this electronic charting seems very unnecessary to me, but for whatever reason, it is required (most likely to prevent lawsuits).

Here is a story about my first day scribing alone.

Your first solo shift as a scribe, you are responsible for making every chart on my own.  During training, there was always a moment when the ER got really busy, and my trainer had to care of things I missed during the confusion. 


On my first solo shift, I arrive at the ER and patients begin pouring in.  Within the first hour, the doctor and I see about 9 patients.  We see these patients back-to-back, which means I don’t get to sit down and start charting the first one until the rush is done.  I did my best to chart the patients while moving around, but I was still new and those kinds of techniques take time to develop.  Needless to say, I was behind on charts trying to catch up the entire shift, and I mean literally the entire shift.  I spent 10 hours doing nothing but frantically trying to catch up.  I think I took one bathroom break and that’s it. 

I fell way behind on typing up my charts and was basically playing catch up the entire shift.  This was largely due to the fact that I was just plain slow at typing up these charts. 

Knowing how to chart quickly will save you lots of time in medical school and beyond. At least until you hire your own scribe…

#4 Applying the textbook to real life situations

As the medical student from before said, when you are studying in medical school you can relate your experiences from scribing with the material you learn in medical school.  Creating bridges with real-world situations is a similar benefit that you develope while shadowing, but more exaggerated because you are forced to apply this real-world knowledge into an official document.  Medical schools love to see you actively learn about medicine. 

Scribing is becoming more and more popular, and the demand for scribes is still high.  I had no problem getting a job because there is a mutual benefit between the scribe and the hospital.  The scribe receives a tremendous learning experience and a resume booster, while the hospital gets to hire cheap labor…

win, win

Seriously, for the amount of work I did the pay is pretty terrible.  But hey, we’re going into medicine because we want to help people, right?

Comment below if you have any questions about scribing or if you want to share your scribing experience!

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