How can you be certain that medicine is really right for you? How will you know whether allopathic or osteopathic medical training will serve you better? How will you discover whether the sight of blood or a broken bone emerging from the body will make you feel faint?
The answer, of course, is experience: specifically, observing doctors, being around patients, and soaking in the medical environment wherever and whenever you can. Shadowing, volunteer work in a hospital or hospice setting, working as an EMT, CAN, or nurse—these activities all can provide a prospective medical student with relevant knowledge and experiences. I want to focus the rest of this post on another option — one you may not have considered before — working as a medical scribe.
Medical scribes, in the words of the New York Times, are “a busy doctor’s right hand, ever ready to type.” Scribes most commonly work in emergency departments, but can also be employed in other areas of a hospital, clinics, and long-term care facilities. The benefits to doctors are clear: physicians can spend more time with their patients because they can spend less time keeping their computer records up to date An increasing number of pre-medical students, including students in the University of Rochester’s Post-bac Pre-med Program, are finding that work as a medical scribe offers a wealth of benefits to a person contemplating medical school.
Quite a few of our students are currently working as scribes at Rochester General Hospital. It’s a serious time commitment; typically scribes work for a minimum of twenty hours a week. This is a challenging schedule when one is a full-time student, and is certainly not for everyone. But for the students who do become scribes, it’s a great experience. First, scribes work closely with a specific physician (including DOs), PA, or nurse practitioner, following him or her throughout the ED as he or she interacts with patients. It offers unparalleled insight into the health care provider’s decision-making process. Our students say that after several months of work, they find themselves beginning to predict (silently, of course) which tests a doctor will order, which questions a doctor will ask a patient. Scribing offers a great opportunity to learn how to take a patient’s history, and to learn medical terminology. It also gives an opportunity to ask questions in between patient exams. (And a paycheck comes along with this experience.)
To learn more about scribing, check out these articles:
A Busy Doctor’s Right Hand, Ever Ready to Type
For ER Doctors, An Extra Hand on the Keyboard (which includes comments from Hannah Smith, a former UR post-bac student, now in medical school)
How Working as a Scribe Prepared Me for Medical School