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:
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)
One of our former students, now a second-year med student at Harvard, sent us a video of one of her most recent accomplishments: What does the spleen do?
We’ve been busy this fall. In addition to the everyday bustle of classes, labs, workshops, homework, and studying, post-bac students have attended a variety of seminars on various topics related to healthcare and science.
In September, Nic Hammond, Ph.D. offered an extremely helpful workshop on study skills for chemistry students. Nic, who has a doctorate in chemistry, is currently investigating STEM pedagogical methods in his work at the University of Rochester’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). Nic describes his work for CETL as making science education at UR “the best it can be.” His workshop focused on aligning post-bac student expectations with faculty expectations for chemistry students. Most of our students enter our program with excellent time management and study skills, as well as keen motivation to learn. This workshop focused on how returning students might best use their study time, as well as discussed fruitful ways to approach chemistry problem sets, class lectures, and exam preparation. Thanks, Nic, for a stimulating (and eye-opening) conversation.
In early October, Dr. Manbir Batra met with students as part of our “Leading a Life in Medicine” speaker series. Dr. Batra, an anesthesiologist from Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, has been involved in global medicine, and has traveled on a variety of medical missions. He spoke about his path as a physician, his love of mentoring new and future physicians, and about anesthesiology as a medical practice. Our post-bac listeners thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. Here are some of the things they said afterwards: “the most interesting and engaging talk,” “incredibly interesting,” “Dr Batra was a wonderful person to listen to and also had a great sense of humor.”
Later in October, Ben Kress, a post-bac student in his glide year, and Ben Plog, an M.D./Ph.D. student from the University of Rochester Medical School, discussed their work in the lab of Maiken Nedergaard, MD, DMSc. Dr. Nedergaard’s work on the glymphatic system has been making headlines recently. Ben and Ben’s presentations on these discoveries were tremendously exciting. Galvanized by what they heard, several post-bac students wanted to learn more; several post-bac students are now working in the Nedergaard lab at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Earlier this week, Lili Young, the Assistant Director of Admissions of the New York College of Podiatric Medicine, met with post-bac students to discuss podiatric medicine in general, and the New York College of Podiatric Medicine in specific. To learn more about podiatric medicine and the path toward becoming a podiatrist, please take a look at the Explore Health Careers website, which offers a good summary of the profession.