What You Need to Know to Become a Medical Scribe

Medical Scribes Concept

Discover how and why to become a medical scribe in our guide. 

There is a growing demand for medical scribes, and for good reason. They help with the efficiency and accuracy of data and records of patients. 

Following the strict implementation of electronic health record (EHR) systems for recording patients’ medical data, clinics, hospitals and private practices all have a great need for medical scribes.

To pursue a career in medical scribing and to have an idea of the basic skills, a person interested in this job must be willing to learn and grow in the medical field, build great listening and communication skills and have a good understanding of technology. 

Here are some of the frequently asked questions and everything you need to know about being a medical scribe.

What is a Medical Scribe?

doctor taking notes on electronic device

Medical scribes are those who document all physician and patient interactions from the start of treatment until it ends. Part of the responsibility of this job is to transcribe all the written information of a patient to the database so that the attending physician can focus on treatment. At the same time, the scribe does all the paperwork.

Additionally, a scribe works for the physician to communicate with the other departments if a patient needs to undergo medical procedures such as X-rays, CT scans, blood testing and urine testing. A scribe has to monitor these for an efficient system in the clinic or hospital.

Although it is not a requirement for medical students, some who are studying pre-med apply for a job like this to gain experience. The money they earn can help pay off loans or save money for medical school. For students, getting this job can also help with their recommendations when applying for medical school.

How to Become a Medical Scribe

If you are an aspiring medical scribe, the minimum requirement to pass and apply for the position is a high school diploma.

However, it is highly recommended for someone to have vast knowledge in the medical field or to be taking a pre-med/medical-related course as part of an undergraduate or graduate degree. 

Here are the basic skills anyone should have if they want to become a medical scribe:

  • Multi-tasking: The medical scribe needs to listen well during treatment and be able to write the information collected at the same time. Having the ability to multitask is an important skill to have in this field.

  • Computer skills:  All the information collected needs to be written down and encoded in the computer; thus, basic computer skills are a must. A scribe needs to know how to work on MS Office applications.

  • Typing skills: In addition to knowing how to operate a computer, encoding the information collected from the patient is crucial. Typing 45-60 words per minute is highly recommended.

  • EMR software skills: Knowing how to use any electronic medical recording/ and electronic health recording software is a requirement since it will be used by the physician to keep a patient’s records.

What Makes a Medical Scribe Role Unique?

Medical scribes take notes of each interaction with the physician and the patient. A medical transcriptionist, on the other hand, writes down information fed to them via dictation. Medical transcription work can be done remotely, just by having a voice recording of a physician.

Unlike nurses, medical scribes or medical transcriptionists do not have any physical contact with patients, handle bodily fluids or give medical advice. A nurse is involved more hands-on with the patient, while scribes and transcriptionists work behind the scenes.

Additionally, nurses have formal training in the medical field while scribes do not.

What is a Typical Career Path for a Medical Scribe?

If a person wants to pursue a career as a medical scribe, there is a lot of room to grow in this field.

A person can start off as a part-time worker, working a few shifts a week. For medical students, this is often the best course of action. Shifts are usually scheduled among other staff, and work times can run from eight up to 24 hours, depending on the patient and physician. A full-time worker, on the other hand, gets at least five shifts a week.

The medical scribes usually have the option to choose their work hours, depending on their needs or school schedule.

While this job is a training ground and somewhere to get med students’ feet wet in a medical-related field, those who plan to be a scribe full-time can have the opportunity to be a trainer or a department head, and the position can lead to other positions in a hospital or clinic. 

Average Salary of a Medical Scribe

According to Glassdoor, a scribe is paid $10-15 per hour or $31,000 a year, depending on the assigned position. ER scribes, for example, can earn $35,000 to $44,000 a year.

But that doesn’t stop aspiring medical scribes from dreaming bigger. As they continue to grow in this career, the pay often grows as well.

These prices are estimates and are based on the rates of agencies or firms that supply scribes to hospitals or clinics.

These numbers may become higher if scribes are hired directly by the hospital or clinics. On top of that, some hospitals offer health insurance and other benefits when hired.

The Risks of Becoming a Medical Scribe

Just like any job working in the hospital or a clinic, the position of being a medical scribe has risks, like fatigue when staying up for night shifts, possible fainting due to the sight of blood or catching viruses such as coronavirus, tuberculosis or meningitis, due to interaction with infected patients. 

Even so, for those with a passion for the medical field, becoming a medical scribe could be the best way to begin a career. 

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