Becoming a medical scribe for an Emergency Physician has taught me more about medicine, about passion, and most importantly about the patient, than ever before. I applied to this position online after seeing advertisements around my campus. I had heard that becoming a medical scribe allows you to accumulate clinical experience, gain exposure that helps with medical school interviews, and write a stronger personal statement. This has rung true as many of my coworkers have left to matriculate to medical school, and credit, in part, their experiences as a medical scribe for their acceptance.
A medical scribe is the recorder of a physician, handling various paperwork, lab results, and medical documents. This allows the physician to devote more time and care to the patient without worrying about the paperwork behind life-saving procedures. Since you are dealing with legal medical documents, the job has a lot of responsibility as those documents can be used in court in the case of domestic violence, or even in criminal investigations. My training to become a medical scribe was composed of online courses, classroom training, and clinical training that I was able to complete in addition to my schedule as a full-time student. My training focused on how fast I could record information, either by typing or writing, the format of a patient’s paperwork, HIPAA regulations, and talking about how to deal with loss of life in a work environment, which I was previously naïve to.
Working strenuous 10-12 hour shifts is not my idea of a relaxing weekend (I’ve chosen to work Fridays and Saturdays), and occasionally I come home to a mountain of assignments due the following week. My grades will always come first, so thankfully this job has not hindered my academics due to careful scheduling and self-discipline.
Though this job has caused me to sacrifice my time, it’s allowed my dreams to become tangible, so it’s all worth it. These shifts are surprisingly manageable, of course with the help of caffeine, but a 10-hour shift in the Emergency Department (ED), does not feel like a 10-hour shift in retail or food services. The ED is intense in that it applies all of the material I am learning into a fast-paced environment. Because I’m inside, I rarely have a perception of time unless I glance at a clock, so the time flies by alarmingly fast.
The physicians I work with in the ED operate in an atmosphere of frustration, anxiety, and violence with a soothing voice and occasional touch that penetrates the noise surrounding them. This is a remarkable skill I can aspire to obtain in my future training. Observing how they know when to focus on their tasks, and when to calm and assure the patients, is the greatest exhibit of medicine I have ever seen, and an experience I don’t think I could get from shadowing alone. When things begin to calm down and I ask questions about unfamiliar words, labs, and ECG’s (electrocardiograms) I cannot yet decipher, I am greeted with explanations that are filled with passion and wisdom from medical professionals who are truly devoted to their work. Even though scribes are not involved in direct patient care, taking notes on the patient’s family/surgical history, cause of complaints, recording vitals, and recording the results of labs and radiographic studies are a large part of making sure the patient is seen within a timely manner by the medical team.
Watching the pattern and flow of a successful stabilization of a code blue, or pulmonary/cardiac arrest, through a team of talented health professionals, has often sent me into a state in awe of the village it takes to save a life. Copious amounts of Grey’s Anatomy would never prepare me for the joys and tears that I see during a 3am shift in the ED. Something that many people forget is that behind those white coats is a person with a story, struggles, and a passion to serve others and heal. To love what you do as a physician, at any age or landmark in your life, is what makes medicine a truly rewarding field.
I worry about how patients are doing after they leave and hope they have no need to return. I’ve learned my own emotional boundaries and how to take a step back so I don’t become overwhelmed when I witness someone’s life ending. I’d be lying if I said this was an easy job, but if you are looking for an experience that will test your resilience and drive to achieve your goals, this is it. If you choose to become a medical scribe for an Emergency Department, you’ll NEVER, say that it’s slow.
About Jacqueline Suttin
Jacqueline Suttin is a pre-medical student at the University of the Incarnate Word pursuing a Biology major with a minor in Sociology. A first-generation college student, Jacqueline volunteers extensively at several assisted living facilities in the San Antonio area. Jacqueline is currently learning Spanish to reach a broader diversity of people, and desires to help others in her local community. She enjoys writing about her experiences as a creative outlet to the demands of being a full-time student.