There is tremendous career opportunity in emergency medicine today, and not all of it requires years of costly medical school and training. There is an increasing demand for scribes in emergency medicine jobs.
What is a scribe? As the name implies, a scribe is someone who is taking notes—a bit like a court stenographer. In the emergency department a scribe assists an emergency physician by taking notes in the moment as the doctor attends to the patient.
“An emergency physician goes to medical school to be the top clinician for all of their patients,” said Dr. Bret Nicks, a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians (www.acep.org) and Medical Director at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston Salem, North Carolina. “Then a majority of their time may be set aside for clerical matters and this is not value added for the patient.”
The scribe simply allows the doctor to be a doctor and not get bogged down with paperwork.
As “paperwork” has evolved digitally—and will continue to evolve—the need for scribes has grown. As Dr. Nicks describes it, a scribe will be standing alongside an emergency physician clicking or typing what the patient says into their medical records as the doctor and patient converse. “The doctor verbalizes as he goes head to toe,” said Dr. Nicks. The old method requires the doctor to memorize everything he is told, then later go back and write or type up notes.
While medical training is not a requirement for scribes, it is preferred, according to scribe services like Emergency Medicine Scribe Systems (www.crexendo.com). On the EMSS website it outlines the job qualifications: “The typical EMSS medical scribe is a pre-health student who works part-time with an emergency medicine physician group while in school. EMSS scribes are trained to become documentation experts who increase revenue through improved physician efficiency and the accurate capture of true patient acuity.”
For some people this may be a temporary job on the pathway to becoming an emergency physician, but Dr. Nicks said that for others it might be a career. There is some training required, and of course a good understanding of medical terminology is needed.
Scribes are also bound by all federal HIPPA guidelines so that despite their close interactions with patients they must maintain the same confidentiality as in any emergency medicine jobs.
Have you worked with a scribe? Does it increase your risk as an emergency medicine physician or make you more efficient? Does it increase your risk because you are able to see more patients and it’s just a matter of “when” not “if” for a malpractice case? Or do you have more time to consider the diagnosis & treatment as you should – it’s your job as an emergency medicine physician.