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Medical schools across the board want to know that the people they admit know what they’re getting into and have an understanding of clinical practice based on personal experience. Clinical exposure is virtually a requirement for acceptance to ALL U.S. medical schools. A great way to get such exposure is by working as a scribe.
Today’s guest is Matthew Glowinsky, Strategy and Operational Planning Associate at ScribeAmerica, one of the largest scribe training and placement companies in the U.S. Matthew earned his B.S. in psychology from SUNY Brockport, and an MSW from the University of Denver in 2011. He also did postbac work at the University of Denver. He started working as a scribe in May 2013 and became a Scribe manager for Scribe America in May 2014. Welcome, Matthew!
How did you get involved with ScribeAmerica? [1:50]
I moved to Denver to complete my MSW, and was working for a cool nonprofit that did adventure programs for young adults with cancer. I wanted to do something more intellectual, and circled back to the ideal of going to med school, so I did some postbac courses. It seemed like being a medical scribe would get me closer to that medical school goal. So I started scribing 16 hours a week.
Scribing is a really cool job. I often say that it’s easy to do but difficult to learn. It took a while to go through the training, which covers everything from medical terminology, to the workflow, to labs and imaging tests. I learned that doctors rely on scribes.
No patient encounter is ever the same. No workup is ever the same.
I scribed for six months in a level-two emergency department in Denver. Later the opportunity arose to take on more of a management role with the scribing company, which I really enjoy – implementing scribing programs around the country.
What does a typical scribing shift look like? [6:05]
A lot depends on the client location. Some shifts are as short as four hours – maybe in surgical specialties where the doctor may only see patients in clinic for four hours and then do surgeries or procedures after that. Or there may be shifts up to 12 hours, more often in an ER setting.
We work in 60 different specialties, including inpatient (hospitalist) and outpatient settings. We try to adapt to what the clients’ needs are. An orthopedic surgeon’s scribal needs are different than an ER doc or a family medicine provider.
Do you remember any especially meaningful experiences from your own scribing? [7:50]
The provider can better focus their care with a scribe – the scribe can look up history, etc. So the provider doesn’t need to fumble around in the electronic medical record. It’s a game changer for the provider and the patient – improving care. That’s part of why I wanted to go into medicine in the first place.
Do you still plan to go into medicine? [9:20]
No, I don’t. I was always interested in business and tech, and I found a way to do that with this work.
What type of feedback do you get from scribes? [10:10]
It varies among specialties.
But there’s really not another experience where you, as a college student, can go in and work alongside a medical provider (and get paid for it!) and get direct experience/understanding of how patient interactions work, how a medical practice works, etc.
You’re still working as part of a team, so depending on the team interaction, sometimes there are interpersonal issues.
The scribe role forces you to be an expert at adaptation. The skills it teaches you are important in life as well as medical school and as a future provider.
Linda: From a medical admissions perspective, scribing is one of the most valued forms of clinical exposure for premeds. [12:45]
They want people who have a realistic idea of what the practice of medicine means. And teamwork and adaptability are crucial.
Scribing is also valuable for people who aren’t sure about medicine – it’s a great way to learn whether medicine is for you. (It can also be a way to reaffirm your goals.) [13:40]
I see the focus in admissions shifting from research to clinical exposure, and this is a great way to get meaningful experience.
What is ScribeAmerica? [16:00]
It’s the largest scribe company in the US. We’ve also started programs in Canada and Australia. We’re experts in managing scribe programs. We partner with big health systems, as well as small providers, who see a need for help with documentation. It’s about improving patient care. We do all the hiring, training, assessment. We work with inpatient, outpatient, and emergency medicine. We have programs in all 50 states.
Since we know most of our scribes are either students or recent grads preparing for med school, we’re pretty flexible. We expect two shifts a week for part time employees, and four to five shifts a week for full time. And we ask for a verbal commitment of one year for full time and two years for part time employees, because it’s an intensive training process, and providers get attached to scribes. But we realize there’s some turnover because people get accepted to medical school and move on. We’re also flexible when it comes to med school interviews, etc.
What is the training like? [19:00]
The general training is either in person with a manager or online, and covers the basics of medical terminology, workflow, documentation, etc. We also touch on anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology. This initial stage can take one to three weeks. Then there’s on-site training with a scribe trainer and the provider at the clinic site – seeing patients, writing notes, and getting intensive feedback from the provider. This prepares them to go into the setting with the provider and produce reliable notes, without errors.
It’s a good test to see if people are willing to put in the work and energy to go to medical school.
What are you looking for in a scribe? [23:40]
People who are interested in medical school and have some preparation. The main thing we’re looking for is people who are smart and motivated. If you’re smart and motivated, we can train you to be a good scribe. Other important qualities are: organization, time management, adaptability, memory/recall, good communication skills, willingness to learn. You’re working not only with the doctor, but with the whole care team. There’s a lot going on at all times.
Some reviews say that it’s boring. Can you respond to that? [26:20]
Some of that probably depends on what specialty and what provider you’re paired with. It’s the nature of the way the world works. You take from it what you put into it.
As the scribe, you have the opportunity to become an expert in what you’re doing. Scribing in the ER, there was something each day that I’d never seen before, and I’d make a point of writing it down and learning it. Scribing was one of my favorite jobs – there were people from all walks of life coming in, providers trying to make their day a little better, and as a scribe you’re a fly on the wall for those encounters. It’s so beneficial. I was never bored. The variability between patients keeps it interesting.
What are the most common specialties that use scribes? [31:50]
It started off in the ER. From there we’ve been breaking into the outpatient world – a lot in primary care (internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics). Now we’re growing in inpatient care, such as hospitalist specialties.
Do you see any trends in the career paths of scribes who decide not to go to med school? [33:30]
We don’t have any data. There’s a lot of opportunity in our company to grow in management, for people who find they like the business of healthcare.
We’ve had a lot of people go on to other health related grad programs (PT, PA, nursing). And some go into research.
What are your tips for people who are interested in becoming a scribe? [35:00]
Apply on our website. It’s one of the greatest opportunities you can have if you’re thinking about going to med school. I certainly recommend it.
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