Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Medical Scribe

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 22, 2021 | Published February 25, 2020

Updated February 22, 2021

Published February 25, 2020

Medical scribes help improve accuracy and efficiency in recording patients' medical histories in private practices, clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities. These professionals are often required to have advanced soft skills, such as active listening and written communication, and to complete on-the-job training to refine job-specific skills, such as using medical documentation software. If you're interested in a career in healthcare, you may consider becoming a medical scribe. In this article, we discuss what a medical scribe is, what type of skills they need to have and how to become a medical scribe.

What is a medical scribe?

A medical scribe is responsible for documenting physician-patient interactions, including taking notes during patient interviews, entering information into a patient database and writing notes that the physician has dictated. Some other tasks may include obtaining medical records from other facilities or scheduling consults. The goal of medical scribes is to improve the efficiency of doctor-patient encounters so that the doctor can focus solely on treatment rather than clerical work.

Skills for medical scribes

A medical scribe needs a variety of skills to perform their jobs well. Some of the most important skills include:

Attention to detail

Medical scribes must have strong attention to detail to accurately record physicians' notes and other patient information as well as find potential errors in patient medical histories.

Computer literacy

Most medical records are now kept on computer databases, so medical scribes work with these computer systems to record and read patient information. They should be comfortable working with technology and databases as well as have advanced typing and data entry abilities.

Communication

Medical scribes communicate with physicians, patients and other medical professionals daily. They need to be able to communicate well both verbally and in written form. Medical scribes should also be comfortable talking to others in person, over the phone and through email.

Time management

Medical scribes have to be efficient since they meet and/or speak with several patients over the day. They also need to be able to quickly process patient information so that they can move onto the task. Medical scribes should be comfortable working in a fast-paced environment and managing their own time well.

Bedside manner

Since medical scribes have to work with patients daily, they must have a good bedside manner. This means showing empathy and understanding, providing clear instructions to patients regarding paperwork and going the extra step to help patients when they can.

Related: The Best Job Skills to Make Your Resume Stand Out

How to become a medical scribe

Follow these steps if you wish to become a medical scribe:

1. Graduate high school

The standard requirement to become a medical scribe is a high school degree. If you are still in high school, you should focus on taking courses related to biology, computers and writing. You should also aim to increase your grade point average to demonstrate academic excellence and dedication to give yourself the best chance at being hired.

Related: High School Resume Tips and Example

2. Pursue an advanced degree

While most places looking for a medical transcriber do not require that you have any degree beyond a high school diploma, having one or being in the process of obtaining one may increase the number of professional opportunities available to you and your earning potential. Medical scribes are expected to be familiar with human anatomy, so pursuing an undergraduate pre-medical track program is often a strong option. There are both associate- and bachelor-level programs that offer coursework in medical terminology, health sciences and healthcare management to prepare aspiring medical scribes for the workplace.

3. Receive a certification

Another option is to receive a certification in being a medical scribe. Anyone interested in becoming certified can do so through the American Healthcare Documentation Professionals Group and their Medical Scribe Certification Exam. While a certification is not typically a requirement, you may find some employers who are looking for their scribes to have it.

The exam consists of 100 questions aimed to test the applicant's knowledge and judgment. To receive certification, you need to score at least 80% on the exam. To help you prepare, the AHDPG provides some exam materials from which you can study. The cost to take the exam is $165.

4. Gain relevant work experience

If you would like to bolster your resume further to help you get a medical scribe position, you can try working related jobs first. For example, someone with a history of working as a medical transcriber would likely be favored for an open position. Some other positions that offer similar on-the-job training, work in similar settings or perform the same kinds of tasks include:

  • Office assistant

  • Note-taker

  • Hospital orderly

  • Customer service

  • Home health aide

Average salary

The average salary for a medical scribe in the United States is $14.21 per hour. Some factors that may impact earning potential include geographical location, employment setting, years of relevant work experience, level of education and certification.

Frequently asked questions

Below are some commonly asked questions related to medical scribes:

Where do medical scribes work?

Medical scribes typically work in healthcare facilities. This could be a hospital, a doctor's office, an urgent care center or some other location where medical professionals meet with patients.

How are medical scribes different from nurses?

Nurses are trained in medicine and can administer tests and procedures. Medical scribes receive no formal medical training and are only there to deal with some of the administrative work. They may assist nurses in organizing patient files, updating records and retrieving important medical data.

Related: Learn About Being a Registered Nurse

What hours does a medical scribe typically work?

A medical scribe may work the same hours as their healthcare facility. If you are working in a hospital, you could be required to work different shifts throughout the day. In many cases, medical scribes work during normal business hours.

How can a medical scribe advance their career?

If a medical scribe would like to advance their career in the healthcare industry, they should pursue additional training. They can either enter a pre-med program to get started on the path toward becoming a doctor, or they can start studying to become a registered nurse. Medical scribes can also receive certification that could allow them to receive higher wages as a medical scribe.

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