Learn About Being a Medical Scribe

By Indeed Editorial Team

December 10, 2019

What does a medical scribe do?

Medical scribes accompany physicians during examinations and chart the physician-patient encounters in real-time on the computer. It’s a position often held by medical school applicants who are taking college classes, as the position requires in-depth knowledge and understanding of medical terminology. A medical scribe helps to speed up examinations by taking detailed notes while allowing the physician to focus solely on patient care.

  • Watching for incoming tests and notifying the physician when the results are available

  • Entering medical records into a portal, such as the Electronic Health Record (EHR)

  • Helping with the electronic prescribing of medicine

  • Assisting the physician with fundamental patient care

  • Helping with the training of newly hired medical scribes

Average salary

Salaries for this position vary depending on experience and geographic location. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $13.69 per hour

  • Some salaries range from $7.25 to $23.90 per hour.

Medical scribe requirements

There are several requirements necessary to gain a position as a medical scribe. They include:

Education

While the minimum educational requirement for a medical scribe role is typically a high school diploma or equivalent, many employers prefer a related college degree or certification. Most times, these positions are held by college students who are studying to pursue medical school. Their formal education, though incomplete, gives them an in-depth understanding of medical terminology that is required for the role. It also allows them to obtain real-world experience in a medical environment, shadowing physicians.

Training

There are both online and on-site training programs available for people interested in a role as a medical scribe. These programs give candidates the foundational medical knowledge and terminology to be successful in the roles. They also offer paid residency training to give students the on-the-job experience that many employers prefer. Some may also include the added benefit of helping students find jobs after they complete the training.

Certifications

Though certifications are not a requirement for the role, obtaining certifications can give you the competitive edge that makes you highly appealing to employers. Some certifications include:

Certified Medical Scribe Associate (CMSA)

To be eligible for this certification, you must show evidence of an educational training program that includes training on medical records and terminology, electronic health records, data entry, word processing software and medical coding and billing. The exam, itself, tests for an understanding of medical terminology, including physiology, anatomy, reports, pharmaceuticals, electronic medical records, laboratory data, computer software, data entry and medical coding and billing.

Certified Medical Scribe Specialist (CMSS)

Testing for many of the same concepts as the CMSA exam, a candidate for this certification must provide evidence of educational training and have three months of experience as training or employee.

Medical Scribe Certification and Aptitude Test (MSCAT)

This exam covers clinical workflow scenarios and medical terminology, medicolegal risk mitigation, visit-level assignments, HIPAA, knowledge of computer skills and function of an electronic health record. 

Certified Medical Scribe Professional (CMSP)

This certification links to on-the-job scenarios and realistic situations that scribes may find themselves in. It is designed to boost the confidence of certification candidates so they are ready to take the next step in their career as a medical scribe. To receive this certification, you must pass the Medical Scribe Certification Exam and have 200 hours of on-the-job experience.

Apprentice Medical Scribe Professional (AMSP)

Similar to the CMSP, this certification is awarded to those who have passed the Medical Scribe Certification Exam but have less than 200 hours of experience.

Skills

There are several skills essential for success in this fast-paced career:

Computer skills

These include computer competency but also being able to type at above-average speed. Scribes also need to multi-task while using the computer, typing, listening and taking notes while the physician moves between talking to the patients and giving you notes and findings to include in the chart.

Organizational skills

Medical scribes need strong organizational skills to successfully navigate the many responsibilities in this role. Besides documenting patient and physician communication, they need to follow up on lab testing, medication orders, and refers. Organizational skills are essential to ensure these tasks happen and on time.

Attention to detail

Strong attention to detail is essential in this role, where mistakes on a patient’s chart could be detrimental to their health. Detail-oriented strengths minimize the risk of error when transcribing, even in fast-paced environments.

Excellent bedside manner

This includes good listening skills, the ability to display empathy and professionalism. Bedside manner is an important aspect of ensuring quality patient care.

Medical knowledge

Medical scribes must have in-depth knowledge and understanding of medical terminology. 

Excellent interpersonal skills

These skills include verbal and nonverbal communication skills, empathy and social interaction. These skills are required to communicate and work effectively with physicians, lab technicians and nurses. 

Physical stamina

This refers to your ability to exert yourself physically for long periods of time without growing tired. Medical scribes are required to stand for long periods of time shadowing physicians in a variety of environments, from clinics to emergency rooms, and must be able to maintain energy levels to stay attentive to the instructions of the physician and be prepared for anything that could happen.

Medical scribe work environment

These medical professionals work in a variety of settings including clinics and emergency rooms with these characteristics:

  • Extended periods of time standing

  • Working with computers and handheld devices

  • Communicating regularly with patients, physicians, nurses and other administrative staff

  • Monitoring the progress of testing

How to become a medical scribe

Here are the basic steps you will need to take to pursue a career as a medical scribe:

  1. Pursue an education: Search for the open medical scribe positions in your geographic area. Many employers require only a high school education or GED. However, an understanding of medical terminology and computer competency are required. 

  2. Obtain training: Both online and on-site training options to obtain the required training and experience employers prefer for this role. 

  3. Acquire certifications: Though not required, a Medical Scribe certification can make you a strong candidate for any positions, as it would show your expertise in medical terminology and electronic medical records. The certifications require varying degrees of experience.

  4. Prepare your resume: Create a resume, including your highest level of education and relevant training, skills and work history. Include the names of your employers, your role in the company and the responsibilities you held there. Try to highlight responsibilities relevant to the role of medical scribe.

  5. Apply for medical scribe positions: Search for openings in your geographic area and apply with your newly created resume and a cover letter that is customized for each open position. 

Medical scribe job description example

Wallace Family Care is seeking a full-time medical scribe to join its busy medical practice. A successful candidate will be responsible for accurately documenting detailed notes and other information during patient visits. The candidate must be a fast learner able to type 60 words per minute while following directions from our physician. The ideal candidate will provide a high quality of customer service to patients, follow practice policies and procedures and manage the high volume of work without compromising quality. The candidate must be competent with computers and have strong attention to detail. Experience with medical terminology and electronic medical records is preferred. 

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  • Medical records clerk

  • Administrative officer

  • Medical office manager

  • Nursing assistant

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