If you are (or were) anything like me during my undergraduate years in college, you have to (or had to) work to get by. It might seem unfair that other students are able to focus entirely on their pre-med courses (and we all know how grueling it can be), while you have to divide your time between school and work. Well, I felt this same way when I was an undergraduate student. In fact, I worked and I did not have a car so I walked 3 miles to school each day in the rain, snow, or sunshine, in the morning, noon, or night. Luckily for me, I found a job at the hospital associated with the university that I was attending, so the walk between school and work was at least somewhat better. What seemed very difficult at first actually became a huge learning experience for me, and made all of my pre-med friends envious of the unbeatable opportunity that I had, that they didn't.
You may be asking "why?" Well, I became a medical scribe at the emergency room at Stony Brook University Hospital, while attending Stony Brook University. I began working as a scribe in my sophomore year there. It was difficult balancing scribing with organic chemistry, physics, and whatnot. However, the job taught me a lot about the world of medicine. Despite the low pay, awful hours, and the fact that I didn't receive breaks and sometimes worked 19 hour shifts in order to make ends meet (and had to walk home at 3 AM in the dark by myself at times), I'm actually thankful that I worked there, believe it or not.
Being a scribe was a very enlightening experience for me, and I recommend it to anyone who is on the pre-med track and either has no choice but to work their way through school or actually wants to, to make some extra money. Heck, it sure beats working at Starbucks and not gaining very much from the experience, as far as getting your foot in the door to your preferred career choice goes. I'll explain why.
As a medical scribe, I had the opportunity to work very closely with attending ER docs as well as a resident ER docs. Not to mention I also had close contact with physicians of other specialities (contingent upon the particular ER case my ER doc was treating), PAs, nurses, and other hospital staff. Of course the most incredible part of this job was the opportunity to bond with attending physicians in the emergency department, who had a wealth of knowledge and experience to talk about and to teach others, including myself.
I became very close to a few attending ER docs, of both the MD and DO type, so much so that some of these doctors wrote me letters of recommendation for medical school. Of course, you should not fake interest in what knowledge the doctor you are working with has to offer just to one day get a letter of recommendation from that doctor. However, when a bond is formed, and a relationship develops between you and a doctor as a student and a mentor, often times, that physician will be more than happy to assist you in achieving your own goals of one day becoming a doctor.
Even if you never happen to ask a doctor for a letter of recommendation for entry into medical school, you will find the experience provided by this job all the more valuable. Working in the ER as a scribe is somewhat like being paid to shadow doctors, something that many do for free and may get less out of. And by "shadowing" these docs, you get to see everything that goes down in the emergency room. I was lucky enough to gain my experience in a level I trauma center, where I saw some serious tragedies occur.
Being a medical scribe can open your eyes to the world of medicine in that you'll have seen things that others won't have seen by the time they apply to medical school. I was offered many times various jobs to work as an ER scribe at other hospitals after I graduated and moved from New York to Pennsylvania. I didn't just get job offers to work in the ER, though. I also got job offers to work as a scribe in family and sports medicine settings. As the job field grew, I found no shortage of scribe jobs near me. Scribes at the time were becoming a necessity at medical offices and emergency rooms everywhere. Why? Because allowing someone else to handle the EMR and transcribe the details of each patient-doctor interaction makes the physician's job much easier, and allows the physician to be more efficient.
Physicians that I worked with often made it clear that my job lifted a load off of their shoulders. They could now look at their patients and speak to them face-to-face rather than talk to them behind the barrier of a computer screen. And the benefits of the job, for me? I was able to learn some of the steps involved in the process of treatment that each physician used for their patients. For example, based on a certain set of symptoms that the patient would complain about and paying attention to the labs and diagnostic radiology tests the physician ordered and their results, after working for some time, I was able to understand what tests would likely be ordered for particular complaints, what their results meant, and what potential diagnoses the patient would be sent home with.
This is just a short explanation (really, it is) of some of the things that I gained from being a medical scribe. There are many more things that I did not mention here, however. If you have the opportunity, and you are a pre-medical student, I suggest becoming a medical scribe. Often, most scribing companies will not even hire you unless you are pre-health in some way, which also means that they are very flexible in terms of working with your schedule as a student (if you are one at the time). It's also a great job to take up during a gap year. Once you begin talking to your other pre-medical friends about the things you get to learn/do/see on the job, trust me, you will know that you have a leg up in applying for medical school because your friends will often ask you, as mine did me, "How did you get that job?!" Take the advice I have given here, first. Apply now by searching on job advertising websites for "medical scribe" positions near you. You won't regret it.
A prospective medical student, looking to help others succeed.