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Medical Scribe Career Guide

What is a medical scribe?

A medical scribe is a healthcare professional who assists doctors by documenting patient encounters in real time. They accompany physicians during patient examinations, transcribing the conversations, physical findings, and orders during the visit. This role focuses heavily on efficient and accurate documentation. The scribe’s work allows the physicians to focus their attention fully on the patient without the distraction of note-taking.

These professionals play a significant role in the healthcare system, improving productivity and patient care. They help to reduce the administrative load on doctors, enabling them to see more patients and provide high-quality care. This efficient data capture and support can also help medical practices maintain more thorough and accurate patient records, which is vital for monitoring ongoing health conditions and long-term patient care.

Duties and responsibilities

The primary duty of a medical scribe is to accurately record all aspects of a patient’s visit, as directed by the physician. This includes key information such as medical history, physical examination findings, results of laboratory tests, and physicians’ decisions regarding treatment plans. They are also typically responsible for recording procedures performed by healthcare professionals, as well as noting any prescribed medications.

In addition to real-time note-taking during patient visits, scribes may also be tasked with updating charts and medical records, arranging tests and consultations, and handling correspondences related to patient care. Their input aids in maintaining efficient patient flow, allowing doctors to focus more on direct patient care rather than documentation.

Work environment

Most medical scribes work in healthcare settings such as hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices. These are often fast-paced and demanding environments where accuracy and attention to detail are critical. Tasked with transcribing front-line patient-doctor interactions, these professionals often have a front-row view of patient care and medical decision-making. This makes it an ideal role for individuals interested in a future medical career, as it provides valuable insight and experience in a clinical setting.

Typical work hours

Medical scribes generally work during the operating hours of the healthcare facility they serve. This could include standard daytime office hours, evenings, weekends, or even overnight shifts in hospitals that operate 24/7. They may work part-time or full-time, depending largely on availability and the specific needs of their employer. While the medical field can be demanding, their specific working hours can often be flexible, making it a possible career choice for students pursuing healthcare-related studies.

How to become a medical scribe

This career guide section outlines the steps to becoming a medical scribe. A qualified scribe must pass several milestones, including specific education, knowledge of medical terminology, and adequate clinical experience.

Step 1: Acquire a high school diploma

As an initial step, one must complete their high school education or equivalent. High school education provides the foundation in English, health sciences, and basic computer skills, which are fundamental for pursuing this career.

Step 2: Complete an undergraduate program

Although not always required, completing an undergraduate degree in a health-related field like biology, pre-medicine, or nursing can make an aspiring scribe more competitive. These programs generally provide a detailed understanding of human biology, anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology, which can prove beneficial for the job.

Step 3: Enroll in a medical scribe training program

Many organizations, including hospitals, provide specialized training programs for future medical scribes. These programs typically cover medical terminology, electronic health record software, ethics, and patient privacy rights. Some programs also offer on-site clinical training.

Step 4: Achieve certification

Although certification is not always mandatory, it can highlight a candidate’s commitment and expertise. The American College of Medical Scribe Specialists (ACMSS) and The American Healthcare Documentation Professionals Group are two organizations offering such certifications. Certification generally requires successful completion of an examination regarding medical knowledge and scribe skills.

Step 5: Apply for medical scribe positions

Once certification is attained, it’s time to search for job opportunities. Start by checking job boards and the websites of local hospitals, clinics, or medical offices. Networking with healthcare professionals can also lead to job opportunities. Tailoring your resume and cover letter to highlight relevant skills, certifications, and experiences is vital.

Step 6: Attain on-the-job training

Even after securing a job, most scribes must undergo an on-the-job training period. This training is designed to familiarize them with the specific work environment, procedures, and protocols. All the necessary writing, note-taking, and medical record-keeping skills are polished during this period.

How much do medical scribes make?

Medical scribe salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Compensation specific to this job may also depend on the size of the medical institution and the volume of patient data to be managed.

Highest paying industries

  • Scientific Research and Development Services – $43,190
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises – $42,270
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools – $41,960
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals – $41,580
  • Offices of Physicians – $39,160

Highest paying states

  • Alaska – $44,340
  • Washington – $43,700
  • California – $42,930
  • Connecticut – $41,270
  • Minnesota – $40,890

Browse medical scribe salary data by market

Types of medical scribes

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for medical scribes. This section aims to offer insights into various forms of medical scribe occupations and refine your understanding of this role within the healthcare field.

Emergency department scribe

In the bustling environment of an emergency department, these scribes help clinicians by documenting medical histories, physical examinations, and the results of procedures or tests. They play a key role in ensuring clinicians focus on patient care rather than paperwork.

Outpatient clinic scribe

In an outpatient setting, the role involves similar documentation tasks as in an emergency department. However, these scribes also have the opportunity to develop an understanding of various medical specializations and patient care models, depending on the outpatient clinic’s focus.

Specialty practice scribe

These professionals work in a particular area of medicine, such as cardiology, endocrinology, or neurology. As part of a specialty medical team, they can gain in-depth knowledge about specific medical conditions and their treatments.

Pediatric scribe

If you’re interested in working with children, a role as a pediatric scribe may be fitting. They assist pediatricians in recording patient visit details, tracking young patients’ growth and development, and documenting vaccinations or other important medical information.

Telemedicine scribe

As healthcare evolves with technology, roles like telemedicine scribes have grown in demand. These medical scribes work remotely, documenting patient interactions during telehealth visits. This specialization can offer flexibility in terms of work location and hours.

Surgical scribe

Within an operating theater, these specialists play an important role in documenting surgical procedures. From the patient’s preparation for surgery to the steps of the operation, they provide a detailed record that is essential to the patient’s medical history and the surgeon’s work. This can be an intense and extremely rewarding role for those interested in surgical fields.

Top skills for medical scribes

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as a medical scribe.

Proficiency in medical terminology

A solid grasp of medical terminology is essential in this role as you’ll be tasked with documentation and communication duties in a medical setting. Understanding medical jargon allows you to accurately record doctors’ observations and patient information. You must also decipher complex medical conditions and treatments for accurate documentation.

Strong written communication skills

As scribes, your duties predominantly revolve around writing tasks; hence, strong written communication skills are vital. The ability to write clearly, succinctly, and professionally is not only necessary for producing accurate medical records, but it’s also important for facilitating clear communication among members of the healthcare team.

Attention to detail

Meticulousness and careful observation are two traits that will make you stand out in this role. Attention to detail ensures the correct interpretation and recording of complex medical situations. This trait will help you to minimize errors and provide crucial support to the medical team.

Good listening skills

Listening skills are imperative in this role. Listening attentively and accurately translating medical conversations into written form is key to the job. It’s important to recall and record medical information and conversations between the doctor and patient accurately.

Ability to work under pressure

The fast-paced nature of a healthcare environment can be stressful. The ideal candidate should be capable of remaining composed and efficient during busy periods, unexpected emergencies, or when dealing with multiple tasks simultaneously. Resilience and adaptability are valuable traits in such an environment.

Medical scribe career path options

If you’re a medical scribe seeking to grow and advance your career, you must understand the path most often followed by successful professionals. Usually, the career progression from this role leads to more advanced medical support roles, or it may act as a stepping stone toward further education in healthcare.

Generally, after spending time in the scribe position, you may have opportunities to move into roles such as lead medical scribe or medical scribe trainer. These positions come with increased responsibilities and are seen as a step up in the professional hierarchy. As you gain more experience and knowledge, you could potentially move into administrative roles such as office manager or healthcare administrator.

Some scribes use this position as a stepping stone to further their education, pursuing advanced degrees in nursing, physician assistant studies, or medicine. This job provides first-hand experience in the healthcare field and a unique perspective on patient care, making it an excellent place to start for those who intend to become healthcare practitioners. Remember, each advanced role requires specific degrees, licensing, or certification.

The role of a medical scribe has seen remarkable growth in the past decade. With an ever-increasing focus on electronic health record (EHR) implementation, this position has become essential in healthcare settings — hospitals, clinics, or private practices. These professionals are integral in the transition to digital patient records, helping to prevent physician burnout, enhance clinical efficiency, and improve patient care quality. As the healthcare sector continues exchanging paper records for digital databases, this trend of relying on scribes will most likely continue.

Employment projections

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, while there are no specific projections for medical scribes, the employment of health information technicians is set to grow 17% through 2031. This growth rate is much faster than the average of all occupations. The need to digitize health information is the main factor driving this employment growth.

Medical scribe career tips

Understand medical terminology

Having a solid understanding of medical terminology is the key to success in your career as a scribe. This involves learning and recognizing health-related terms and abbreviations. Not only does this knowledge help in comprehending medical documentation, but it also enhances your efficiency and accuracy on the job.

Become familiar with electronic health records (EHR)

In today’s digital age, proficiency with EHR systems is necessary. These systems are widely used for medical record-keeping. Learning how to use them effectively will enhance your productivity and make you a valuable asset to any healthcare team.

Build a professional network

It’s beneficial to build a network with other scribes and professionals within the wider healthcare industry. Here are some associations where you can connect:

  • American Association for Medical Transcription
  • Medical Scribe Association

Consider continuous learning

To keep up with the rapidly evolving healthcare industry, consider the following options for continuous learning:

  • Enroll in online courses related to medical coding and billing
  • Attend workshops and seminars on new EHR systems
  • Pursue a certification in medical transcription

Develop excellent listening skills

Listenting skills are vital in this role since you will document spoken medical observations and actions. Excellent listening skills can increase the accuracy of your medical notes, reducing the chances of errors and misunderstandings.

Where the medical scribe jobs are

Top employers

  • ScribeAmerica
  • Elite Medical Scribes
  • Inscribe
  • PhysAssist
  • Proscribe

Top states

  • California
  • Florida
  • Texas
  • Massachusetts
  • New York

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • SimplyHired


What does a day in the life of a medical scribe look like?

A typical day involves following healthcare professionals as they examine patients, documenting these examinations in real time. They also handle lab results, draft referral letters, and manage patient histories. Their work requires excellent communication skills, attention to detail, and the ability to be tactful and discreet. It’s important to remember that every day is different, and the pace can be fast, but it’s a great learning experience.

How does medical scribing benefit pre-medical students?

Pre-med students often find working as scribes highly beneficial. This job offers the chance to work alongside and learn directly from medical professionals, gaining crucial insights into the healthcare industry. It also provides opportunities to develop a deep understanding of medical terminologies, patient care processes, and EHR systems. These experiences can be influential in shaping a student’s future medical career.

What skills does a medical scribe need to develop?

Among others, strong listening skills are vital for this job to accurately document everything said during patient examinations. Additionally, typing and computer literacy are essential to input data quickly and effectively. Organizational skills are also required to manage multiple tasks simultaneously and keep information orderly. Crucially, strong interpersonal skills help communicate effectively with doctors and healthcare professionals. Finally, understanding medical terms is highly beneficial in this role.

Is medical scribe work stressful?

Similar to many healthcare roles, medical scribing can be stressful. The role requires a lot of multitasking, with demands to take notes swiftly and accurately while interacting with healthcare professionals and patients. Elements of the job, like the urgency of patient care scenarios, the use of complex medical language, or the requirement to document patient interactions simultaneously, can contribute to stress. However, this rigorous environment also provides a great learning platform for those planning a career in healthcare.

How can I improve as a medical scribe?

The best ways to enhance your effectiveness include continually refining your listening and note-taking skills since precision and speed are essential for real-time documentation. Expanding your medical terminology knowledge and understanding of healthcare procedures can also greatly improve the quality of your work. Developing your interpersonal skills can assist in working effectively with healthcare professionals, and improving your organizational skills can lead to more efficient management of tasks.

What should I expect during medical scribe training?

Typically, training for new scribes involves learning medical terminologies and abbreviations, understanding the structure and function of the healthcare system, and becoming acquainted with EHRs. Further, training includes learning to document patient encounters accurately and quickly, as well as handling other administrative tasks related to patient care. Additionally, ethics and privacy provisions in the healthcare setting form an integral part of the training.

Do scribes work only in hospitals?

While many scribes do work in hospital settings, they can be found in a variety of healthcare environments. This may include private practices, urgent care clinics, or specialty clinics such as orthopedic or pediatric offices. The experiences and tasks could vary depending on the setting.

What makes a good medical scribe?

A good scribe can document quickly and accurately, pick up on intricate details, and is well-versed with medical terminologies. Organized, disciplined, and able to work under pressure are qualities that often set apart proficient scribes. Technical skills such as proficiency in electronic health record systems and typing speed are also substantial influencers in performing these tasks efficiently. Above all, respect for patient confidentiality and healthcare ethics makes them highly valued.

How do I prepare for a medical scribe interview?

Before an interview, review key medical terminologies and abbreviations and understand the basics of patient care procedures. You may also want to familiarize yourself with the principles of healthcare ethics and patient confidentiality. Brushing up on your computer skills, specifically around EHR systems, can prove advantageous. Role-playing scenarios involving patient encounters may boost your confidence during the interview.