How to Become a
Scribe

Medical scribe taking notes with a doctor checking a patient in the background

If you have an interest in a career that combines your passion for the medical field and your desire to assume administrative responsibilities, then you might consider becoming a Scribe. Read on to get information about the skills, education and training that is required to begin working in this profession.

What Does a Scribe Do?

A Scribe, most commonly referred to as a medical Scribe, generally works for physicians to create and maintain a patient's electronic medical records. A Scribe will document information concerning a patient's office visit and treatment plan. The role of a Scribe is to remove some administrative duties from a physician, allowing them to focus more on the medical care of patients. Scribes can work in private or group physicians' offices, hospitals, clinics or surgical centers.

A Scribe should possess strong computer and communication skills. Common Scribe duties and responsibilities include:

  • Clerical tasks, such as gathering patient information

  • Technical tasks, such as entering new information and updating existing data in electronic health record systems

  • Customer service tasks, such as interacting with patients, doctors and other medical staff

Scribe Skills

Self-motivated individuals who enjoy working with people and possess strong computer literacy skills are likely to be successful at being a Scribe. Strong listening, verbal and written communication skills are essential, as a Scribe must be able to accurately obtain patient information and relay details to physicians. They should have knowledge of medical terminology and billing codes and display decision making and organizational skills.

Other key Scribe skills include:

  • Ability to multitask

  • Time management skills

  • Typing/keyboarding skills (minimum 50 wpm)

How Do You Become a Scribe

Education and Training

According to online job postings we looked at, it seems that most employers required that those looking to fill a Scribe position hold only a high school diploma. No college degree or technical diploma is required to become a Scribe, though some employers might prefer candidates who are currently enrolled or who have obtained a degree in a pre-health track. It is beneficial to have taken college-level courses in anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry and medical terminology before seeking to become a Scribe.

A voluntary certification is offered through the American College of Medical Scribe Specialists (ACMSS). Two certifications are available: those with less than 200 clinical hours as medical Scribe can obtain the Certified Medical Scribe Apprentice (CMSA) designation, while those with 200 or more hours would be granted the Certified Medical Scribe Specialist (CMSS) credential. To maintain this certification, Scribes must complete five hours of continuing education every three years as well as membership in the ACMSS. Some employers might prefer to use only certified medical Scribes.

The types of training programs offered by Medical Scribe companies vary, but might involve a new Scribe working with and being evaluated by an experienced Scribe for a predetermined time period or online virtual training sessions.

Finding a job

Employment growth for Scribes is expected to be 15 percent over the 2014-2024 period as indicated by statistics reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) regarding medical records and health information technicians. This projection is based largely on the growing use of electronic health records (EHRs) in most medical facilities and the increase in medical attention sought by an aging population. The BLS feels that those with certification might be at an advantage when it comes to looking for employment in this field.

When conducting a Scribe job search, it is important that you have a quality resume to show to prospective employers. Our library of Scribe resume samples provide you with a good idea of how to construct an effective resume.

Once your resume is ready, search online for Scribe job opportunities. Draw on your network of professionals you might have met while gaining experience through an internship.

Insights from a Scribe

In order to gain more information about becoming a Scribe, we spoke with Jackie Reynolds, Executive Vice-President of Operations for ScribeAmerica. Our question-and-answer session with Ms. Reynolds follows.

What is the common career path for a Scribe?

Most Scribes are interested in continuing their careers in the healthcare field through medical school, PA school, nursing school, etc. and therefore only commit to the position for our minimum requirement of 2 years part-time, or 1 year full-time before leaving for school. We do have Scribes who stay well beyond the minimum commitment as they work on their resumes, and applications for schooling.

Experienced Scribes become fluent in medical terminology, familiar with the breadth of medical illness and how a medical provider examines the patient, which tests are ordered, how medical decisions, differential diagnosis, and patient disposition is made. Thus, Scribes proceed to excel in post-graduate health degree programs.

Additionally, while most Scribes do move on to fulfill other professional goals, many have found that the experience and income received justifies choosing becoming a medical Scribe as a career. These individuals become chief Scribes within their department, then project leaders and regional managers. Nearly all of our senior leadership, regional managers, project leaders and junior project leaders started out as a Scribe in a local hospital.

What should someone consider before becoming a Scribe?

Considerations before becoming a Scribe include being able to commit to the minimum requirements, in addition to the rigorous training schedule and long shift times. Given how intricately a Scribe is involved in patient medical records, there is a tremendous amount of medical terminology, anatomy/physiology, EHR and site specific department workflow training that needs to be mastered before being able to start working solo.

While rare, there are some potential risks, not unique to being a Medical Scribe, but shared by all healthcare personnel that should be considered. The following are some examples of the risks: fainting at the sight of blood, falling and suffering a laceration, being exposed to airborne diseases such as tuberculosis and meningitis, and fatigue the next day especially if you work a night-shift.

What are some of the most important skills for Scribes to have?

In addition to the qualities listed above, a decent typing speed is encouraged given the vast majority of our Scribe programs operate on an EHR. Also, any experience with medical terminology or anatomy/physiology is encouraged. 

On a personal level, scribes learn to appreciate the complexity, strength and frailty of the human condition and have an opportunity to display compassion and maturity.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Scribe?

Scribes are a valuable part of the healthcare team and provide much needed relief to the overburdened provider. An additional benefit of a medical Scribe job is the unique experience earned by working directly alongside physicians. Scribes gain a deeper understanding of medical terminology in a clinical setting that gives them a notable advantage in their career path in medicine. 

How Much Do Scribes Get Paid?

Medical Scribes earn an hourly median wage of $17.84. The lowest hourly wage for Scribes is $11.63, with those earning the highest wages for this profession being paid $29.52 per hour.

Top 10 States for Scribe Salary

Scribes in the following states make the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.

    New Jersey

    $29.00

    Alaska

    $25.02

    California

    $23.36

    Maryland

    $23.04

    Colorado

    $22.98

    Massachusetts

    $21.98

    Connecticut

    $21.91

    Minnesota

    $21.58

    Washington

    $21.02

    New York

    $21.00

    Scribe Resources

    The following resources have been assembled to help you access as much information about this career as you can as you decide whether this is a profession you would consider pursuing.

    On the Web

    The Scribe Industry Blog
    Hosted by PhysAssist Scribes, this blog provides insight into the career with personal accounts, industry news and more.

    Medical Scribe Journal
    ScribeAmerica provides a blog that relates professional news and trends in the Scribe industry.

    Industry Groups

    The American College of Medical Scribe Specialists (ACMSS)
    This nonprofit organization provides Scribes with the opportunity to become certified and offers various professional development and support programs, including webinars, continuing education and public speaking programs.

    American Healthcare Documentation Professionals Group (AHDPG)
    Founded in 1992 as Transcription Relief Services and becoming AHDPG in 2010, this organization offers online training and continuing education opportunities to medical Scribes.

    Scribe Books

    The Ultimate Medical Scribe Handbook: General Edition
    An extensive text covering training required for those seeking to become medical Scribes to prepare them for working in clinical settings. Specific editions for those specializing in primary care, emergency care and orthopedics are also available.

    Medical Scribe Training Manual 2016 Edition
    This comprehensive book covers everything a medical Scribe would need to know, from basic anatomy to medical terminology.

    The information in this article comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job postings and other online sources