Scribe Job Description
Scribes work in doctors’ offices, medical centers, hospitals, and other medical facilities where they help doctors record patients’ information, perform clerical tasks, and work with electronic medical records. In addition to being skilled medical writers and researchers, they possess a strong background in medical terminology and coding, and use computer software to update records, dictate physicians’ reports, and prepare medical documents. Scribes can work part-time or full-time positions. They sometimes work rotating shifts, weekend and holiday hours, and travel with doctors as needed.
Scribe Duties and Responsibilities
Scribes work in a variety of medical facilities. Specific duties and responsibilities may vary, but there are several core tasks associated with the job, including:
Part of a scribe’s job is to welcome patients in the waiting room and take them to the examination room. They may also introduce the doctor, let patients know what the visit involves, and answer patients’ questions.
Record Exam and Test Results
Working alongside medical professionals, scribes write down readings from equipment, such as thermometers and blood pressure monitors, and record these findings in patients’ charts. Using proper medical billing coding and terminology, they record information the doctor provides about the patient’s medical history, diagnoses, prescriptions, and treatments during the visit.
Manage Electronic Medical Records
Scribes use the medical information they record during patients’ office visits to update patients’ medical records. This can include documenting the patient’s treatment plan, physical exam results, and any health concerns patients mention.
Check Medical Documents for Errors
Doctors have scribes locate and resolve inaccuracies and clarity issues in medical documentation, including patients’ charts, referral letters, and medical reports. In addition, they help find ways to reduce these errors in the future.
Handle General Office Tasks
As part of their clerical duties, scribes take phone calls for the medical office and record messages for physicians. They may also fax documents and look up phone numbers for physicians the office refers patients to.
Scribe Skills and Qualifications
Successful scribes have a background in the medical field and can collaborate well with both patients and medical professionals. Employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree related to healthcare and some experience working with medical records. They also look for these skills:
- Understanding of medical terminology – scribes must understand medical terms about the body, diseases, and medications to record information in patients’ records, assist with prescriptions, and help with referrals
- Familiarity with electronic medical records – understanding the structure and legal issues involved with electronic medical records is essential for accessing patient data, scanning documents, recording exam and lab results, and inputting prescription data
- Medical transcription and dictation – since doctors sometimes give scribes audio reports for them to turn into text, scribes are familiar with transcription and dictation software and equipment that facilitate the process
- Communication skills – strong written communication skills come in handy for creating medical reports, and good speaking skills are necessary to communicate clearly with patients and physicians
- Detail orientated – since medical documentation requires accuracy and completeness, scribes need an eye for detail to spot mistakes and record precise information that doctors provide them
Tools of the Trade
Scribes use these applications in their daily work:
- Medical records management software (eClinicalWorks, Allscripts, Epic)
- Medical transcription and dictation software (Nuance, WebChartMD, Emdat)
- Medical transcription and dictation equipment (foot pedal, microphone, headset)
- Productivity software (Microsoft Office Suite)
Scribe Education and Training
While employers do accept candidates with a high school diploma and some coursework in medical terminology and medical records, they often prefer scribes who are enrolled in or have graduated from a bachelor’s degree program in the medical field. Possible majors include medical studies, nursing, allied health, or health information management, and common courses cover medical terminology, medical record management, anatomy, and healthcare ethics. While less common, short-term programs for medical scribes exist that can make candidates without a degree more competitive. Candidates can also earn a health information technology certification from the American Health Information Management Association if they graduate from a qualified degree program.
Scribe Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that scribes – classified as medical records and health information technicians – make a median wage around $39,000 a year. The 10th percentile of scribes earn around $25,800, and the highest-earning scribes make more than $64,600. Healthcare organizations commonly offer bonuses, insurance packages, paid time off, and retirement plans to full-time scribes.
According to the BLS, scribe employment will increase at an above-average rate of 13 percent through 2026. Increased use of electronic medical records will require healthcare facilities to hire medical records technicians who understand medical terminology and have strong computer skills. Scribes who have these skills along with a health information technician certification may have the best prospects.
If working as a scribe sounds interesting to you, check out these resources to get started in this career:
American Academy of Professional Coders – the AAPC is open to students and all medical professionals who work in medical coding. Members can get help finding jobs, network with the association’s 175,000+ members, view webinars, and seek training for professional certification.
Medical Terminology: The Best and Most Effective Way to Memorize, Pronounce, and Understand Medical Terms – to make the process of learning medical terminology less tedious, aspiring scribes can use this guide to learn common medical terms more quickly with its helpful charts, tips, and quizzes that help with mastery.
The American Health Information Management Association – scribes and other health information management professionals can benefit from AHIMA’s online courses and webinars, local conferences and events, certification programs, and career resource center.
Ultimate Medical Scribe Handbook – often used in medical scribe courses, this manual provides a thorough overview of what scribes do and familiarizes readers with common medical terms used for tests, medications, and diagnosis. It also offers tips for billing and coding.
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