by Lynn Benjauthrit
Medical scribes “assist physicians with documentation of patient medical records,” described Dr. John Vowels,
Senior Partner of Emergency Medical Scribe Systems (EMSS) and alumnus of the USC Keck School of
In hospitals from Lakewood to Los Alamitos, many undergraduate and graduate students interested in
medicine interact with physicians and observe medicine up close by entering the ranks of medical scribes.
Typing patient histories on a mobile laptop and acting as personal assistants to doctors in the emergency
department, scribes have a unique opportunity to see the inner workings of a hospital and the lifestyles of
Though medical scribe programs are not completely new, they recently have been gaining more traction. The
increasing use of electronic medical records has created a niche for ER scribes.
“There has been a push to bring medicine into the 21st century and use computers,” Dr. Vowels said.
Acting as bridges in the shift towards medical records, scribes allow physicians to focus on the patient without
having to worry about documentation.
“They’ve been super helpful for me, especially in chaotic situations,” Dr. Vowels said.
Prospective scribes are required to undergo intensive training that consists of 50 to 60 hours of combined
classroom and on the job training, during which medical terminology, elements of a medical record, and
medical products are taught.
After training, the scribes are immediately immersed into the routine of an emergency room.
“Scribes get to see some pretty amazing things. They are in the ER seeing people who are sick and going to
see patients with the doctor,” Dr. Vowels said.
For students who are unsure about medical school, being a scribe can provide personal experience that may
help them decide if medical school is the right path.
“The last thing you want is to go and have a huge debt without being completely positive. Being a scribe allows
you to make a decision with more information,” Dr. Vowels said.
To become a scribe, no experience is required. By Dr. Vowels’ standards, scribe companies look for people
who are “motivated, interested, smart, and can do the job”, as well as those who with schedules that can fit this