From Medical Assistant to Scribe: Tips for Practices

April 2, 2015

Training a medical practice staff member to serve as a scribe has several benefits, but only if you go about it the right way.

Rather than hiring someone new to take on the role of a scribe, some practices are training their current staff members, such as medical assistants, to take on the role. This approach has several benefits. It enables practices to avoid spending the time and resources associated with recruiting, hiring, and onboarding a new employee; and it provides a career growth opportunity to an established employee.

Keep in mind, however, that if you are asking a staff member to serve as a scribe, you should not expect her to continue fulfilling her prior duties simultaneously, says Carol Stryker, founder of practice management consulting firm Symbiotic Solutions. "If you're going to ask this person to be in the exam room with you the whole time, or to be in the exam room after you leave, then you can't expect them to be turning another room or rooming another patient. It's real tempting to say, 'Oh, she's got a little bit of slack time; let's just have her do this.' They need to understand that if they've got someone who is already being well utilized ... if they're going to give them additional duties, they've got to take some duties away and give them to somebody else."

To determine whether one of your employees will succeed as a scribe, start by compiling a list of the necessary qualifications. This should include:

• Strong spelling, computer, and keyboarding skills;

• Excellent verbal skills;

• A strong understanding of medical terminology (consider looking into online courses if your staff member is lacking in this area); and

• A good relationship with the physician(s) with whom the scribe will be working.

If one of your employees meets all of your requirements, ask him to shadow the physician with whom he will be working until he gets a good handle on the documentation his role will require, as well as an understanding of the physician's unique preferences and work style, says Cheyenne Brinson, a consultant with KarenZupko & Associates. "The physicians, at the end of the day, are going to want their note to look a certain way and say a certain thing," she says. "[Scribes] are going to have to be able to anticipate what the physician is looking for, so that on the job training becomes very critical, as well as understanding and also anticipating the needs of the physician they are transcribing for."