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This is about Scribe, in the medical profession. For other uses, see Scribe (disambiguation).

An ER scribe is an employee who works in the emergency department (ED) of a hospital. Their duties include overseeing the documentation of each patient's visit to the ED, and acting as the physician's personal assistant. A scribe works with one physician per shift, although they may work for multiple doctors.

The prospective scribe is required to learn a large amount of medical terminology, as well as become familiar with basic human anatomy. Each program has their own training regimen, and some are more structured than others. For example, some programs require that all new scribes take an official graded course prior to working. Other programs allow the scribe to start in the ED immediately, but under supervision. Training is intensive and usually lasts for about 1 month under the direct supervision of a senior scribe.

The first scribe programs were based in Reno, Nevada. In 1995 a physician practicing in Fort Worth, Texas discovered the Nevada program and decided to start a program at Harris Methodist Hospital. The program has grown larger and spawned "copy" programs in several other cities. Some of these programs have retained the original program, while others have elected to create their own from scratch, using the original as a template.

There are a few programs, however, that have expanded beyond the original model and its core subjects, including more pertinent and up to date information. Even fewer programs have included advanced training levels beyond the basic training received by all scribes. These programs utilize standardized tests to certify scribes as being adequately prepared to work in a clinical environment. They also include periodic updates to keep the programs on the "leading edge" of medicine.

For each patient seen in the ED, a scribe will:

  • Accompany the physician into the exam room
  • Document the history of the patient's chief complaint
  • Document the Review-of-Systems (ROS) and physical examination
  • Enter vital signs and keep track of lab values
  • Look up pertinent past medical records
  • Keep track of and enter the results of imaging studies
  • Type progress notes
  • Enter the patient's discharge plan and any prescriptions

Scribe positions are often filled by college students pursuing careers in medicine. Many plan to attend medical school and earn their MD or DO degree. A smaller number plan on becoming a physician's assistant (PA). Pre-health students benefit from the experience they gain working in the emergency department. These students are also able to build relationships with medical practitioners who are usually willing to write letters of recommendation for professional school applications on the students' behalf.

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