Medical student scribes gain early clinical experience, assist physicians

March 10, 2011 | Features, UToday
By Meghan Cunningham

A new and innovative initiative created by students at The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Science is giving them early exposure to the clinical environment.

Dr. James Young, assistant professor of emergency medicine, went over a patient’s chart with Angela Johnson, a second-year medical student, who is in the Scribe Program.

Dr. James Young, assistant professor of emergency medicine, went over a patient’s chart with Angela Johnson, a second-year medical student, who is in the Scribe Program.

In the Scribe Program, students assist physicians in UT Medical Center’s Emergency Department by transcribing patient information for their records. The scribes, who are first- and second-year medical students, document the patient’s chief complaint and medical history, and take notes on pertinent findings in the physical exam.

The scribes go over that written information with the physicians after the exam, then transcribe the data into the patient’s electronic medical record.

“The Scribe Program is perfect for a teaching hospital because it allows our medical students to get that early firsthand experience, and we as physicians get the assistance that allows us to focus on and spend more time with the patient,” said Dr. Kris Brickman, associate professor and chair of the UT Department of Emergency Medicine. “The scribes help us be as efficient as possible in the emergency medicine setting.”

In addition to documenting the initial physical exam, the medical student scribes alert the physicians when lab results and imaging study data are available. They also document all procedures performed, consultations ordered, and changes in a patient’s course of care or response to treatment.

“The Scribe Program is a unique opportunity for our first- and second-year medical students to gain clinical experience that is not offered at other institutions,” said Dr. Jeffrey P. Gold, chancellor, executive vice president for biosciences and health affairs, and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “The education fostered by these students working alongside our University physicians will strengthen not only their medical knowledge and clinical decision making, but patient interaction and bedside manner as well. It allows for a firsthand view of a broad spectrum of clinical medicine.”

The training the students receive to capture medical information with a state-of-the-art electronic medical record system also puts them ahead of their peers at a very early stage, Gold said.

Fourth-year medical student Andrew Sitzmann worked with Brickman to lay the groundwork for the program in fall 2009 and brought second-year medical students Angela Johnson and Juan Montoya on board to develop the initiative into a fully functional program.

“As first- and second-year medical students, we are eager to integrate what we learn in the classroom into the clinical aspect of medicine,” Montoya said. “These connections occur during each shift in the Emergency Department, which contributes to the success of the program and aligns with our initial goals when we created this program.”

“I see the scribes as leaders of their medical school classes,” Johnson said. “We are going to enter our clinical rotations with over 100 hours of Emergency Department experience, complete with life-and-death traumas, disease progression, and a thorough understanding of the electronic medical record.”

The scribes are encouraged to share their experiences with their peers to enhance the education of the full group; this is done through a secure, password-protected blog. The exercise in collaboration also will prepare them for such interactions in their future medical careers.

The student scribes, who wear pins that distinguish them as members of the program, can serve for six or 12 months and arrange the program around their schedules. The scribes work six-hour shifts.

UTMC is looking to expand the program to encourage additional students and hospital departments to participate.

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