Future Pre-Med Students Gain Valuable Experience as Medical Scribes
In June 2016, the Area Health Education Center of Southwest Oregon (AHECSW) launched a new program called ReConnect Scribes. This unique, 14 month program is aimed at college graduates who have completed a bachelor’s degree, but are in their “gap year” between undergraduate school and higher level healthcare programs, such as medical school, physician assistant school, or nurse practitioner school. Our program places college graduates in medical scribe positions in our community. A medical scribe is a person who does all charting during physician-patient appointments in real time, as physicians are treating their patients. This is a great advantage to a physician, as it saves them from having copious amounts of charting to complete after seeing patients all day. Currently, our scribes are working full-time for the physicians at the Umpqua Community Health Center (UCHC).
While recruiting and interviewing candidates for this program, AHECSW focused on students who have a desire to work in rural healthcare settings with an underserved population. The goal is that students who participate in this program return to underserved areas to practice upon completion of their advanced medical degrees. Once scribes were hired, AHECSW provided Scribe training for them through a specialized training program called Scribe University. This allowed scribes to be as prepared as possible as they began their new positions at UCHC. Scribes began working at UCHC in June of this year and will work through July of 2017.
In addition to working full-time at the clinic, scribes are dedicating several hours a week in support of our Bright Works Oregon after-school program for high school students. Currently, scribes are working on developing case studies or “mock patient” scenarios that will be used in our Bright Works curriculum later this year. Scribes will also attend Bright Works chapter meetings and interact with high school students on case studies and college preparation activities.
Each of the scribes are currently preparing to attend advanced medical programs. Michael Graham, a graduate of Oregon State University, is preparing for Physician Assistant (PA) school. Michael aspires to begin a PA program next summer and has interviews at Oregon Health & Science University and Pacific University. Scribes Audrey Taylor and Jaide Farr are both making headway in their preparations for medical school by taking the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT. Audrey completed her first attempt at the MCAT in September and Jaide will be taking the test in January 2017. Our fourth scribe, Lucas Short is currently considering which medical schools he will apply to and hopes to stay on the west coast for medical school.
Thus far, the program has been a resounding success for both the scribe students, as well as the physicians at UCHC. Dr. Chip Taylor, a family physician at UCHC, says “Having a scribe in the exam room changes the entire encounter in a very positive manner. After 20 years of typing in the exam room I can now return to the days when I sat close to the patient with my hands in my lap and my eyes focused on them attending to their concerns with undivided attention… at the end of the day, my notes are mostly done and I have less paperwork. The fact that the scribes come from rural Oregon is a real positive point for my patients who enjoy having my scribe in the encounter; many patients have taken a real interest in these future healthcare professionals by asking at subsequent encounters how their tests, interviews, and so-forth are coming as they progress in their professional education.”
According to Dr. Jay Richards, the Family Practice & Medical Director of UCHC, “the scribes have become a critical part of our care teams. The providers have all been very impressed with their abilities. They have also taken on process improvement tasks and training to do medical assistant duties, which gives them more hands-on patient care. This experience has provided them a better understanding of routine primary care and allows them a better informed decision as they apply for post graduate training. We are excited to expand the program to hire more scribes for next year.”
When asked about his experiences in this program, scribe Michael Graham said “The scribe program has afforded me the opportunity to learn and grow as a healthcare professional in more ways than I had initially thought possible. Being in a rural federally qualified health clinic, I see numerous barriers to healthcare that individuals in a rural community face that I had previously only read about in textbooks. My position at UCHC in Sutherlin has allowed me to begin to think critically as a provider and to fully gauge my interest in working with the rural community as a PA. Each day I get the opportunity to practice humility, service, understanding, patience and empathy as I both listen to and interact with patients. The lessons I am learning both personally and professionally will serve to make me a better provider and, more importantly, a better person.”
Seeing the program become a success so quickly has prompted plans for future expansion. AHECSW plans to continue placing scribes at UCHC next summer, as well as to form new partnerships with other providers in Douglas County who could benefit from a program such as this. Marketing this unique scribe program will play a significant role in next year’s recruitment success. AHECSW will be reaching out to colleges and universities across the northwest to inform aspiring pre-med students of this opportunity. AHECSW is proud to cooperate with community partners, such as UCHC, to grow this scribe program in Douglas County. The ultimate reward would be to see these individuals return to Douglas County after medical school to provide quality healthcare in our rural community.
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