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An Open Letter to Potential ReConnect Gap-Year Fellow From a Current One


What I Gained from My Experience as a ReConnect Gap-Year Fellow

Dear Potential ReConnect Applicant, I was delighted to become a part of the Area Health Education Center of Southwest Oregon’s ReConnect program after I heard about it as a student in the University of Oregon Rural Health Club. After scribing in this program for the last year, I would love to emphasize the following points to students who are potentially interested in the ReConnect Gap-Year Fellowship. The primary reason why I applied to the ReConnect program was to gain clinical experience. As the program includes a Medical Assistant (MA) component, it has more than delivered on this. Some highlights of working as an MA include: administering flu shots and point of care blood tests, taking vitals, preparing for procedures, and using medical terminology in real-time. However, while the clinical experience has been significant, to me, it has not been the most meaningful part of the ReConnect program. To my surprise, working with the logistical side of healthcare has actually been the most helpful to my growth and understanding of medicine. If you become a part of the ReConnect program you can expect to learn about a wide variety of components in the healthcare world, such as:

  • Insurance

  • Copays and deductibles and MVAs, oh my! The more you learn about insurance, the more you’ll realize there is to know, but you’ll certainly be ahead of where you were when you started.

  • Medical Coding

  • I wasn’t even aware that coding is a part of medicine at all. Come to find out, it’s not only a massive part, but there are two different kinds: coding diagnoses (ICD-10s) and coding for billing (99214 vs 99213, etc).

  • Social Dynamics of a Medical Clinic

  • You will engage in communication between administration, front office reception, back office medical staff, providers, etc. You’ll get to observe how physicians and practitioners interact with their patients.

  • Medications and Medical Terminology

  • Memorizing (and pronouncing!) medications and their generic equivalents has been interesting, but trust me, you’ll be rattling off escitalopram, adalimumab, and myrbetriq like they’re the names of your favorite breakfast cereals. You’ll also learn about medications that are controlled substances and those that require pain contracts.

  • “Productive Shadowing” - Observing a variety of different practitioners

  • Scribing for three Medical Doctors, a Doctor of Osteopathy, a Physician’s Assistant, a Doctor of Nursing Practice, and two Family Nurse Practitioners has introduced me to a variety of health professions and given me incredible insight on different styles of care and patient-provider interactions. If you get the chance to do this, you may come to better understand which areas and degree of medicine you would like to pursue.

  • The Art of a Chart Note

  • I’m by no means an expert on medical charts, but scribing hundreds of patient appointments has caused me to go from not knowing what the acronyms HPI, ROS, PE, and A/P stand for, to being able to write them fluidly. In case you are curious, those stand for medical terms such as History of Present Illness (HPI), Review of Systems (ROS), Physical Exam (PE), and Assessment and Plan (A/P). I feel this experience may help you be more efficient and get less burnt out when you’re faced with your own charts in the future as a medical student or practitioner. Medical scribing provides an opportunity to get a jump start on the components of a patient exam or interaction.

  • Rural Healthcare

  • Working at a rural clinic such as Aviva, especially at the satellite clinics in more rural areas, will demonstrate the challenges (and joys!) of rural communities and healthcare resources available there.

  • Patient Contact

  • I cannot emphasize enough how special it is to converse with patients, to empathize with them, and to help put them at ease. But I’m guessing you’re not interested in reading a 10 page blog about that, so I’ll stop there.

Indeed, the ReConnect program is an opportunity to bolster your clinical experience, but I urge you to also see it as a way to learn the logistical aspects of medicine that cannot be taught in class or read about in a textbook. While these are often the “less glamorous” parts of medicine, my experience with them turned into the most unique and vivid parts of my application essays, and made me more passionate about healthcare overall. Sincerely,

Natalie DeBell Current ReConnect scribe and future medical student

Natalie DeBell has been a part of the ReConnect program since January of 2020. She grew up in the Roseburg area, attended Roseburg High School, and has returned to Roseburg for her gap-year between undergraduate education and medical school. Natalie graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Oregon as a Human Physiology major and is proficient in Spanish. Natalie was recently notified of her acceptance to medical school at Oregon Health and Sciences University and plans to begin her journey there in the summer of 2020. Natalie recently wrote about her experience as a ReConnect scribe to share her insights and learnings with undergraduate students who are potentially interested in joining the ReConnect Program.


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Area Health Education Center of Southwest Oregon (AHECSW) | 522 SE Washington Avenue, Roseburg Oregon 97470 | (p) 541.784.3660 | (f) 541.492.1306