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So you want to work as a medical records scribe? Medical Editor? Medical Writer? Indexer? Each job has different duties.


Book by Anne Hart


New title for the job of entering spoken medical data into computers, but still similar pay: What used to be called medical transcribers and sometimes medical transcriptionists, were mostly women (and some men) who had a course in medical terminology and could spell and fix any grammar errors, spent an entire workday typing away (transcribing dictation) at IBM Selectric typewriters wearing earphones for hours listening to doctors speak the information from a Dictaphone machine from the 1950s through the 1980s, and before that medical stenographers transcribing their notes from shorthand or Speedwriting, now has a new name: Medical Scribes. Check out the pay scale in the USA for medical scribes nationally at the website, "Entry-Level Medical Scribe Salary."


The average pay in the USA for an Entry-Level Medical Scribe is $11.70 per hour. See: http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Medical_Scribe/Hourly_Rate/c2ed387c/Entry-Level. The hourly pay rate is $8.58 - $15.23. Total annual pay nationally runs from $18,007 - $32,603. The website notes that "Total Pay combines base annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, overtime pay and other forms of cash earnings, as applicable for this job. It does not include equity (stock) compensation, cash value of retirement benefits, or the value of other non-cash benefits (e.g. healthcare)."

In the 1970s, men sometimes taught medical terminology in two-year community colleges to mostly women who sat in typing pools transcribing dictation of medical records. In those days, the medical transcription pool typed all day and were never called 'scribes.' Nowadays there's a new name for medical transcribers who shadow doctors as they work in emergency rooms and other medical environments, keyboarding directly into computers, whatever the doctor dictates to become electronic medical records.


This is not like medical ghostwriting of books with physicians, scientists, or other experts. It's not regulatory writing or medical marketing writing for scientific, medical, or technical journals. And it's not editing or indexing books. You would proofread your work to make sure no typos or grammatical errors went into the sentences because of the nature of and requirements of digital medical records and confidentiality for each patient.

The job of medical records administrator used to be studied in a four-year college which also turned out graduates with ambitions to become medical record librarians. Now that medical records have gone digital and are keyboarded into computers instead of typed on paper, it saves physicians time so the doctor and look into the patient's eyes and report the results of the examination without having to turn to a computer to key in what goes into medical records.

Here comes the medical scribe. Often it's someone who has a four-year college degree, knows medical terminology spelling and grammar, and can type what the doctor says into a computer so the doctor doesn't have to type his or her own medical records into a computer.

The pay isn't any greater than, considering the cost of living, what a medical transcriber made before medical records went digital and were stored in computers. The advantage is that without having to wear earphones/headphones/earbud all day to listen to doctors, sometimes with thick accents, speak their medical terminology, after a career as a "medical scribe" an individual may be less likely to have a hearing loss without having to listen to recordings with headphones all day sitting for hours in a "typing pool" of a room full of other transcribers.

At least as a medical scribe, the person walks around following/shadowing the doctor as the physician sees each patient. But the task of the job remains similar to what the 1950s typist did, enter data into a machine, whether it's a computer or had been two generations ago a typewriter. There's also degrees to be earned in medical records administration, but then again, a lot of learning is done on the job. And some medical transcribers include college graduates looking for work.

That also means those thinking of going to medical school sometimes work as medical scribes to shadow doctors as they go from patient to patient, standing next to the doctor keying in what the doctor says is to get keyboarded into the computer to develop the electronic/digital medical record in all its details.

In past generations, the medical transcriber frequently graduated high school and took a course or two in medical terminology and medical transcription/transcribing. Sometimes medical transcribers were blind, and had good hearing abilities to type from words heard in a Dictaphone machine.

Others went to two-year colleges for a degree or certificate in medical transcription, which required courses in medical terminology to learn the spelling, pronunciation, and grammar needed to create clear sentences for medical records, often working with doctors who were difficult to understand when they spoke for a variety of reasons.

Other careers such as medical editor, medical writer, journalist, indexer, and medical marketing writer or medical regulatory writer exist at different pay scales. But medical scribes are still earning salaries similar to administrative assistants, secretaries, and other employees whose job is to type/keyboard data into a computer with correct spelling, workers who can listen to a doctor's voice and know how to spell the medical terms correctly, as well as touch up any grammatical errors and put in the punctuation in the sentence to make up a digital medical record for each patient.

The job isn't just sitting all day typing any more. The medical scribe shadows the doctor and walks with the physician from patient to patient. Except the job is different from the medical editor who edits medical books rather than medical records.

In the 1970s and 1980s I did temporary medical transcribing 'typing' work when there weren't enough community college teaching jobs or when a substitute "creative writing" instructor or adjunct wasn't needed to replace a professor on leave or off work for one or two days (while writing books at home on my own TRS 80 1981-style computer that did word processing of my "how to make money at home with computers" or robots careers books and other topics while dreaming of writing more novels and plays.

The local community college had great courses in medical terminology, and the work differed from my previous jobs in typing pools for news services or proofreading and editing computer manuals in other temporary jobs that never led to contracts or permanent work in editing (unless I did freelance public relations writing at home which paid only when articles sent on speculation were published by national magazines or newspapers). Nowadays more work is available entering data into computers in medical settings. But as far as promotions? Higher salaries?

For me it was a 'job' to be used to mark time until a job came along that paid enough to be financially independent, that is a salary that paid enough to pay rent or buy a home and cover food, clothing, and transportation expenses, like a bus pass. But today?

The profession of "medical scribe" often is used by college graduates planning to go to medical school, nursing school, or enter into further study for another health-related job that pays more than the $34,000 to $45,000 annually that 'scribes' usually get, depending upon the state/area in which they work. It's helpful in medical editing careers. But it's not medical writing (as if you wrote a news article or a book based on interviewing experts).

What you actually do is type the exact words the doctor speaks, not your own ideas. You're there to keyboard data into a computer to serve the doctor who can't look at patients and keyboard data into computers that will become digital medical records. So the doctor speaks. You shadow/follow the doctor from room to room, patient to patient, and you key in what the doctor says will go into the patient's medical records. At least you don't have to wear head phones all day and come home with hearing loss after years of listening to recordings.

For more information on medical scribe careers, see the news article on medical scribes, what they do, and how much they earn. You may wish to check out the Sacramento Bee news article, "Medical Scribes Help Relieve Doctor's Digital Record Keeping: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/health-and-medicine/article52669315.html.