What skills do you need to be a medical scribe?

There are some key skills that are vital to be a successful medical scribe. Although a medical degree is not required (thank heavens!), a solid foundation of medical scribe training, education, and experience are necessary to become a successful medical scribe.

Medical scribing is a fantastic entry-level position for a career in medicine, as well as an excellent way to add clinical experience for your medical or PA school application. Even though it is an entry-level position, unlike other entry-level positions in other industries, The follow skills and knowledge are paramount to becoming a successful medical scribe.

  • The willingness to learn
  • The unwavering, steadfast ability to persevere
  • Being a self-starter (self-motivated)
  • A positive attitude in all things
  • Smiling
  • A good understanding of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, and medical coding
  • Successful completion of a good entry-level medical scribe curriculum
  • Regular and continued education and improvement

In addition to this, a medical scribe will become a ‘super-user’ of at least one Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. Scribes receive this training at the facility they are hired at and are not expected to learn a specific EHR prior to being hired.

skills scribes need

Skill #1: The willingness to learn

Suffice to say, for most applicants to a medical scribe position, this might be one of their first real-world jobs. Like most entry-level positions, there is a lot to learn. Key knowledge like government regulations (HIPAA etc), understanding of your roles and functions within the clinical setting, and comfort using EHR documentation are all likely skills and knowledge you’ll have to learn within the first week of work.

In addition, there’ll be a lot of in-person learning and shadowing of other medical scribes and physicians at the beginning of your work experience. So a willingness to learn is a vital asset to have.

Skill #2: The unwavering, steadfast ability to persevere

The clinical setting can be a very stressful and fast pace environment. Especially if one were applying to be a medical scribe at urgent care or emergency room, you can be constantly surrounded by controlled chaos and life and death decisions.

Even in smaller clinics and/or specialties, a medical scribe can still face pressure since patients are often in the clinical setting because they’re sick or have various ailments and co-morbidity. The ability to be steady, calm, and persevere in the face of pressure and stress is a good skill to have.

Skill #3: Being a self-starter (self-motivated)

Because of the fast pace environment, doing a medical scribe’s job often means the scribe is unsupervised at times, and being a self-starter is an important trait to have. The primary responsibility of a medical scribe is to alleviate EHR documentation burden from a physician, so being self-motivated with minimal oversight by the providers you shadow is vital for a scribe.

Skill #4: A positive attitude in all things

In general, a positive attitude is just a good attribute to have for ANY job. If you’re looking for a medical scribe position, that positive attitude is more important than ever. A large portion of your day is spent in close proximity with doctors during patient encounters. A positive attitude will help diffuse tense situations and provide a good rapport with the physicians you shadow.

More importantly, the medical scribe job is one of the key cogs of the patient encounter, and accurate electronic documentation is vital to billing and revenue for a healthcare organization. But medical scribing is an entry-level position and tends to be compensated accordingly. So a positive attitude will definitely help.

Skill #5: Smiling

Since a medical scribe interacts with physicians, and is involved in most patient encounters, it goes without saying that smiling is a basic skillset. A beaming smile upon greeting each patient will help each engagement, and improve patient satisfaction for the healthcare organization you work for.

Skill #6: A good understanding of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, and medical coding

This is a chicken/egg scenario. The most important skill for a medical scribe is a good understanding of medical terminology, anatomy, procedural and diagnostic names, etc. So most organizations looking for medical scribes look for pre-med and pre-PA students because these candidates typically have a high level of understanding and knowledge of these terms. And since most applicants are pre-health students, most medical scribes have high proficiency in this area.

It doesn’t mean that if you don’t already have a high level of understanding in this area, you can’t be a good medical scribe. This goes back to the first skill to have, the willingness to learn. If have the time, take a scribe training course to refresh your knowledge in this area.

Skill #7: Successful completion of a good entry-level medical scribe curriculum

Again, for an entry-level position, medical scribes require a fairly high level of knowledge and understanding in comparison to other entry-level positions in other industries. Taking a comprehensive scribe training course, having certification of said completion of the course, is going to be a good skill to have before becoming a medical scribe.

Skill #8: Regular and continued education and skills improvement

The healthcare industry is constantly changing, both in the latest treatments and procedures, as well as government regulation and payee coding responsibilities. One of the key assets as a medical scribe is the continued and constant skill improvement.

You should also be able to type well (70 wpm or more with 95%+ accuracy).

Most importantly, for anyone entering the medical field, the most important “skill” may simply be a caring heart, drive to help those in need, and an intrinsic desire to always be improving.

Watch one of our medical scribe interviews to find out more about what it takes to be a successful scribe.


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