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Why Not Be a Medical Scribe?

One of my favorite things to ask someone is how they ended up with the job they have. It’s almost never a straightforward answer. 

While my story isn’t nearly as exciting as some of the ones I’ve heard (once a professor told me breaking his knee was an important part of his career trajectory!), I’ll go ahead and share. Maybe this will be helpful if you just graduated and don’t know what to do with your career.

Why Not a Programmer? 

I graduated in 2017 with a degree in mathematics and a strong emphasis in computer science. With a decent foundation in the mathematics of cryptology and practical skills in programming, I probably could have had a lucrative career as a programmer of some variety. 

So why did I not look for a job in tech? In short, I didn’t like the potential employers I could’ve ended up working for. At the time, a Ph.D. wasn’t the right choice for me, which meant I would’ve been applying for jobs in the private sector or with the US government. 

Without wading too deep into the controversies of how the US employs its cryptologists, I had some ethical concerns about seeking a government job. Similarly, in the private sector, I felt the risk was too high that I could fall into some for-profit with terrible work-life balance where all my efforts would just serve to make some billionaire a little more wealthy. 

Granted, I could have held out that I’d find my personal unicorn tech company that would check all my boxes, but there was also the issue that I was tired of tech. I was getting pretty worn out working at a desk all day and wanted to do more on my feet. I wanted to do something practical instead of theoretical for a change.

So, after graduating, I took the next semester to get licensed as an emergency medical technician (EMT). I figured that medicine would involve more time on my feet, and importantly, my job would be to help people

Why Not an EMT?

If I’m being honest with you, emergency medicine wasn’t my first pick as a medical specialty. I just wanted to work through a one-semester certification program to get my foot in the door of the medical field. My hometown had EMT and certified nursing assistant certification programs, and I wasn’t too keen on giving bed-baths. 

By the time I finished the EMT certification, I had a pretty good idea that I didn’t want to become an EMT. Maybe I’m too prissy, but $14/hour isn’t enough to get barfed on at work over the course of 12-hour shifts on my feet. 

There was also a bit of a cultural mismatch for me since I’m generally a quiet, laidback type, while emergency medicine can often attract the louder, more masculine types. This isn’t to say there aren’t fantastic people in emergency medicine (there absolutely are!), it’s just that the job would’ve required that I work counter to my natural disposition to keep up with it. 

Thankfully while I was training an EMT, I came across medical scribes! I bet you can guess where this is going. 

Why Not a Medical Scribe? 

I didn’t want to be an EMT at this point in history, but I did want to stay in medicine. I still wanted to work in a field where I was helping people, and I still wanted to do work that was more practical rather than theoretical.

I also knew that I wasn’t ready to go to med school or start a nursing program for the same reasons that I knew I wasn’t ready for a Ph.D. It just wasn’t a good time in my life for that kind of thing.

Medical scribing, then, fit the bill. It was in medicine, it didn’t require that I go back to school, and it didn’t have any of the dealbreakers that kept me from being an EMT. 

I applied around, and Scribe-X was the agency that happened to pick me up. I’ve been with them for a year and a half. While there’ve been a few bumps along the way, on the whole, I don’t regret any of the decisions that brought me to this point. 

Why Not a Healthcare Provider?

Here, I’m going to speculate for a minute about the future. When I was first applying, Jack at Scribe-X told me that a lot of scribes come into the job wanting to become a provider (e.g., doctor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant), but they don’t always leave with the same plans. 

If you’ve read the above, you’re probably coming to the realization that I’m a lot better at knowing what I don’t want to do as opposed to knowing what I do want to do. 

Having seen the real grit of the day-to-day life of people that work in those jobs, I’m reasonably confident that they’re not for me. That’s absolutely fine. Better to scribe for a year and learn PA isn’t for me than figuring out three years into a degree program. 

This isn’t to say my time in medicine was wasted. Right now, I think I’m most interested in pursuing a career in medical administration. Whether that means advancing as a medical scribe, working as an administrative assistant, or seeking a Master’s of Public Health remains to be seen! All I know for sure is I’ll eventually figure out which one of those things isn’t for me. 

Vivan, Lead Scribe


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