My Experience Going on a Medical Mission

Sara Carman, a medical scribe, joined a medical mission trip to Panama in 2011.

Sara Carman, a medical scribe, joined a medical mission trip to Panama in 2011.

By Sara Carman

We already know that being a scribe is at the top of the list when it comes to extracurricular activities that help you get into medical, nursing, or PA school.

Getting a front-row seat to medicine while working alongside the individuals I hoped to one day call my colleagues was a one-of-a-kind experience for me, but I wanted to see and do more.

When the opportunity came to participate in a medical mission trip to Panama in the summer of 2011, I couldn’t wait to join!

After all the fundraising and gathering medical supplies, I spent a week in Penenomé, Panama with more than 30 other pre-health students, some of whom were also medical scribes.

We partnered with a local doctor and a dentist to host four days of medical clinics for the local population, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Not only did I experience a paradigm shift in witnessing third-world medicine firsthand but I also got to use my scribe knowledge to help triage patients by taking their vitals and their histories.

Medical Mission

Patients waiting to be seen

The scribes working the triage station of the clinic could hear a chief complaint and would already know what follow up questions to ask based on our knowledge of chief complaints and associated signs and symptoms.

Once the provider saw the patient, our focused HPIs and ROS documentation helped the provider quickly assess the patient’s situation and improved his efficiency, allowing us to see more patients each day.

When working in the exam room, I observed the physician and was able to help in the medical decision making process to diagnose symptoms and prescribe treatments. While I wasn’t actually performing any of the physical exams myself, I was able to utilize my scribe knowledge and know exactly what was going on.

While a majority of the chief complaints from patients were relatively minor (headaches, joint pain, back pain, etc.) there were a few patients that would have quickly deteriorated had our clinic not been there to diagnose and treat them. One patient that I distinctly remember was a young boy with acute pharyngitis, a fever and severe respiratory distress who may not have made it to the nearest hospital had our clinic’s doctor not given him a shot of Penicillin.

It was clear that the scribes in our group were all on the same page with regards to the patient’s history, signs, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options, but it was a teaching moment for us for the non-scribes in our group.

We used our own knowledge gained from scribing and working with attending

My medical mission group in Panama

My medical mission group in Panama

physicians, MLPs and nurses to teach them our thought processes and the medical decision making that had led us to our conclusions. It was in that moment I think all of us scribes realized just how much scribing had actually taught us and that we were actually applying our own knowledge to help others.

Looking back, I know our clinic impacted hundreds of lives in that community, but I also realize that it impacted my life as well. This experience definitely helped solidify my determination to one day become a health care provider. I strongly encourage everyone, especially scribes, to participate in a medical mission at some point.

Helping others while being able to put your extensive scribe knowledge to use is an unforgettable experience!

Sara Carman, M.P.H.,  is a medical scribe and Implementation Coordinator at Medical Scribe Services.

Dealing with Death as a Medical Scribe

By Sara Carmanflatline-chart

When I became a medical scribe in the Emergency Department, I only imagined the “glamorous” side of medicine: watching procedures, witnessing medical decision making at its finest, and building professional relationships with physicians I admired.

While I knew there was a possibility of witnessing death, it wasn’t until my first solo shift that it hit me – death is very real.

Up to that point, I’d never lost someone close to me, let alone witnessed a death firsthand. And then it happened.

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10 Tips for Getting into a Physician Assistant Program

Getting into PA School | Medical Scribe

Anne Dederer, a former medical scribe, will attend PA school this summer.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by Anne Dederer, a medical scribe who was recently accepted into PA school. She plans to work in pediatric-focused medicine.


As you probably know, there is some friendly rivalry out there among pre-health students. (OK, more like fierce competition!) That’s why you always have to find ways to stand out from your peers. For me, joining a scribe program was the best way to challenge myself and get the experience I needed to move forward. Being a scribe was a great opportunity to work one-on-one with physicians and find out which specialty of medicine I wanted to pursue.

With that said, here are my top 10 tips for increasing your chances of getting into PA school:

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3 Reasons Why Being a Medical Scribe Will Make You a Rockstar

Why being a medical scribe can help your career

Scribing will help you become a rockstar student in medical, nursing or PA school.

If you really want to pursue a career in healthcare, there’s really no better way to get your feet wet than being a medical scribe. Sure, it’s a hectic job that requires serious commitment (on top of your already crazy school schedule). And yeah, you might fall flat on your face once or twice (maybe from fainting at the sight of blood).

But if you ask someone who’s been a scribe, chances are they’ll tell you it gave them a huge advantage over their non-scribing peers.

This brings us to our first reason why scribing will make you a rockstar…

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