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.
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
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.