Scribes have been around as a profession for as long as there has been written language. In ancient times, scribes were learned men (and specifically elite men) tasked with the important job of chronicling their civilizations’ history, stories, and work. In Ancient Egypt, scribes, or “sesh,” were educated in the arts of writing and arithmetic, for use in teaching and commerce. In Mesopotamia, scribes, or “dubsars,” were trained in a “tablet house” and worked on practical matters, such as administrative and accountancy functions, as well as artistic matters, including writing such literary works as the Epic of Gilgamesh.
As societies evolved with written history, the work of scribes evolved with them. In more modern times, the work of scribes could involve copying books, or secretarial duties, such as taking dictation and the keeping of business or judicial records for nobility, cities, or temples. With the advent of the printing press, traditional scribes were forced to evolve into more specialized professionals, such as as journalists, accountants, typists, and even lawyers and public servants (Wikipedia, 2012).
In more recent times, the profession of scribes has made a resurgence in the medical world. Though the exact history is unclear, some of the earliest documented scribe programs began in Nevada and Texas, and multiple subsequent companies and programs were developed from their template (Wikipedia, ER Scribes, 2012). As physicians face increasing burdens of administrative work in an increasingly regulated field, more physicians have begun exploring the use of medical scribes in the clinic, emergency department, and hospital ward to streamline documentation. This article will focus on the roles and uses of medical scribes in the emergency department setting.
Who Are Medical Scribes?
Medical scribes come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are college students wishing to gain exposure to the medical field as part of their career exploration process, often planning to later go into a D.O., M.D., or physician assistant program. A few are people who choose to commit to the profession as full-time medical scribes. There are dedicated secondary education programs where certification can be gained through vocational schools, community colleges, or state universities. There are also online certification courses, full-time associate’s degrees, and even bachelor’s degrees for those interested in careers in human resources and hospital administration of medical scribing. Increasingly, medical labor companies themselves hire and train prospective ED scribes in how to be an effective scribe.