It's increasingly likely that there may be another person in your examine room, hanging on your every word, and typing away on a keyboard -- and the doctor may not mind at all. That person is a medical scribe.
Says a recent story in the New York Times:
Amid the controlled chaos that defines an average afternoon in an urban emergency department, Dr. Marian Bednar, an emergency room physician at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, entered the exam room of an older woman who had fallen while walking her dog. Like any doctor, she asked questions, conducted an exam and gave a diagnosis - in this case, a fractured hand - while also doing something many physicians in today's computerized world are no longer free to do: She gave the patient her full attention.
Standing a few feet away, tapping quickly and quietly at a laptop computer cradled in the crook of her left arm, was Amanda Nieto, 27, Dr. Bednar's scribe and constant shadow. While Ms. Nieto updated the patient's electronic chart, Dr. Bednar spoke to the woman, losing eye contact only to focus on the injured hand.
"With a scribe, I can think medically instead of clerically," said Dr. Bednar, 40.
Scribes are generally young people with excellent typing skills who hope to continue in the medical arts field, said Dr. Jon Hallberg, a physician in family medicine at the University of Minnesota and regular medical analyst for All Things Considered..
"I don't see this being a career for anybody," Hallberg said. "It's kind of a temporary thing. It's a fantastic launching pad."
Hallberg said working with a scribe is "wonderful" and allowed him to focus fully on the patient. Click the audio player above to the full conversation between Hallberg and MPR News' Tom Crann.