A Day in the Life of a Medical Scribe

Interview with Marly Brodsky, Medical Scribe and Director of Outpatient Scribe Services.

 Marly Brodsky, Medical Scribe and Director of Outpatient Scribe Services

Marly Brodsky is a medical scribe who considers her role in the healthcare industry to be dynamic as well as important. As the Director of Outpatient Scribe Services at ScribeAmerica, she is a crucial link between physicians and the clerical and billing parts of the medical process that improve the quality of both the physician and patient experiences. Brodsky has first-hand experience working with medical assistants and knows how valuable a skilled medical assistant is in the walls of a medical facility.

Marly Brodsky earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health at San Diego University. She had originally planned on becoming a physician, but once she was exposed to the issues that public health majors were studying, Brodsky changed her major and pursued a public health degree that eventually led to her become a medical scribe. In addition to her degree, she has become a Certified Health Educator, which allows her to educate young people on the practices of safe reproduction, and is CHES (Certified Health Education Specialist) certified— a pre-requisite for her public health degree.

In addition to her career as a medical scribe, Brodsky has conducted research on subjects such as prostate cancer findings, as well as synthetic chemistry findings to be used for MRI contrast agent technology developments, which will appear in publication in the industry. Her research has also led her to speaking at national symposiums for organizations such as the UCSD Moores Cancer Center and the American Chemistry Society on her research results.

Continue reading through our full interview with Marly Brodsky to catch a glimpse into the life of a skilled medical scribe and researcher, working as a team with doctors and medical assistants. 

Did you hold any past positions that have played a significant role in where you are today?

I was always very involved in different programs and jobs that would provide me with the skill sets that I would need to become successful in a healthcare position. In 2009 I worked as a Tutor, at Southwest High School for Mr. Rodriguez’s class. In this role, I assisted Mr. Rodriguez in his Biology class with classroom activities and helped students further understand classroom work. I closely interacted with a low income population of students in a classroom setting in both English and Spanish language, while at the same time observing the student-teacher interactions and learning how their daily cultural and financial factors impacted their learning. I took on a teaching role by helping run class lectures and putting together PowerPoint presentations and worksheets in order to provide further understanding of the subject matter in Spanish. With this experience, I learned how to observe and listen to different populations which helped me understand how to better cater and assist different learning styles.

In 2008 I worked as a research assistant and mentor for Biobridge alongside my mentors, Dr. Park and Melani Wright. We worked in conjunction with UCSD and Goodman Research Group of Cambridge Massachusetts, as mentors to high school students and teachers in areas of science, and assisted them with various labs. This experience has been very beneficial while working as a scribe, learning how to better understand difficult subjects and apply them in ways that makes it easy to learn. As the Director of Outpatient Scribe Services this skill has come in handy when putting together specialty training materials for other scribes to learn from.

In 2006, I worked as a Reproductive Health Educator for Vista Community Clinic. This helped me to really understand the clinic workflow and see some of the challenges health providers encounter on a daily basis. Previously I had been a volunteer at the Maternity Ward at Palomar Hospital. I began by assisting the nurses and quickly took on a role with the Baby Tracks Program where I helped educate new parents on the importance of vaccinating their children.

All of my previous positions and jobs kept me driven and interested in the medical field and healthcare, which is why I was extremely interested in applying as a scribe in order to continue to challenge myself and obtain first-hand exposure working alongside different physicians.

Tell us more about your background and education.  What led you to earn your degrees/certifications? 

Upon starting college in 2006, I was not very sure what I wanted to major in; I knew I wanted a degree in the sciences of some sort in order to help me pursue a medical career. Initially, I was determined to become a physician. I then began pursuing a Biology degree. As an elective in 2008, I took an intro to Public Health and quickly switched my major to Public Health. At this time I was still on the path to becoming a physician which was one of the reasons I was so involved in different programs and pursuing various jobs in healthcare. As I continued to learn more about Public Health and work as a scribe, I quickly learned that there was a high demand for medical scribes/assistants in order to better support the physicians so that they can focus more on the quality of care of their patients which is why I decided to make ScribeAmerica my career instead. 

What levels of schooling/training did you pursue to become a medical scribe?

I pursued a B.S. in Public Health, which incorporated a lot of sciences such as anatomy and physiology as well as the study of different populations and cultures and health impacts. Anatomy and physiology contributed to my quick learning of the medical terminology associated with the medical scribe position. The medical terminology needed really contributes to the success of a medical scribe so having this background was great help. In addition, by having a good understanding of various cultures and populations as impacted by healthcare helped me be more sensitive when working in certain hospitals or clinics as a medical scribe.

Please explain what a medical scribe is for those who are unfamiliar. Does it differ from the role of a medical assistant, and if so, how?

A medical scribe is an ancillary outpatient staff member that creates a dynamic conduit between a tangible document and the patient encounter, clinical exam, and provided care. The role is exclusively clerical; the medical scribe does not autonomously author any medical information. The only type of information transfer afforded to a medical scribe consists of discrete material upon which the medical scribe has no influence or effect. Medical scribes function in an auxiliary information pathway to afford the physician or mid-level provider (collectively, “the provider”) with real time access to substantive documentation without compromising normal routes of facility communication or efficiency. This role is relevant because providers are highly trained for direct patient care and any clerical activity is a less efficient use of their healthcare expertise and efforts.

The skill sets of a medical scribe and medical assistant are quite different. Medical assistants are more directly involved with patient care such as obtaining vital signs, medications, and assisting the providers with procedures. The medical scribe skill set is more clerical. Their responsibilities are solely focused on data capture and gathering. The medical scribe does not directly interact with the patients; they are there to support the physician with the documentation so that the physician can focus on the patient and provide better patient care.

Can you describe a typical day as a medical scribe? What various duties must you perform in a day or week?

As a medical scribe you have the opportunity to work side by side with a physician in different settings and specialties, from emergency rooms to clinics such as orthopedics, oncology, and many other specialties. The medical scribe arrives to the hospital or clinic a few minutes before the physician starts. They review the patient schedule and begin to prep the charts by collecting past medical information.

Once the physician arrives to the hospital or clinic the scribe is ready to begin seeing patients with them. The physician and the scribe then enter the room to see the patient. The physician will proceed to talk to the patient and gather the information as to what brought them in. The scribe stands next to the physician and listens to the interaction while documenting the discussion between the patient and physician into the electronic medical record. The medical scribe’s training allows them to listen to the conversation and transcribe the information in a professional and medical manner. The physician will then turn to the scribe while in the room and verbalize their physical exam findings and the patient assessment.

The scribe needs to have a strong understanding and medical terminology knowledge in order for them to document what the physician verbalizes into the chart. As the physician continues to examine the patient the scribe is making sure that all areas of the chart are accurate and complete in order to make sure the documentation meets meaningful use and billing requirements. The medical scribe then completes the note for the physician and the physician can then review. If a discharge summary is needed for the patient the scribe will also work on getting this ready and prints it out for the patient. This process repeats for every patient and therefore help the physician stay productive and on time leading to less wait times for patients.

Medical scribes have a difficult job in that they need to be great listeners and be able to multi-task as the visit is taking place so that they are ready to look old records up, print lab results for the physician, or pull up any image reports for the physician to review. Medical scribes can also assist with other clerical duties in the practice such as scheduling the next patient visit, letting patients know if any delays are encountered but most importantly the medical scribe helps bring the physician back to the bedside and be a doctor. This routine repeats throughout the day. At the end of the day the physician is able to go home on time.

What is the most rewarding or exciting part of your job?

One of the most rewarding things about my job is seeing the immediate satisfaction both the physician and patient experience by working with a medical scribe. The physician is satisfied because a medical scribe helps them see more patients, provide better patient care, and still go home on time. The patient is appreciative that the physicians can finally focus on them without having to look at a computer. Knowing that as a medical scribe we can make such a difference is quite rewarding. It’s a win-win for all parties.

From your experience, can you discuss how medical assistants and scribes contribute to the healthcare industry?

Medical assistants/scribes contribute to the healthcare industry in many ways. They help improve the physician lifestyle while providing documentation support to the burdened and unsupported physician. This contributes to greater physician satisfaction, productivity, and better communication with the practice. Medical scribes also contribute to the patient satisfaction aspect as patients are more satisfied with their visit and quality of care. For the practice, the scribes contribute to better quality documentation, which leads to more complete notes and higher reimbursements. Overall, medical scribes are a great contribution.

Do you think that it is an ideal time to pursue a medical assistant degree and if so, why?

Absolutely! With healthcare constantly changing and physicians being burdened by the additional documentation requirements and not enough support, medical scribes are in very high demand.

Is there anything about medical scribes that people would be surprised to learn?

The opportunities for learning as a medical scribe are endless, even when you think you have seen a lot there is always something new that challenges or intrigues you.

Which skills do you think are necessary to be a medical scribe?

There are many skills that a medical scribe needs in order to be successful. Some of these skills are adaptability, good listening skills, fast typing abilities, quick learning, and professionalism.

What advice do you have for students pursuing a medical assistant degree? How can students prepare themselves for the challenges?

Being a medical assistant/scribe is a wonderful opportunity if pursuing a medical career. There is a high demand for them and the learning possibilities are endless. Working with such amazing physicians across the country and in different specialties provides the full exposure to healthcare and its challenges. Being proactive in their learning is important and having a strong science background will help them succeed in this position.

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