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Scribes program begins at St. Louis County hospital

Sunday, January 30, 2011 | 4:41 p.m. CST

ST. LOUIS — A new program for training scribes at a hospital in St. Louis County will benefit patients, doctors and premed students, its organizers say.

SSM DePaul Health Center is the first hospital in the St. Louis area launch such a program. The Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis reports that premed students follow doctors and take notes as they talk with patients, freeing the doctors from the task.

Dr. Stephen Larson, chairman and medical director for DePaul's Department of Emergency Medicine, said the scribes are used in the emergency room because of the high volume of patients. The students take notes on the patient's condition and treatment.

"It's a win for doctors because they can spend more time with individual patients or see more patients," Larson said. "It's a win for the patients because the doctor can help them more. Finally, it's a win for the premed students. They see what the emergency room is like, learn medicine and the viewpoint of the doctors."

The concept has taken hold in other parts of the country. More than 200 hospitals nationwide are now using scribes.

At DePaul, 24-year-old Ruston Asfar worked alongside Larson on a recent day, carrying his laptop computer with him. Asfar works for PhysAssist, a Fort Worth, Texas-based firm that teaches the scribes program.

Premed students who become scribes will see the whole gamut of illnesses and injuries, Asfar said.

"You'll see the gunshot wounds and the open fractures," Asfar said. "This is as good as you're going to get without being a doctor. My sister-in-law is a scribe and she is far ahead of other medical students in her studies."

DePaul received a huge response when it put a notice about the scribes program on its website, spokeswoman Rachel Peine said.

The program uses premed students — mostly juniors and seniors — because they're highly motivated people in the medical field, Larson said. The scribes are paid by PhysAssist.

Getting the job isn't easy. Potential scribes must attend eight classes that deal with medical terms, medications and treatment procedures. Students must take six quizzes with 100 questions each. Those who miss five questions must take the quiz over again.

The scribe has no involvement in the patient's treatment or diagnosis. "They can't even hand out Kleenex," Larson said.

Other St. Louis-area hospitals are also looking into the program, Larson said. DePaul hopes to begin the program full-time in February with 18-20 scribes.

 


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