Medical scribes are an increasingly popular strategy for reducing clerical burden, but little is known about their effect on medical student education. We aimed to evaluate the impact of scribes on medical students' self-reported learning experience.We conducted a mixed-methods pilot study. Participants were medical students (third and fourth years) on a family medicine clerkship who worked with an attending physician who practiced with a scribe. Students did not work directly with scribes. Scribes charted for attending physicians during encounters that did not involve a student. Outcomes were three 7-point Likert scale questions about teaching quality and an open-ended written reflection. Qualitative data was analyzed using a constant comparative method and grounded theory approach.A total of 16 medical students returned at least one questionnaire, yielding 28 completed surveys. Students reported high satisfaction with their learning experience and time spent face-to-face with their attending, and found scribes nondisruptive to their learning. Major themes of the open-ended reflections included more time for teaching and feedback, physicians who were less stressed and more attentive, appreciation for a culture of teamwork, and scribes serving as an electronic health records (EHR) resource.To our knowledge, this is the first study evaluating the effect of scribes on medical student education from the students' perspective. Our findings suggest that scribes may allow for greater teaching focus, contribute to a teamwork culture, and serve as an EHR resource. Scribes appear to benefit medical students' learning experience. Larger and more rigorous studies are needed.
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