Better preparation for medical school --> Medical assistant or scribe

This forum made possible through the generous support of SDN members, donors, and sponsors. Thank you.


Full Member
Jun 27, 2021
Reaction score
Hi everybody!

I know this topic has a lot of threads, but not specifically about which job would allow students to better prepare for medical school. Through the threads, I noted that scribes are a good experience because you get used to taking notes that you will take as a physician and student during rotations, etc. However, as a medical assistant, you just take vitals and a patient's history; this helps with an individual's "bedside" manner as a medical student.

I currently have an estimated 80 hours of shadowing and volunteering at a hospice and at a group home doing activities with patients. I am not sure which experience medical assistant or scribe would help me in the LONG RUN when I am in medical school. I understand both are awesome experiences and give valuable experiences, but just curious which would help me out more during medical school as a student, etc.

Thank you!

Members don't see this ad.
I was a CNA, I don't think it prepared me at all for further medical education. The scribes I see learn a lot from good physician mentors and have a very useful skill - note writing.
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Members don't see this ad :)
I was a CNA, I don't think it prepared me at all for further medical education. The scribes I see learn a lot from good physician mentors and have a very useful skill - note writing.
The best prep for medical school is the one that helps you get IN imo. MA, from what I have heard, is a more impactful experience that is preferred over scribing (which some essentially consider upgraded shadowing).
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: 2 users
Nothing can prepare you.
Agreed that nothing will prepare for the rigor of medical school, but I respectfully digress with the opinion that patient-facing experience on a healthcare team is a beneficial experience for pre-med students to have more substance behind their application with more meaningful patient interaction and get comfortable with patients (which is a strength when transitioning into clinic for the first time and on OSCEs).

MA > scribe
I was both a scribe and MA (in that order). My MA experience was by far more impactful because you get to actually talk to the patients and provide direct care as opposed to passively observing. I got a better idea of identifying pertinent symptoms and treatment plans. I learned how to talk to patients and their parents (and how to navigate difficult patients and circumstances). I also learned about the insurance aspect of medicine which is not taught in school, such as placing prior authorizations or writing letters of support for patients to get a procedure covered by insurance.

Because of my scribing background though, my boss let me take patient’s HPIs (I basically was scribing but also performing normal MA duties) before she went in to see the patients herself. I was also paid double what I got as a scribe. But in general even if you don’t get to do that, as a MA you may get to learn how to do procedures, take important vitals, develop relationships with patients, learn how to best communicate with patients, all while becoming familiar with treatment plans.

Edit: basically, I feel better prepared to practice medicine in an outpatient setting and know what to expect as a future physician. It may not have taught me all the medical knowledge I need to know for school, but I’m more comfortable with patients than some of my recently graduated MD peers from college. The one plus side of scribing though is that if it’s in the ER, you get to see a variety of cases and also learn how to evaluate pertinent past medical history and what kinds of questions physicians ask patients.
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
I wanted to add that there are online scribing courses you could take if you want to learn how to write notes. After my boss hired me, she actually had the rest of staff take an online course that she found and now all of them have the basics down. It also helped when patients called the office to set up an appointment for a sick visit (and we essentially had to triage how urgently they needed to be seen though we also cleared it with my doctor)