From ED Scribe to ED Attending: Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way

Posted on Mon, Aug 31, 2015
From ED Scribe to ED Attending: Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way

Now an attending emergency physician, Dr. Peter Lee learned the importance of choosing "the right seat" as an ED scribe.
By Peter Q. Lee, D.O.
Parking my car in the scribe lot this summer brought back a string of memories that made me reflect on my career path thus far. Perhaps the picture on the right explains it all. While the most noticeable difference might be the SpongeBob sticker that appears on my old ID card, I assure you that I have come a long way in more than just my maturity level (Well, maybe that’s open to debate!). This side-by-side comparison shows how I started my medical career: as a scribe at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J., and now, my ID card on the right, eight years later, as an attending emergency physician.
On my first day as a scribe, I got out of my car and was unsure of what to expect. Maybe my first lesson would be to memorize medical terminology, learn where to obtain EKGs or check on labs. Surprisingly, my first lesson of the day was about something that had nothing to do with medicine at all – chairs. I quickly learned to not to take anyone’s seat in the ED. While this lesson may seem simple, it’s carried me a long way in terms of making a good first impression at many hospitals during medical school and residency. It’s made me walk into each new ED with the confidence that I would not be that guy who foolishly takes a nurse’s seat.
Speaking of confidence, my time as a scribe is what solidified my resolve and gave me the courage to pursue medical school, obtain my No. 1 residency spot at Morristown Medical Center and eventually that same practice as an attending.
The Treatment Trifecta
While school taught me certain fundamentals, I was truly able to learn and apply my knowledge when doctors and nurses involved me in their work. As a scribe, I had the advantage of seeing how medical professionals made decisions under split-second time constraints, how they dealt with the pressure and how they accommodated a variety of patient personalities and cultures. In an arena where there is a surprise behind every curtain, I learned that a simple, “How can we help today?” from a doctor adds a certain routine to the task at hand, and helps show genuine care to patients when they are feeling fearful and are in need of hope.
The beloved poet Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” When I was a scribe, I saw many doctors treat patients not just physically but mentally and emotionally. As doctors, we hope that we are fortunate enough to solve every problem, but it’s not always the reality. Hence, I always remind myself that medicine also is a “people field,” and I strive to make patients feel as comfortable as possible. Five minutes behind a curtain makes a big difference in someone’s life. It’s how we use that time – to let our light shine in all circumstances.
From seeing incredible displays of bedside manner, I have learned that there is a “treatment trifecta,” and I strongly value treating patients physically, mentally and emotionally. Not only did I see how doctors interacted with patients, but I also saw how they interacted with nurses and other staff members. In this fast-paced environment, nurses and other medical staff are your teammates, but they aren’t just teammates when in action; it’s important to develop personal friendships at work. I’m blessed to have already established the basis for many personal relationships at Saint Barnabas from my days as a scribe; returning to Saint Barnabas now is like returning home.
Doctors, pharmacists, nurses, techs and cafeteria and janitorial staff all helped me get to where I am today, and for that I am truly grateful. I have realized the kind of doctor that I want to be and can now find the right seat in the ED – and I attribute it to my experience as a scribe. I plan to help new scribes avoid sitting in someone else’s seat – literally – but also help them find their own “seats” at the table as doctors or advanced practice providers, just like others have helped me.

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Peter Q. Lee, D.O., is an emergency medicine attending physician at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Livingston, N.J. Dr. Lee received his bachelor’s degree at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and his doctor of osteopathic medicine degree at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, New York, N.Y. He completed his residency in emergency medicine at Morristown (N.J.) Medical Center, where he served as chief resident. Dr. Lee lives in Montville, N.J., with his wife. They are expecting their first child in October.

Dr Lee is not only an amazing Dr but also incredible human being, his shows kindness and respect towards everyone the 90yr old with a common cold, the 23yr old that doesn't speak English the 26 yr old holding an EKG for him to read... I'm very happy and honor to work with him
9/3/2015 1:41:23 PM

Obed Figueroa, Doctor of Education-Candidate
Dr. Lee's commitment to medicine has been evident by his journey to date. His impact to industry will be long lasting.
8/31/2015 2:21:31 PM