Volunteer Snapshot: AFC’s Scribes

In October, Arlington Free Clinic transitioned to a new electronic health record (EHR), Epic, a gift from our partner hospital, Virginia Hospital Center, who generously brought us onto their Epic license at no cost to AFC – and provided training, equipment, and support to ensure our successful conversion. Under our former EHR, any staff or volunteer involved in patient care could access and update records, but Epic requires that all users complete several hours of training and pass an exam. Our providers typically volunteer during one three-hour shift per month– not frequently enough to keep Epic skills current even after all the training!  We worked with Lackey Clinic, our sister free clinic in Yorktown – that was successfully using Epic in conjunction with a robust volunteer scribe program for several years – to develop a similar model at AFC.  

We reached out to current volunteers and several local university pre-medicine and pre-health professions programs with our plans and were overwhelmed by the interest! Our first cohort of scribes started in July 2021 by attending weekly trainings with AFC staff to learn, first and foremost, how to correctly document a medical encounter. They also studied medical terminology, phrasing, and acronyms, and completed formal training on how to use Epic. They were up and scribing by mid-October. We began a similar process with cohort 2 in September, and 12 weeks later they were also actively supporting providers. We ask the scribes to commit to a regular weekly shift for one year with the option to renew – though we know that many of our scribes are in the process of applying to medical school or residency programs. We are thrilled when they’re unable to renew due to acceptance. 

Scribe Program Snapshot 

  • Number of volunteer scribes: 18 active & 2 in reserve 
  • Average volunteer hours per scribe (not including training): 33.25  
  • Total hours volunteered: 631  
  • Providers assisted: 34 
  • inpatient appointments: 550  
  • Number of patient charts abstracted (moving information from old EHR to new EHR): 634  

Where they’re headed next: 

  • Number of scribes matched for residencies: 1  
  • Number of scribes accepted to medical school: 2 and counting!