Scribe Academy helps launch students' health careers

woman in hospital bed, provider to her left and scribe taking notes on laptop to her right
At left, scribe Sarah Johnson builds an electronic health chart during a simulation in the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences with a standard patient Miriam Johnston. At right is Dr. Carrie Clark.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

Five years ago, Grand Valley's Scribe Academy started with a small cohort of students who learned to document patient care alongside emergency department health care providers.

The academy has since served as a jumpstart to the health care careers of more than 300 students, and continues to enroll cohorts monthly to work shifts at 17 area hospitals and medical offices. 

Jean Nagelkerk, vice provost for health, saw an opportunity to provide undergraduate students with real-world experience when Grand Valley partnered with Helix Scribe Solutions in 2015.

"It is often challenging for undergraduate students, who have not yet been admitted to a health professions program, to obtain observational or clinical experiences in hospital settings," Nagelkerk said. "Once they are trained as scribes, they can work shifts in emergency departments or other health care settings. That experience becomes invaluable when they apply to medical schools or other professional programs."

Ryan Cook, executive director of Helix Scribe Solutions, said the education and training provided by Grand Valley has helped his company grow.

"Our model is the best-in-class. We invest heavily in students on the front end with training, preparing them to handle the workload at busy emergency departments," Cook said.

Helix has expanded into Kalamazoo's Bronson Hospital system, which includes hospitals in Battle Creek and Paw Paw. Scribes also work in Spectrum Health's system of hospitals and in certain specialty medical offices like orthopedics or urology.

Nicholas Winiarski graduated from Grand Valley in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in allied health sciences. He was in the second cohort of scribes and worked in emergency departments at Butterworth and Blodgett hospitals in Grand Rapids, and Zeeland Hospital.

"I was a bit skeptical at first. It was intimidating to think about going into an emergency department," Winiarski said. "But we were taught medical terminology and how charts are built, then you shadow a person before charting on your own."

After earning a master's degree in physician assistant studies from Wayne State University, Winiarski works as a PA for Emergency Care Specialists in many of the same West Michigan locations he did as a scribe. He said being able to work with physicians as a student scribe was a boost to his career.

"To be able to see how different doctors approach patients was an incredible opportunity as a scribe," he said. "Even in PA and medical schools, you don't get that type of training."

Area college sophomores, juniors and seniors who are interested in health careers are encouraged to apply to the GVSU Scribe Academy. Cohorts are admitted monthly. More details are online at


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