A Medical Student’s Role

Medical Student Role

Photo Courtesy of Ambro

As a medical student on the inpatient Internal Medicine floor my job is not just to learn about history-taking and practice my physical exam skills, it’s to be a part of the team caring for real, live patients. I actually have the chance to make a difference. Since I’m a noob I am usually only assigned to a couple of patients at a time. This small patient load plus my low magnitude of responsibility means I have the time to sit down with people and tell them, in layman terms, what their diagnosis and plan is.

I’ve had two patients in as many weeks specifically ask me if I could be their doctor. While I know that the patient’s health would be severely at risk if I were their primary caregiver, it is eye-opening when a patient grabs your arm and thanks you for explaining their diagnosis in terms they could understand.  What this tells me is that patient’s value our time as much as they value our knowledge.

As I continue in my career and get more accustomed to the lingo and ways of medicine I hope that I can hold on to the ability someone new to medicine has to educate in understandable terms. I want always remember how much patients value our time and dedicate myself to efficiency in other areas so I can still devote an acceptable amount of time to patient questions and concerns.

What has become most apparent to me in the past two weeks is that patients are confused. They don’t understand their conditions, which is terrifying to them. I’ve seen that if I can give them my undivided attention for even 5 minutes and hear their concerns and questions I can play a huge role in putting their mind at ease. So, while I know I will not have this much freedom in terms of time as my future responsibilities continue to expand, I hope that I can focus my care on ensuring my patients are informed and involved.

The role of a medical student on the healthcare team is undeniable. While I know it may be scary to have someone as young and new as me offering you healthcare, as a patient you should take advantage of the person in the short white coat…they have time to give you and are in a unique position to directly relay information to your doctor. I enjoy talking to you, I enjoy answering your questions and I have a true desire to improve your quality of care.

I truly adore sitting down with patients and ensuring they understand what’s going on. It overjoys me to hear a patient tell my attending “that girl right there…she explained this to me and I feel like I can go home and deal with it now.”  Statements like this don’t make me happy because the attending may take a mental note for my clerkship evaluation, but because, for the first time since I started my journey into medicine, I finally feel like I’ve actually made a difference in someone’s life.

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6 Comments + Add Comment

  • Sounds like you are going to be a FANTASTIC doctor!! My grandpa has been in and out of the hospital for the past year now and I know how frustrated my grandparents get when they don’t really understand what is going on or what the operation he has to have done is really going to do.  More doctors (and lawyers) need to learn to speak to patients (and clients) in terms people can actually understand.  It’s much less intimidating when they know what you are talking about.  

  • i like the above described information which was v.intresting. it seems MEDICAL STUDENTS all over the world have a similar life. I love to talk to Raghda who give all this information.

  • Yah the most difficult part in treating patients is to make them understand about their disease………As an intern now I am experiencing these all….

  • Time is precious. When I have several hospitalized patients and don’t have time to sit with all of them, I make a mental promise to sit with each of them sometime during their stay. You’ve already learned how much the patient values your time; the challenge will be keeping that priority among your accumulating responsibilities. Stay strong.

  • That is so true!! Sometimes we are the only ones to sit down and have a conversation with these patients. And I also feel like soooo many attendings and senior residents use medical jargon with patients. I have to bite my tongue to stop me from screaming, “You think that patient has ANY idea what you’re saying right now???” It feels good to be able to explain it to them in actual plain English. We need to try and remember this too when we’re attendings. :)

  • Very interesting! thanks for sharing

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About The Author

I'm an ObGyn. I started this blog as a medical student (some would call that doctor school) and now I'm working as an Ob/Gyn, which is seriously the coolest job ever. I'm a twin mom and recently added a baby brudder to the mix. My life story through November 2010 can be viewed here. The events in the many years following can be summed up as wedding bells, books, exams, babies, and doctoring. I started this blog in hopes of landing a role in a Lifetime movie so I could quit medicine and move to Hollywood, but that hasn't happened...so if you wouldn't take medical advice from Angelina Jolie, you shouldn't take it from me. I may not even be a real person. In fact, I'm probably a spambot. Or possibly a 15 yo boy blogging from a dingy basement. If you're really interested you can read more about me here. If you have any questions or want to guest post contact me.

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