A dose of reality for med students

September 9, 2009

A group of University of Washington medical students spent their summer getting a glimpse of some of the healthcare system's ills – and learning what many physicians already know: the reimbursement system needs to be fixed.

A group of University of Washington medical students spent their summer getting a glimpse of some of the healthcare system's ills – and learning what many physicians already know: the reimbursement system needs to be fixed.

According to The New York Times story: “The students learned not only to deliver babies and suture wounds, but also to order unnecessary tests as protection against law suits, to hector specialists into seeing Medicaid patients, to match patients with prescriptions on Wal-Mart’s $4 list.”

The rising second-year students, who spend a month providing care in rural and underserved areas in the Northwest, saw firsthand some of the ills of the profession, like doctors only spending five minutes with each patient and burn out on 13-hour nonstop days.

They were dispatched to perhaps some of the areas most in need, dealing with some of the harshest realities of the system, but my guess is these issues and sentiments are shared to varying degrees across the country. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some students said they didn’t want to pursue primary care, and many said they saw the dire need for healthcare reform.

“I often wondered what we were actually doing to help people,” one student told the NYTimes.

Lest this be a downer post, I'll end by reminding you (and letting any doubting med students know) of one of the top 10 reasons to be happy you're a doctor: You make a difference. Despite the specter of denials, malpractice, and overwork, you still have a job that provides a genuine service to the public, with tangible results and healthier patients.