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Educating Medical Students at Your Practice


Allowing medical students to gain experience at your practice could be beneficial to all parties involved.

Many doctors are bombarded with requests for students or medical residents to shadow or do a rotation in their practice. Frequently, doctors feel there is not enough time in the day to add a new task to their schedule. As a teacher of medical students and residents for more than a decade, I know that it's not as time-consuming as it may seem.

In the world of the medicine, there is no obligation for physicians to pay it back, unless we joined the rank of the academics. But, I feel there is some responsibility to the learning of future generations of doctors and to the general public as well. Sure, there are textbooks and websites filled with educational opportunities galore. But, none of them can take into account clinical experience and acumen.

As someone who has educated generations of doctors, I can see the line of textbook knowledge when students first step in my doors, and the real-world of medicine where acumen is just as important as a stethoscope. When I need a doctor, I want one who can use this thinking rather than a robot following guidelines. I want quality to be the rule of medicine, not government checklists that anyone can follow.

Teach Without Disrupting Your Schedule

Know your students capabilities. I know when my students come to do a rotation, they already know how to take a history and physical. Some are not as proficient as others, the more you know their current skill set, the more you can set them to tasks with which they are capable. For example, I throw my students into the foray and have them start taking histories as soon as they step into the office. If they are too slow, I go on to the next patient while waiting. If they do a good job, they gathered the key information I need and it often saves me time.

Trust your students. I have seen doctors have students trailing after them. Every once in a while, they will toss out a clinical pearl for the students' benefit. But this serves neither party well. The student is not learning much and the physician has to take time to slow down and explain things as he or she goes along.

Complete other work while your student is learning. I don't mean you should send the student off to do your job. What I mean here is giving the student the freedom to learn at his/her own pace is important. Sooner or later, they will learn the rapid pace of medicine. Early on, let them explore what works for them. I find I can get my charts done faster when I do this.

Assign study topics to your student. Recently, I saw a case of Ramsay Hunt syndrome, a rare disease that I had never diagnosed before. Being that it had been years since I reviewed the topic, I asked my student to read about it. He came back and told me what he had learned and I relearned along with him. I looked the syndrome up later when things slowed down, but this allowed me a brief review while the office was in full swing.

Expand your horizons. I have had students come to me about an interesting case they thought worthy for the journals. I have helped students get published this way as well as became published. This would have never happened on my own.

While taking a student under your wings can be a daunting experience, it also comes with rewards. The time consumption is not as bad as we may imagine and most students are anxious to learn and eager to help. The biggest reward is when a student returns to you years later and thanks you for helping them get where they are, or they send you a note just to tell you they are now at Yale. We all could have used a good mentor in our education and training. Perhaps, the time is here for us to step in and become one?

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