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The Role of a Medical Student from Day One

Posted Dec 17 2012 10:07pm
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Once you get on the hospital ward floor as a medical student, your role is not just to take patient history and update their records. Something I did not fully realise until I was there myself is that now I am dealing directly with real human beings. I am now a member of their care team. It is not just paperwork anymore and the chance to make a difference as a medical person is finally, after years of study, coming my way. Of course, I do not deal directly with many patients, not one-on-one, but the few I do, respond well to me. Maybe because I can give them more time, they like dealing with me, they like my style.

Some patients respond more directly to me more than others do. After explaining to a woman recently what her diagnosis was and what her future held she asked me straight up to be her doctor. Now somehow I do not think a medical student is quite ready for that level of work but it does go to show that how you deal with a patient can be as important as what you are telling them. Patients really value all the facts explained in an easy to understand manner not just a brief synopsis of what their ailment is.

Maybe it is only because I am starting out in my career in medicine that I have this skill, it has not been driven out of me by years in the job. The one thing I hope for, as I continue my long path in medicine, is that I can retain this empathy, that I can remember the importance of the patient. I do not want to become one of those doctors that see patients as only a name on a list, not responding properly to their fears and doubts. Time will tell I suppose but I am trying to keep it in mind to be good listener.

Patients can be terrified. Terrified of not knowing what is wrong with them and that can be doubled by a doctor not explaining things properly, if at all. This leads to a lot of confusion. Most of this confusion is eased by just sitting with a patient, listening to them and explaining exactly what can be done. That I can take the time to do this has helped many of my patients in recent weeks. When I am a fully qualified doctor, I intend to devote that extra five minutes to as many patients as is possible.

The role of a medical student is never fully determined. I know that I am new on the job and not best placed to be your medical expert. However, I do have a role as a care giver, I have the time to sit with you and explain what is wrong, what is happening. As a fresh face on the team I may have a different way of looking at things too but tell me what your concerns are, I can tell the expert for you when we consult later.

There is no better feeling in my new job than getting praise from a patient. Second to that is getting praise from an attending doctor. When the two combine, as happened to me last week it makes my day. I love sitting with a patient and getting the full story from them. It may also be helping them too get a worry off their shoulders and fill in the picture of their health problems fully. That man last week found when he was talking to me that he had not been able to explain his ailment fully. After our chat, I told my boss what he had said and it lead to a change in the man’s medication, for the better. His praising me to the attending was great to hear but what mattered most to me was that I had made a difference to him.

Now that is worth five minutes of my time any day!
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