Friday, December 2, 2011

Dear Med Student

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So there I was, minding my own business one day during rounds, when a pack of med students suddenly came up behind us. It's extremely funny to think you were one of them not so long ago, but one can't help but be critical of what they do. Circle of life I suppose. Big fish gets to criticize little fish, make it cry & then eat it.

There were all in their second year, in the first surgical rotation. It was so cute how they didn't know what to do. "Should we talk to the professor? Should we tell the resident to teach us? Should we have a look at the patients while the rounds start? When can we leave? Would they notice we're gone?"

Ah, nostalgia, why're you such a bitch?! Couldn't you make me reminisce without making me feel senile?

Anyhow, these guys walk upto me and ask which cases are worth discussing. I skillfully and effortlessly shot off patients that I knew would be too difficult for them, narrowing down on two cases. Seeing that I had to stay in the wards for the next one hour, I kept wondering if I should try my hand at teaching these noobs. Before I could utter another word, they had disappeared. One thing you have to appreciate about med students is, no matter how large a group they are, they can effortlessly appear and disappear!

So, my bungling batch of eager students, here're my tips on how to have fun, learn along the way & not make an ass out of yourself in the final year exams:
  1. Study. I'm gonna sound like an ass, but yeah, you came to med school. You're not an arts student. So, stop asking when's the last day you can afford to start studying for exams!

  2. Ask. It's wonderful what you can extract from your teachers with a simple, "Where? How? Why? What?" If you never ask, you'll never know.
  3. Stop acting like an ass at rounds. You may not realize this, but the hospital does not revolve around students. You contribute zilch. So, if you're attending rounds, you will be respectful to those who are working and pay attention, or at least not grab our attention

  4. Don't EVER reveal you're a student. A lot of patients in government hospitals already have a mortal fear that they're entrusting their lives at a substandard medical center. And then we have students who keep talking in Hindi & Marathi, asking each other questions, discussing crap, displaying their ineptitude, acting casually with the patient. There is nothing casual about fifteen people discussing your illness while you're lying alone on a bed in a strange place. Act like you know what you're doing even if you have no idea! Be confident, read beforehand, think about questions you'd like to ask and what physical exam you'd like to perform. Don't just show up, read the diagnosis on the chart, and then happily poke and palpate away.

  5. Do not be a critic. You will come across a lot of teachers over time that could do little more to grab your attention; worse, you could meet people who are hell-bent on teaching treatments that you could lift off any TV show depicting a witch-doctor. When you're being taught, you must be grateful. The next time that person is arranging a clinic, ask yourself if you learned anything the last time & decide whether its worth attending. Run around, follow, stalk, bully & pass on death threats to good teachers! Get them to teach you anyhow! Learn from them, emulate them.

  6. Teach. I can't give enough credit to my senior friends who taught me so well over the years. It was their clinical acumen, patience & support that pulled me through the exams. Medicine is all about passing on one's knowledge, whether it's to a colleague or a subordinate. Teach because you want to be taught. Circle of life


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  2. Great post Sculptor. Loved the tips. Now all that's left to do is make this mandatory reading for every student who gets admission to med school.

  3. I agree with Aayushi. Excellent post! I guess what we eventually must learn to acquire around patients is a calm temperament and a good bedside manner and sadly this is something that you can't really teach anyone, and God knows that they tried ramming several "workshops" on "communication skills" down our throats pretty much every year. That's what I notice most about newbie med students when I look at them from my current vantage point, how some of them almost forget they're dealing with human beings and get a bit carried away during clinical exams. There was this particular third year boy who rather excitedly exclaimed "Kya solid murmur hai!" as soon as his stethoscope touched the chest of a patient I'd pointed him in the direction of. I was rather torn between telling him to keep a lid on it, on the one hand, and smiling at his genuine excitement on the other. So I just did both.

    Wow, it was just yesterday I was just like him! Damn, that makes me feel old!

  4. Someone who never got excited on hearing a murmur has never heard one.
    Good post. Go easy on the studies though.