Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How to be a good med student

As a resident, I worked with med students a fair amount. Some of them I really liked. There was one med student I worked with who I liked so much that I wrote a very effusive letter to our program director in her favor because she expressed concern that her grades weren't good enough.

I didn't have any lofty expectations of med students. These are a few qualities I looked for in a med student:

1) If teaching is offered to you, you accept teaching happily. Groaning because you were hoping to leave early or sit on ass is not an acceptable response when a resident offers to teach you something.

2) When you say you will be somewhere at a certain time, you show up on time. If you can't show up, you give an excuse in advance.

3) You talk to patients but don't interrupt the resident. Especially if you're interrupting to ask the patient about the slogan on their T-shirt.

4) You're nice, get along with everyone, and smile sometimes. Being funny is not required, but helps.

5) When you notice the resident needs something, you volunteer to get it before they have to ask, so they don't have to feel like a jerk ordering you around.

6) You're enthusiastic, even if fake.

7) Doing after-hours activities are a major bonus. The med student I really liked worked a Saturday race, which impressed me a lot.

8) When you're leaving for the day, you let the resident know by saying, "Is there anything else I can do?" That's optimal, but at the very least, say, "I'm outta here, seeya." It looks really bad when you leave without telling anyone and we're all looking around, saying, "Where'd the med student go?"

I can imagine all sorts of angry responses to this list from med students:

So if a med student's car breaks down and they're late, they have to let you know in advance?? I'm so sorry we can't be psychic and predict every emergency that could come up!

Obviously, that's not what I mean. I've been in many, many situations where a med student had some planned meeting or appointment, and instead of letting me know they'd be late, they decided to just not show up. Or if you're sick and can't come in, don't tell me the next day.

So the med student has to know what you're thinking at all times and predict what you want them to get before you ask for it?? I'm so sorry we can't be psychic and know what you want at all times!

Again, not looking for psychic abilities. But say I need to know a med the patient is on, and the patient says, "My wife, who's in the waiting room, has my list of medications." A good med student might volunteer to quickly retrieve the list.

Truthfully, #4 is the most important thing to me though. Oh, and that you're not annoying.


  1. As a med student, I'm not offended by this list at all! In fact, I wish someone would have given me this list when I started third year because it's often difficult to know your role on the team. A lot of the first couple of months on the floors is trying to guess this stuff.

  2. Thanks for the list! I will be starting med school in the fall of 2012, and tips like these will definitely be helpful. The last thing I want to do is get on anyone's nerves! Btw, your book made my Christmas list this year! I also really enjoy following your blog. Thanks for writing!

  3. The list sounds completely reasonable to me. You could pretty much apply it to people in any working situation.

  4. I'm not a med student, but as I just shadowed ER Techs and EMT's on my first sets of clinicals, your list is very good advice. Lucky for us, our prof's told us similar things, with dire threats attached if we were to somehow embarrass our school/program.

    I find 1, 4 and 5 to be particularly great advice.

  5. I think being nice, polite, punctual and conscientious is not too much to ask for in any job situation. Maybe it's just my class, or the people I talked to the most, but I can think of very few people in my class who didn't follow these very basic rules. I can't even imagine someone just not showing up!

  6. They all sound good to me and definitely noted.

  7. Another vote for a reasonable list. Mind if I adapt it to graduate students and repost?

  8. It's sort of sad to me that some students might think it was ok to show up a) late, or b) not at all, or to sneak out early.

  9. Dr. McFizz, can you please please please be my resident next year? I will do and be all 8 things on that list.

  10. As an older med student, I'm looking forward to the rotation years, as I've learned (often the hard way, of course) how to act around people. Maybe even to act professional, when need be.

  11. Of course, such a list works if your residents are at all reasonable, but there is no pleasing some residents, they just hate med students. If they start off the rotation by calling you "med student" and never by your name (even though it's printed on your badge), and then always call you "med student" (or some other nick name that is borderline insulting), chances are you have a resident who hates med students and there is nothing you can do about it. Of course, many such residents won't even talk to you, even if you're following their patient.

  12. I'm a med student and the first one should just be "Shut up, you don't know crap." That one sentence told to me by a 4th year resident has paid off in spades. I'll answer questions, do my job and jump when told to, but I'm not opening my mouth unless there is a damn good reason to.

  13. I'm glad people appreciated the advice. Honestly, I'm never sure how my posts about med students will be received....

  14. eh, the gunners and egomaniacs will be pissed. the rest of us realize that it's either A) good advice or B) a joke.

  15. I'd have to say 2 is the most important. Someone set up a curriculum for you, and all you have to do is show up and learn? If you can't seem to do that, why bother?