Monday, July 29, 2013

Med Students = Time Suck

When I was a med student, I never got it when attendings said that med students ate up more time than they save. I mean, at best, I was like a little slave, fetching information, vital signs, and sometimes beverages. At worse, I was a silent shadow.

But now, as an attending, I totally get it.

When you have a student, unless you're a total ass, you have to teach them. And that takes up time.

Plus, let's face it, you can't cut corners as much when someone is observing you.

And finally, they're rarely helpful. Even when they think they're being helpful, like when they just spent over 2 hours writing up an H&P. Because I could have done the same damn thing in like 10 minutes.


  1. Cuts like a knife.


  2. Ditto for nursing students.

  3. It's all a part of the Circle of (Medical Education) Life isn't it. You took up an Attending's time when you were a student, and now a student is doing the same to you. It's even a part of the Hippocratic Oath-

    "To consider dear to me, as my parents, him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and, if necessary, to share my goods with him; To look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art; and that by my teaching, I will impart a knowledge of this art to my own sons, and to my teacher's sons, and to disciples bound by an indenture and oath according to the medical laws, and no others."

    IMHO, I think it's kinda awesome to know that I'm playing a role in training the next generation of physicians. Trust me, most med students are fully cognizant of the fact that they are a relative "burden" to much of the housestaff, but they're still there, because they want to be physicians- the same way you decided you wanted to be one. Textbooks can only take students so far- they rely on our preceptors to show us the practice of medicine and to also give them the protected space to try it on their own. Of course the student's going to write a 2 hour H&P and of course that's annoying to you when you could've done it in 10 minutes. But they don't have that same level of skill and knowledge you do- they will some day, and in 5 years they'll probably be writing 10 minute H&Ps too.

    All I'm saying is that even if you perceive it as a timesuck, there's a med student out there that's depending on you to show him/her how to do it right.

  4. I completely agree, but keep in mind, those students are so grateful when someone takes that time to teach them. I know I was.

  5. Ouch. You're probably right. But +1 to the two anon comments right above mine.

  6. Thank you to the two Anon's above me.

    And, i like it when a Med student is with a Physician.

  7. Interesting. Do you work in an academic setting, then? Or was this just a random medical student assigned to an outpatient rotation and your hospital volunteered? Student an M1/M2 or M3/M4?

    Because if the student is an M3 writing a 2 hour H&'s a poor student.

    And agree with the other commentators....I love it when the attendings take time to teach me. Yes, it takes away some of their 'time,'; however, this is an academic hospital and, supposedly, part of their job description is actually to teach. In that sense, then, they are just doing their job when teaching, the same as when actively caring for a patient. So as a medical student, I don't feel too guilty for taking up their time. :-) I am sure, though, it might feel different in a non-academic outpatient setting. Also, teaching doesn't have to be a formal thing - at the bedside is when some of the best teaching happens as the attendings just verbalize what they're thinking.

    1. I work in a university-affiliated private hospital. So I don't get med students that often, which is probably part of why I don't know how to best utilize them.

  8. I don't think Fizzy was really saying she hates medical students, like some of you seem to be reading. One of our professors told us, "Students are a chore. Be thankful for the help, but take the hint and back off when you need to." He went on to say no matter how helpful you think you are, you're really more of a burden. That's true. However, I think EVERYONE knows it's an important part of medical education and there's no way around it.

    It's a chore for students too. I was at a few sites where I knew I was in the way/annoying, but I didn't know what else to do. I was assigned to be there.

  9. You know those students only spend 2 hours on an H and P because they think you're going to grade them on it. If you just make it clear they don't have to do it and send them home to read everyone involved will be happier.

  10. One thing that's become clear to me as a resident is the, ahem, variability in the clerks. Some are knowledgeable, hard-working, and never have to be asked to help out with something. Others work hard but often seem out of their depth, even if their "book knowledge" is good. And a few are simply lazy. Generally speaking I don't find that I trust their assessments that much. One clerk had impressed me by her hard work on a previous rotation; when she had to ask about the prognosis for a patient with an obviously devastating ICH, I was more than a little concerned that her clinical judgement was more or less non-existent. It's one thing to be helpful in preparing discharge summaries, but I will be reviewing her work extremely carefully in future (not that she can write orders or do much of anything anyway).

    So, if there's any lesson, it's that even when students are helpful when it comes to scut, it's hard to trust them with anything significant that doesn't require a lot more work on your part to supervise them. I like to think I was more a help than a hindrance (my ITERs suggested so), but it's always hard to know.

  11. Ouch! I am first year med student and You scare me :P

    Check out my blog here:

  12. Having been a medical student and now having to have them around as a relatively new attending I'd like to think I know both sides of the story well. While I do think that we have responsibility to teach the new generation I think students need also to put in the effort themselves, try not to impose and certainly not expect spoon feeding of any sort. Being pushy and aggressive also does not help. Being earnest, having done some homework and asking well thought of questions does.