Sunday, 19 October 2014

"Do you mind if the medical student sits in?"

Do you mind if the medical student sits in? On Ginevrella Lifestyle Blog


There's a chance that you, or someone you know, has been asked this on some occasion when seeing a doctor or nurse. I've never been on the receiving end of this question, but I have been the medical student sat in the corner many times.

I pretty much take medical students for granted now as part of the hospital environment, but I know that many patients aren't expecting us to be there and it can seem  daunting to have yet another person watching and listening to what's going on. I've been very fortunate in that I've only ever been asked to leave by a patient once before and I'm extremely grateful to every patient who lets me sit in on their consultation. 

Despite the majority of people agreeing to medical students sitting in, I know that some people say afterwards that they felt a bit unsure or uncomfortable about having another person in the room and I've even seen this mentioned on a couple of blogs and social media. This, coupled with being back to placement, inspired me to write a post to hopefully explain why medical students sit in on these sessions, what we're actually doing there, and most importantly to help you feel more comfortable if you should ever be in a consultation with a medical student present.

It's your choice - you can say no!

Firstly, I want to make it clear that it is 100% your choice whether to let the student stay in or not. Us and the doctors understand that you may not want to discuss things in front of any extra people and no one will be offended if you say you'd rather we weren't there, promise! Your privacy, dignity and health matters come above all else.

Why do medical students sit in?

Clinics, whether in the hospital or GP surgery, make great learning opportunities for medical students when they're done well. We're training to be doctors and interact with patients, so experience of real patients with real conditions is so much more helpful than lectures and textbooks. I'll remember the symptoms and treatments of conditions much better if I can relate them to a real case I've seen, and so I'm always very grateful for patients who've been part of my experience- there are some people I'll probably associate with particular things for the rest of my career!

Don't be embarrassed

Don't be embarrassed about discussing things in front of us. Firstly, although we may be very inexperienced compared to the doctor, it's still likely we'll have seen or heard what you're talking about before. It doesn't take long to get into the medicalised mindset when dealing with things. Secondly, we're probably more concentrated on remembering everything we know so we can deal with the grilling from the doctor after you've left (if we're lucky. Sometimes they'll ask us questions while you're still there!).

You may learn something from it

Sometimes you might even get to learn with us. If the doctor is nice, they might actually teach me something rather than just test my knowledge and you could pick up something from this too. I remember some bedside teaching with a patient very early on in my course, and the patient in his 80s ended up getting a brief lesson on the workings of his heart- he was fascinated! I love it when patients get involved and start asking questions because it takes the pressure off me for a moment.

What about being examined by a medical student?

You might be asked if you mind being examined by the medical student, and again this is entirely up to you. Just because you let me sit in and listen/ watch doesn't mean you're then obliged to let me practice examining too. However, it is the best way for me to learn what normal and abnormal things look/feel/sound like and so these kind patients make a huge difference to my training. We nearly always get taught the basics of examinations before we do them on patients so we're not going in completely blind. I'm probably more nervous than you are because the doctor is watching my technique and possibly expecting me to say what I've found. Because I know I'm doing this for my own learning and benefit rather than anything that will change your diagnosis/ treatment, I'm especially conscious about not causing any unnecessary pain or exposure.

So that's how it is from my perspective. I've said it a couple of times, but I'll say it again- I am so thankful to all the patients who let me sit in on their consultations. I appreciate that they can be very sensitive, personal times for patients but I benefit hugely from them. The majority of patients I meet say something along the lines of 'Of course you can stay, you have to learn don't you?' and they couldn't be more correct. Textbooks are nowhere near as good as real life and I couldn't get through my medical degree without the help of the patients I meet.

Jennifer
xXx

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19 comments

  1. A comforting post for anyone in this situation. How far are you into your training? X

    Www.amynmore.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thank you, that's what I was aiming for. I'm in my fourth year of training now, just another year to go after this! x

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  2. I always let med students sit in when I go to the docs! I considered doing medicine for a long time, and did a lot of biomed at uni so I love it when they explain stuff and I learn along. My best friend did end up doing medicine so I know how important it is for her! x

    Jasmin Charlotte | UK Lifestyle Blog

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    1. It's definitely really important so it's nice to hear that you don't mind and that you gain something from it too! x

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  3. I think its important you sit in! I'd rather be treated by a doctor who's seen it first hand and dealt with it, rather than someone who's just read about it. I think its nerve wracking having more people in the room but I'd definitely let med students stay!

    Suitcase and Sandals Blog X

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    1. Exactly- we need to gain experience and we really don't want to make things uncomfortable for anyone! x

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  4. Med student to med student I completely feel you and you worded this really well! I am always so SO grateful to every patient who lets me take their history/sit in on a consult/examine them, especially since I'm always conscious it's more to benefit me than them. Most patients I've come across say yes, but I am always pleasantly surprised (and again, super grateful) when they do especially if they're in hospital for something acute. I just can't overstate how grateful I am to patients who let me practice with them, haha.

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    1. I had no idea you were a med student, that's amazing! Me too- I never stop being surprised when people agree to me seeing them, especially the acute patients. You know as well as I do how grateful we are to these lovely people!

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  5. Love this post. I've just started Physiotherapy so I'll be in a similar situation with patients. Even on work experience I was always grateful that so many people are willing to let a student sit in!

    Lauren
    http://totally-typically.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. That's great, I've also sat in with some physios and I'm really grateful to them too for showing me what their work involves! I hope your course is going well :) x

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  6. fab post! when medical students have sat in on my appointments, some of which have been very personal, i have felt quite uncomfortable but at the end of the day, like you said, you have to learn somehow - you're our doctors of the future! xx

    writtenby-agirl.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. This is so true, and I can completely understand that it can be a bit uncomfortable for patients so this is why I'm so grateful! :) xx

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  7. Love the post hun :) I couldn't agree more, these are your future healthcare providers and everyone has to learn at some point. I think you can be the best theoretically but nothing beats the hands on experience and getting to do it for yourself. I'm always so grateful and surprised even now when patients just say 'sure nurse' and let me have a go at the different tasks! I've only ever had one patient in the community setting who wouldn't let any students to the point where they couldn't even enter her house due to a psychological condition, but 9/10 you will find these patients you see will just say 'well you've got learn it at some point!'.

    Danielle xx
    www.student2staffnurse.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Exactly, you need experience to learn! x

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  8. I had a midwife in training assist my midwife during my pregnancy and difficult labour, along with other student doctors and nurses during my very complicated 3 weeks postpartum. I can honestly say not once was I uncomfortable. Coming from a pharmacy background working with a lot of interns, my thoughts are that these are our future doctors, these are the ones that will be in charge in a few years and we want them to be amazing at their jobs. To do this they have to learn and lets face it the process of having a baby you are uncomfortable anyway, what's one more person in the room! Our student midwife was also the one who stayed and looked after me while my midwife went down to NICU with my daughter, it was so valuable to me that she was there!

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    1. I'm really glad to hear you always felt comfortable with students being a part of your healthcare experience- and yes as students we can often do things like stay with a patient and be a support or comfort because we have the time for it- it's a huge privilege :)

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  9. It is so important to let students (both medical, nursing and allied health) participate in our treatment as they are tomorrow's professionals and we want them to be skilled as well as confident and they aren't going to be unless they get practical experience. You can only learn so much from lectures and workshops.

    www.blogsbygabrielle.blogspot.com

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    1. You're so right - lectures just don't equate to real experience!

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