Medical Students Suck

Last modified on April 14th, 2007

Ever since my injury in November, I have spent quite a bit of time in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and medical clinics. Part of those visits usually involves some interaction with medical students.

And while I’m certain that there really are good medical students out there who are passionate about helping people and eager to learn more in their field, almost every single medical student I’ve encountered has been both arrogant and misinformed, a deadly combination when you’re trying to help people who are sick or have undergone significant trauma.

My first encounter came sometime around November 8th of last year at St. Paul’s hospital with a young medical student who was looking over my CT scan. Originally I was told I was to go for surgery within the mandatory two week period (since after that point, the bones start healing wrong and the surgery is more involved). However this medical student (who I actually thought was a full fledged doctor at the time) said my injury would heal on its own and that I should just head home and let it heal.

As I slowly healed in Chilliwack, my eye started looking more and more out of place, something that eventually caused me to seek a second opinion from a real doctor. The person who gave me the second opinion was quite shocked that I hadn’t had surgery considering the extent of the injuries I had sustained. A few days later I was in the hospital getting my eye socket reconstructed.

Ironically, the medical student who told me I didn’t need surgery was the very same student they chose to assist in the operation that day. When he came up to me in pre-op, he went out of his way to introduce himself and insist that we had never met before (however, I rarely forget a face, and I’m sure it was him).

Yesterday I had an appointment booked at St. Paul’s to see my plastic surgeon and pick a date for my surgery. In my head, it was a very quick meeting where I would sign forms and everything would be put into motion. However, after waiting 1.5 hours in a small room for someone to come see me, a young medical student walks in and starts bombarding me with questions that I have answered about a million times in the last six months. First of all, I was a bit upset that I was meeting with a medical student in the first place — I was here at the request of my plastic surgeon’s office to meet with my plastic surgeon, not a medical student.

Student: “so why have you come here today?”
Me: “because I was asked to come here.”
Student: “what is it about?”
Me: “scheduling an operation to repair the orbital floor of my eye”
Student: “so you had a blowout fracture?”
Me: “yes, hence the repair.”
Student: “so you are still having problems then?”
Me: “yes, that’s why there’s another operation scheduled.”
Student: “is that your CT scan there?”
Me: “yes, I brought it in at the request of my doctor.”
Student (pointing at screen): “wow, that’s quite a large defect”
Me: “uhh, no.. it’s the other eye”
Student: “ooh. right. So what is the operation for”
Me: “I think they are going to remove the implant from my eye and replace it with something bigger.”
Student: “there’s an implant in your eye?”
Me: “yeah, that’s how you fix a blowout fracture”
Student: “oh neat, I didn’t know that”
Me: “uh yeah. Anything else you need to know?”
Student: “Is there a history of cancer in your family?”
Me: “No. ”
Student: “Diabetes”
Me: “Isn’t this all in my chart?”
Student: “Yeah, it is, but I’m just making sure.”

I spent the next ten minutes doing random eye tests with this student’s finger so she could be certain I had double vision, even though I’ve had two exhaustive eye tests by real opthamologists, all of which was in my chart. Now, I realize they need to learn and get some practice, but doing this on someone who has been stuck in a small overheated room for 90 minutes isn’t the best idea. In addition, having medical students give advice when there are no senior doctors present seems really quite irresponsible and potentially life threatening for some people. In engineering, junior engineers have to have their work looked over my senior engineers, and in most fields, anything important that goes out the door has to be stamped by a professional engineer to verify that it’s correct. I think the system is completely broken if nobody is watching over these medical students and verifying what they are saying is correct.

After three hours, I finally met with my surgeon and signed the two forms I came to, a process that I could have done in five minutes at some front desk had the system been designed better.

7 responses to “Medical Students Suck”

  1. Hesty says:

    Awesome dude, now you should try to make the same skit about a co-op engineer asked to design something vital without supervision.

  2. Jana says:

    I hope that conversation really did not take place..that some of those lines were added! Please tell me so!

  3. Keira says:

    The exchange between yourself and the medical student left me rolling my eyes. That is all.

  4. Duane says:

    Actually, most of that is how it happened. She really didn’t know which eye it was, and despite knowing the name of the injury, she had no idea what it actually meant and how it was fixed. It’s been amazing how many medical students like to do the follow-the-finger-eyetest with me. I’m sure it’s something they learn while hammered in med school and it’s what they fall back on when they don’t know what else to do. I’ve seriously done that test about twenty times since November, even though I tell everyone that I have double vision, and I have quantitative information in my records about the degree and nature of the double vision.

    But apparently people like to wave their fingers in front of my face and see what happens.

  5. Whilst I understand that what you are mainly getting at is the arrogance of these particular medical students, I think it is very important to underline that if these students were not allowed to get real hands-on experience then tomorrow, there will be no doctors to heal us. My sister is training to be a doctor and I know personally that the experience she gains in the hospital is vital. Medicine is something that you cannot simply learn out of a textbook. I do however agree that it is unwise for medical students to be doing things unsupervised until they are practically on the point of qualifying, otherwise they cannot be sure that what they are learning is correct.

  6. Duane says:

    Yeah, I understand they need real world experience, but instead of acting like they know something when they really don’t, it would be far better if they pulled a real doctor in and figured out for sure.

  7. gina says:

    I am a medical student and I can assure you that we are not allowed to make critical decisions like whether a patient should or should not have surgery! The purpose of our rotations is to gain some clinical experience, not to make vital decisions! I am sorry that this happened to you, but it seems like maybe the message was relayed from a resident or attending.

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