Thursday, August 6, 2009

Third Year Defined

Medical Students and physician review a techni...
Yesterday I mentioned third year rotations. Readers who are medical students know exactly what this means but others may not be so familiar with the concept, so here's an explanation. Medical school curriculum is divided into two parts: the first two years are devoted to learning the basic sciences while the second two years are spent in clinical settings, learning hands-on how to deliver effective patient care.

We spend four to six weeks at a time "rotating" through the various medical specialties. For the most part, our mentors are physicians, but ask any doctor you happen to see and they'll tell you the nurses and auxiliary hospital staff are some of the best teachers we'll ever have. So, in the course of those few weeks, we learn about delivering babies, treating sick children, working in the operating room, and so forth.

Rotations are an opportunity to see how medicine "works" in all its various applications. By the end of third year, we've learned how to
obtain a patient's medical history in a way that really aids in diagnosis. At the end of the fourth year, we'll have learned how to do an equally effective physical examination. We can't prescribe medications because we aren't licensed physicians, but we learn how to make treatment recommendations under the guidance of persons who do this every day.

One of the most important things we learn -- hopefully, we learn this -- as third year students is how to relate to patients as people. And not only that, but how to do so with a sense of genuine humility. The more we learn, the easier it becomes to forget or overlook how much we actually don't know. Fortunately, there are seasoned professionals around to remind us of that on a regular basis. As painful as it may seem at times, it is an incredibly valuable lesson and a little humility never hurt anyone. Now just watch, tomorrow I'll get a double-helping.


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