February 21, 2019
5 Reasons to Say Yes to Being Seen by a Medical Student

5 Reasons to Say Yes to Being Seen by a Medical Student

by Keng Lam, MD  

While working in the hospital and clinic during medical school, I would often hear patients declining to be cared for by medical students (who see patients, along with the attending and resident physicians, as part of their training). The reason, I suspect, was that the patients were afraid that they would get suboptimal care. It’s true that medical students are not doctors yet. But as I approach my own graduation from medical school, I’ve realized why I would never turn down an opportunity to be cared for by a medical student—and you shouldn’t either. Here are my top five reasons.

1. You will get more time.

Students are more willing to stay in the room for longer and talk more with the patient because they have fewer patients to see. In fact, as a medical student, I often spend about twice as much time with the patients I see than my attending physicians do. So as a patient, you have less chance of feeling rushed and more time to ask all the questions you have.

2. You might be listened to more carefully.

Medical students are trained to take a very detailed history. Rest assured that most of us will ask a lot of questions about your illness—so there’s little chance that you’ll feel like we are missing something. And if we do forget to ask something important, our attending physicians will likely catch it and be sure to ask the question when they see you.

3. You will have an extra pair of eyes on you.

Medical students never practice medicine by themselves, as they are not licensed yet. They usually have a resident or attending physician supervising them. As a result, no matter what problem you may present with, you have an extra person on the team working to catch and fix it.

4. Your care will be up-to-date.

As medical students, we are taught to always look at the medical literature to determine what treatment to suggest to the medical team. That includes digging up the latest research articles to ensure we’re up to date in what we’re proposing. So you’ll truly be getting evidence-based medicine.

5. You'll be helping to train the next generation of doctors.

You, the patients, are our teachers. In fact, when we graduate from medical school, it’s less the details of our medical textbooks that we’ll remember than the stories and journeys of the patients we treated. Without even trying, you are providing memorable experiences that will inform our work as doctors—and thereby contributing to our education more than you may realize.

Also see Dispelling a Myth About Immigrants' Health.