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Advice to Medical Students from Doctors

November 2nd, 2012  |  Published in Medical School & Beyond

Doctor giving advice

Here is a list of advice I have received from many doctors with whom I have worked as a medical scribe.

  • Medical school is a new form of hell, but fun.
  • Sometimes patients come to you “for the show” so break out the full regalia andĀ spielĀ if they need it.
  • If they are complaining of an itch in a place that isn’t socially acceptable to scratch, wash your hands multiple times after touching the door handles.
  • Take everything with a light heart. If you get too caught up in how your patients treat you, you won’t be happy.
  • Ask patients if they suspect anything is causing their symptoms, otherwise they will walk away thinking you didn’t address their problem even if you tested for this without them knowing.
  • Joining a large physician’s group means you get more vacation time.
  • Always take advantage of time that you have to eat.
  • Avoid spending your time with drug reps even if they try to lure you in with free food for a lengthy meeting.
  • During your intern year, when you are on-call, bring the nurses coffee and doughnuts to avoid getting called gratuitously.
  • Eventually, deciding if this is what you want to do is a decision you have to make.
  • Go into the patient’s room before reading the lab results and radiology report (unless otherwise necessary.)
  • Always look at the radiology film and not just the radiologist’s interpretation.
  • Make sure the vital signs for the patient are written down for reference before calling for a consult or admission.
  • It is possible to run towards a patient in distress when you are almost 9 months pregnant.
  • Residents are not be able to tell their attending that they don’t want to do a particular procedure with good results.
  • Being a junior will always give your senior the opportunity to balk at your decisions because of your relative lack of experience; expect it.
  • You do not have to practice medicine where you do your residency.
  • Deciding you don’t want to do academic medicine after years of doing so, is okay.
  • If you sit down in the patient’s room, they will think you were there much longer than you were.
  • Greet everyone in the room, not just the patient.
  • Passing out business cards can possibly establish a degree of professionalism, if done properly.
  • Many people will think you are a nurse if you are a woman–even if you wear your white coat, but don’t let it get you down.
  • It is okay to completely hate where you are working and move away to work somewhere else.
  • When you become medical director everyone will constantly come to you with their questions.
  • As medical director you will be the only person sitting at an administrative meeting who doesn’t get paid for it.
  • When the family is prepared for the patient’s death that moment is slightly less painful.
  • Even twenty years into your career you can confuse the patient’s left and right side when you back to your notes, so pay attention.
  • Always re-read your notes, especially if you are using a scribe, because they sometimes miss pertinent information.
  • If you have a troublesome patient, write their note sooner rather than later.
  • Taking notes on conversations that you have with other specialists can save you a future lawsuit.
  • Learning a foreign language will be an asset, but don’t spend your entire day being the other physicians’ translator.
  • There will be rude physicians who you will need to consult on your case, and you will have no choice but to deal with them.
  • If someone else makes orders from you, check them as soon as possible in order to prevent an unneeded work-up.
  • After a few years you will easily be able to catch when patients lie.
  • If a patient is fixated on the number of jabs they need before they have pain relief, give lower and lower doses in each jab.
  • Sometimes you have to sit back and understand that the patient is in their condition or state of mind because of years in the healthcare system, and there is little that can be done to change it now.
  • Having someone shadow you can be very annoying.
  • Take pictures of your (potential) future co-workers during residency; the evidence will serve as a good laugh years down the road.
  • If you bring snacks, bring enough for everyone.
  • Bring emergency instant coffee from home, because the coffee machine will break eventually.
  • Take the time to listen to your patients’ stories when you have the opportunity.
  • Inevitably, you will repeat yourself over and over again.
  • Life is short, but some ways to go are better than others.
  • Treat everyone equally without bias.
  • Always be on guard if you sense you might need to call security.
  • Don’t spend very long studying for your re-certification exams.
  • Don’t be embarrassed if you take less time on your exams than your peers.
  • If you have children, you probably won’t get sleep after a graveyard shift ends.
  • Do what you want to do, take every opportunity to customize your residency program to your needs.
  • Staying active and eating healthy is not impossible despite a strict schedule.
  • Be sensitive to life-changing events in your co-workers lives and help accommodate them.
  • You will find that you may offer your patient’s family the chance to take a risk and it may not have a good result.
  • If you are the only one in the physician’s group who wants change, other people will talk about you.
  • Standing up to a gossip takes courage.
  • You have the power to evaluate if a test evaluates the risk it provides: choose wisely.
  • When patients have money to throw around, they will inevitably demand more tests but you have the power to refuse them.
  • At many points in your career, your emotions may overwhelm your intellect.
  • Those once-in-a-lifetime cases do exist.
  • You will always remember your patients.

This is all I have for now. I learned so much from the physicians with whom I worked as a medical scribe. This list cannot even begin to encompass everything. I am so indebted to them for the mentorship and examples they gave me. I might add more later, as I remember it.

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