Pet Peeve: Medical Students

I heard a knock on the door.

“Come in!” I said. Instead of the doctor I was expecting, a medical student walked in. Inwardly I groaned as I pulled the neck of my flimsy gown closer together. My doctors are at a teaching hospital, so this scenario is not new to me.

I understand the need for medical students to see real patients. Really, I do. It’s a great learning experience. If you’re a medical student or have ever been a medical student, I apologize for thinking of you as a pet peeve. I know you must see many new patients every week which makes it impossible to foster a relationship with them. However…I did wish this particular one had looked at my file just a little more carefully.

As he paged through my file, Medical Student said, “I see for chemotherapy you were given Adriamycin and Cytoxan. Have you had any side effects or neuropathy?”

Blank stare. (If only my bloggy friend Lisa had been there to tell me what “neuropathy” means.)

“A tingling feeling in your fingers or toes?” he reiterated.

“No. I tolerated chemo pretty well,” I explained. Sixteen years ago.

“Do you have any side effects from the tamoxifen?” he asked. I had the feeling he really wanted me to have some side effects.

“Um, I don’t take it any more,” I replied.

“When did you stop taking it?”


“What side effects did you have when you were taking it?” he asked. See? He was determined to find some kind of side effect, ANY side effect.

“I had hot flashes and also some weight gain.” There you go, I thought. Some nice side effects for you to ponder.

He asked me to hop up onto the examining table. He felt the lymph nodes in my neck and under my arms, and then he listened to my lungs and heart. I decided that if he asked to do a breast exam, I would tell him no, thank you. Fortunately, he didn’t ask.

Finally, my real doctor came in. We started talking about the usual things; our kids, my job as a preschool teacher…not side effects. We’ve had almost seventeen years to build our doctor/patient relationship. And it seemed to me that he deliberately stood in between me and Medical Student as he did my breast exam, nicely providing a shield of protection.

He finished updating my file, said my labs looked great and wrote me an order for a mammogram. “See you in a year,” he said. I left the office, happy with my successful appointment despite Medical Student.

I still remember a question a different student asked me many years ago. While I was being prepped for surgery, she sat down beside me.

She asked me some general questions, and then asked, “Was there anything unusual about the mass?”

I had no idea what she wanted to know. I was 27 and over the previous few weeks had had to make some of biggest decisions of my life. I was about to have a surgery I really didn’t want. In my memory I sound rather flippant, as though I was telling her that her question was stupid. But in reality, I’m not sure how I sounded. I was alone, in a hospital bed, surrounded by those ugly blue hospital curtains that provide “privacy.”

“Well,” I answered. “It was cancerous.”

Sigh. Medical students.

Spin Cycle at Second Blooming

I’m linking up at The Spin Cycle! It’s all about pet peeves this week. Why not try your own Spin?


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22 Replies to “Pet Peeve: Medical Students”

  1. I just finished up a week at the hospital with my daughter so this is totally familiar to me. Luckily, we only had student nurses, and they were super sweet, but you can tell they're students. All their rules seems to be different from the regular nurses. Your last comment to the medical student made me laugh a little.

  2. First of all, I am beyond flattered to have made a cameo in your post!! (I totally would have beat back the medical students for you!! I wish I'd been there)

    Secondly…medical students ARE a pet peeve–and yes, I used to be one, so I feel I can say that.
    They're doing the best they can, poor things, but they are a pain in the rear and do/say the dumbest things.

    I once dumped the full contents of my medical student short white coat on some poor patients bed by accident…stethoscope, books, pens–the whole thing. UGH. I happened to see that same patient years later (once I was a well-seasoned pro) and we both had a good laugh about it.

    I love this post because all of this in the past tense and you are healthy!

    My recent post Like Mother, Like Daughter

  3. Don't have any medical student stories, but for some reason waiting for the doctor reminds me of when I was waiting with my mom for the doctor to come. We could hear people walking around in the hall and was psyched out every time. After a while we started doing a drum roll rim-shot then motioned our hands towards the door only to have no-one come through.

    Thanks for your spin,
    My recent post Spin Cycle: Love

  4. I'm so happy that you had a successful appointment and you're healthy. I mean, even though it's 16 years later, I'm sure it must be great to hear that.
    I have no personal experience with medical students but I'm scared now because they seem really determined to find side effects.

  5. It's uncomfortable enough being in a flimsy gown with your regular doctor with whom you've built a relationship for 17 years, 'awkward' having to deal with medical students is an understatement. Especially when he obviously didn't read your file – makes you wonder if he was writing a dissertation on side effects…bet he was disappointed you didn't have any to share! πŸ˜‰
    My recent post Pet Peeves

  6. We appreciate our doctors that have seen us through tough times. Yep, the students and residents are still learning. I was not pleased with the young doctor that told me my husband was not technically dead. His heart was stopped and lungs were not working but he technically would not have been brain dead for another 3 or 4 minutes. I helped him learn that was not a good response to a woman that has just watched a team of health professionals do all sorts of things to revive the "not technically dead" patient. But that same med student/resident helped me learn to be more appreciative of technicalities. It was his wife and daughters that came for the afternoon of penguin fun! We have both learned a lot in 6 years. And my husband is still alive and kicking. Oh, and the older doctor was the one who would interface with me after the original technicality session.
    My recent post Password Protected

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