Perspective from medical students: Important lessons patients teach

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As a busy semester comes to an end and you continue to prepare your application to medical school, it can be easy to forget what the medical profession is all about: serving patients. Read stories from medical students and residents about interacting with patients and what those experiences taught them about becoming better physicians.

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After a long semester of studying and exams, it can be easy to forget what a career in medicine is ultimately about: serving patients. As an aspiring physician, the hard work you are doing now in classes and extracurricular actives is helping to build that important foundation of knowledge so that one day you’ll be able to help others. As you prepare for your application to medical school, keep in mind that the greatest lessons in medicine won’t necessarily come from a what you read in a textbook or listen to in a lecture.

On the AAMC’s Aspiring Docs Diaries blog, medical students and residents write about their interactions with patients and what those experiences have taught them about becoming better physicians. Here are some of those stories:

A lesson in how to show compassion

Emily Hayward, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine

“I’m sure that, as a physician, I will see hundreds of patients with a cough. I will see hundreds of runny noses or headaches or cases of back pain. But I, too, hope I never lose the ability to understand that the mere fact that I have seen chest pain before does not make my current patient’s chest pain any less terrifying to him or her; the fact that the chest pain is likely to be acid reflux rather than a heart attack does not mean I should dismiss my patient’s story or tell them that it is ‘no big deal.’ For that patient, it could be the world. And that makes it my world.”

Read more of Emily Hayward’s post.

On death and crying

Elorm F. Avakame, MD, pediatric resident at Children’s National Medical Center

“Sitting there by Mavis’ bedside, the assumptions I’d held about the hospital were falling apart. Life happens, but sometimes, despite our best efforts, death happens too. Having thought of the hospital as a place where people go to get well, I hadn’t fully considered how it’d feel to know patients who wouldn’t get well at all. For the first time, I was seeing behind the curtain. Sometimes, people die before their time is up. Learning to deal with those losses would have to be part of the job.”

Read more of Elorm Avakame’s post.

Silver or Gold?

Joanne Chiao, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

“I never expected an artist to show me how the world of shapes, lines, and colors could transfer to an improved ability to understand and appreciate how people interpret and see themselves — how each individual person perceives their health and disease. As a clinician-in-training, it is all too easy to only hear what relevant symptoms indicate what disease, rather than listening to how the symptoms are interpreted by patients. Painting with another person reminded me how important this is for future clinicians. It reminded me to take a step back, tune out the white noise of a bustling, fast-paced ambulatory clinic, and dial in to the frame of the patient.”

Read more of Joanne Chiao’s post.

You can read more blog posts written by premeds, medical students, and residents on Aspiring Docs Diaries.

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