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13 Feb 2018


For a medical student or junior doctor, one kind word can get you through the week. This year, as students start clinical rotations, remember that you have more influence than you think.

Placement as a medical student is a strange and wonderful world. It’s where we are finally exposed to the reality of practising medicine, and meet the doctors whom we aspire to be like one day. It is here that we set our expectations for the culture of medicine. We learn that medicine is a place of mentoring, compassion and respect. But it can also be tough, most students will recognise the near universal experience of feeling like a burden to their team.

Students want to work hard, but sometimes it is hard to know what is expected us, or how we can be of use to our team. You’ll recognise the almost painful amount of enthusiasm a student will put into a job you throw their waY – from grabbing a bluey to calling radiology, most students just want to be a helpful member of their team.

As medical students, we are very aware that teaching us takes time from doctors’ already packed days. We understand that treatment must be the first priority, and how frustrating it must be when students slow clinicians down. But like all doctors before us, we have to learn. Supervisors explaining a process or saying that a student did a good job only takes a second, but it can make a big difference to a student’s day.

Medical students will, invariably, get answers wrong. They will make a mess of simple procedures and they will take up time on days when the doctors on their team have none to spare. The supervisor who can tell them not just what they did wrong, but also how to improve, will be the teacher that they remember.

Positive experiences are important. I have heard many students extol an “incredible day”, simply because they felt like they were part of a team or that they could ask questions. Passion for medicine is infectious. In fact, many consultants have told me they are in their specialty because of a particularly influential mentor.

No doubt, it is high pressure being a doctor. Some days, circumstances make it tough to be the best supervisor, but never doubt the amount of good a quick acknowledgement can do for the medical student on your team.

There are great role models and teachers in every ward and clinic. For that we are grateful. Every one of you plays a role in shaping the doctors and medical culture of the future.

So this year, as medical students rotate in and out, keep in mind the doctors whose teaching made you the clinician you are today. Never underestimate the power of some thoughtful advice, a clear explanation, or a kind “you’ll get it next time”. We use your words to guide us, help us start off down the right path.


Published: 13 Feb 2018