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Medical Student
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  Who is a Medical Student?

Medical Students are students training to become physicians. In the United States, undergraduate medical education consists of four years of study in an allopathic (MD degree) or osteopathic (DO degree) school of medicine.

  What does a Medical Student do?

In most U.S. medical schools, students spend the first two years of study primarily in classrooms, seminar sessions, and laboratories, and only enter the clinical setting for basic training in medical history taking and physical examination or as observers.

Then, beginning in the third year of medical school, Medical Students participate in clerkships in various clinical departments and medical and surgical specialties. During these clerkships or rotations, they continue to function primarily as students, but their role is more applied to real time patient care. This becomes even more hands-on during the fourth year of medical school during subinternships.

  What education, training, and experience must one have to function as a Medical Student?

Entry into medical school requires completion of a bachelor’s degree.

  How and by whom is a Medical Student supervised?

Medical Students are supervised by a clinical faculty member who is designated as the clerkship director. However, on an ongoing basis Medical Students are supervised by members of the clinical physician teams to which they are assigned. This may be the attending physician and resident physicians with whom the student works closely.

  What are the typical day-to-day activities of a Medical Student?

Medical Students’ day-to-day activities depend on the clinical department or area to which they are assigned. Much of their time is spent with the resident physicians to whom they are assigned. Under direct supervision, they may perform or assist in some procedures.

Although Medical Students will generally participate in rounds and educational conferences along with residents, there may also be special educational conferences and activities designed specifically for students.

  Must a Medical Student be licensed or certified to function in his or her role as part of the health care team?

Since Medical Students do not provide any patient care other than under direct supervision, they do not need to be licensed or certified. The only requirement for them to function in their role in clinical settings is that they be in good standing with their medical schools.

  What types of patients would benefit from the care of a Medical Student?

Since Medical Students do not provide unsupervised care, it is difficult to speculate on the benefits patients experience from being exposed to them. However, many patients are receptive to having a role in the training of future physicians.

In some cases, Medical Students can spend more time communicating with patients. Often, these communications can result in better care and patient satisfaction. It is critical that patients be made aware that the individual they are communicating with is a Medical Student and what their role is on the team.

  How and when does a Medical Student become involved in the care of a particular patient?

Medical Students essentially “come with the team” or go where they are assigned. Often patients with particularly classical or unique findings, or with other aspects that provide special learning opportunities, will be identified to Medical Students for their particular attention.

  Professional organizations for Medical Students:

Contributed by:
Gerald P. Whelan, MD, FACEP, ECFMG

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