Why is There a Medical Student in my Exam Room?

Published in Medical Professionals, Medical Students Tag: Michael Nicklawsky, MD  

Author: Michael Nicklawsky, MD

Although it was many years ago that I was a medical student myself, I still remember what it was like seeing my first patient and working with my preceptor Dr. Dale Mathias in Peebles, Ohio. I was doing a rural medicine rotation in a small town in Southern Ohio. It was such a rewarding experience for me that I decided to participate in the University of Minnesota’s Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP).

Medical Students at ACMC

Every fall ACMC is fortunate to host several bright-eyed and enthusiastic medical students from the University of Minnesota’s RPAP. Many of these students are from small communities and are looking at a rural experience to see if they would like to go back and practice in a small town after they have completed their training. The RPAP program is unique to the University of Minnesota and has been used as a model by other medical schools to promote primary care in rural locations.

These third-year medical students spend nine months in a rural community like Willmar and our other clinic communities performing a variety of rotations in specialties including family medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, general surgery or pediatrics. At ACMC, medical students are able to choose a rotation in any of our internal specialties. Medical students look forward to working one-on-one with our physicians and their patients.

In just a few weeks, RPAP medical students will be walking the halls of ACMC, assisting their preceptors and working with patients in our exam rooms. And you may be one of the lucky patients who gets to be seen by a medical student.

What Do Medical Students Do?

The medical students will start off simply observing, but in time they will meet with you alone to discuss your medical history or perform a physical exam. They’ll talk to you about your general health and any questions you have. When you see a medical student, he/she reports back to their preceptor and a healthcare plan is made. At all times your privacy and confidentiality are of utmost importance.

Will Seeing a Medical Student Impact My Quality of Care?

Working with a medical student improves the overall care provided to you. They are tasked with determining any problems or concerns you may have. They will listen intently and ask questions in their quest to get your complete medical history. They are very detailed about their physical exam. Medical students have more time to interact with each of their patients, which is to your benefit as they often uncover things in a typical visit that may not have been addressed.

While seeing a medial student is optional, I urge you to say yes the next time you’re asked if a medical student can see you. As doctors, it’s our responsibility to help train future generations of physicians. As a patient you play an important role in providing students with a valuable learning experience.

I am indebted to my patients who let medical students participate in their care. Hopefully these experiences will lead to high quality men and women who have decided to dedicate their lives to the health care of you and your family.