The clerkship years of medical school expose students to a
range of specialties medical practitioners may select as an area of advanced
study during residency. Pediatrics, surgery, general medicine, radiology,
psychiatry, and more are part of the array of educational exposures students
gain from during these rotations. As an educator facilitating discussion groups
which provide the opportunity for reflection, questioning, and connecting
expectations to the actual experiences, I have found that there are gaps in
understanding the roles of other personnel that are essential to the physician
role, but not always well defined. As we strive to encourage future physicians
to do their best to understand that the business of medicine takes a small
village of practitioners in order to work best, we do too little to help them
learn the perspective of these other providers. Lectures and readings may offer
some insight, but the street-level day to day operations may be a bit of a
mystery. I propose clerkship years include time spent working alongside professionals
beyond physicians such as pharmacists, billing specialists, security guards,
social workers, lab technicians, and visiting nurses. While learners may not be
able to fully walk in the shoes of other essential staff members, but being
alongside another who is willing to teach and share the tasks, the struggles
and rewards of their position. Many med students will someday be in position to
lead large groups of staff members in clinics, hospitals, and private offices.
Recognizing the unique roles, strengths, and limitations of the non-physicians
who contribute to the day to day operations of our vast healthcare industry
will help build well rounded doctors who are prepared to be effective leaders.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.