"Doctor, doctor … I've become invisible!"


Medical Student, 23 years old, presenting with invisibility…

I've had a realisation over the last couple of weeks - I have a serious case of 'invisible medical student-itis.'

This bothersome condition troubles most of our species during an average medical school career, but I can't say I'm all too sure what the cure is.

Take my most recent bout of this ailment. Site: cardiology clinic. Associated symptoms: feeling unmotivated, belittled and bored. Timing: two and a half hours. Severity: 10/10 ... yep, it was that bad.

I asked questions and was super enthusiastic (especially seeing as I am considering cardiology as a future specialty) but the doctor running it couldn't have cared less, and proceeded to ignore me for the entire morning, even seeing patients and telling me to stay behind in a different room whilst they did so. Talk about deflating.

Another week, I sat through a clinic where I began to wonder whether the doctor even remembered I was in the room. Several patients failed to turn up, making for plenty of teaching opportunities, but despite my best efforts, three and a half hours later I left, with no idea of what exactly I'd learnt sitting there.

I'm very understanding of clinical medicine - patients always come first; and as a result, sometimes there simply isn't time to teach medical students - that's fine. What's not fine is feeling like you could have flicked through a textbook and learnt more doing that compared with spending several hours with a doctor who doesn't appear to like you being there.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of clinicians who love having students with them - speaking on behalf of many a medical student, it's so refreshing when they get us involved; be it by taking a history from a patient, or (scary as it is at the time) quizzing us about what we're seeing, hearing or feeling on examination. But for every one of those clinicians, there's a significant number who make it apparent they just don't want us there.

If you're a doctor for whom medical school is something of a distant memory, just a refresher: if you see a medical student in front of you, we have made a conscious effort to be there and it is because we actually want to learn something.

I'm not saying you have to pat us on the back for turning up. Heck, you don't even have to bother learning our names if you don't want to. If you're too busy, you can even tell us to go away and find something else to do - we understand. But if there's time to teach us, please do it - it will always be appreciated.

Medical students are incessantly reminded that time spent in the clinical environment is precious, with far more learnt from physically seeing patients than sitting in a dingy hospital library with a copy of Kumar and Clark. All well and good, but it's really not all that precious when you've got a case of 'invisible medical student-it is' and no-one is acknowledging your existence, let alone teaching you anything.

It's something of a rite of passage to feel like you're 'in the way' as a medical student. The doctors sitting before us probably had similar experiences themselves whilst at medical school. But why is no one doing something about breaking the cycle?

The views expressed in this article reflect Ambi's personal opinion and are not representative of those of patient.info or the University of Bristol. 


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