This past week, I started a course called systems-based healthcare, a small group course discussing topics including medical ethics, culture, and more. The class was particularly interesting because several 3rd year dental students were in our group, something that had never happened before. The topic of discussion that day was “teams and roles,” and some challenges we had faced in our clinical experiences as part of a team. During the course of discussion, It was interesting to see how dissimilar our gripes were. As medical students, our complaints were generally about how redundant or invisible we were on our teams – barring a few gleaming moments of utility, we were often just professional lurkers, always running a few steps behind our residents. However, the dental students had almost the opposite complaint: They had TOO much autonomy third year, complaining that although they were getting hands-on, direct patient care, they felt like didn’t have enough supervision to do the many procedures they were doing.
Although medicine is considered one of the more prestigious fields in healthcare, people sometimes forget how much longer the training is compared to others. At any given year of training in school, medical students are have less experience and autonomy than their peers. For example, while most students graduate dental, pharmacy, or nursing school with license to practice independently, medical students have several years of residency ahead before we are able to do so.
This fact was made more clear to me during my ophthalmology elective, where I worked side by side with optometry students every day. I, the clueless medical student, struggled to climb the steep learning curve of the eye exam, and mostly ended up shadowing up my residents. Meanwhile, the optometry students were performing complete vision exams with minimal supervision. It’s somewhat discouraging to feel so clueless, though of course this will improve with time. However, for those considering a career in healthcare, it is important to consider the differences in curriculum when choosing between the various fields.