Note: This post was written when I was a first year, but I find still holds true and relevant.
As I near the end of my first year of medical school, I still feel like I don’t know anything. I spend hours every day in class or at home studying, memorizing biochemical pathways and esoteric diseases. Yet, plop me in front of a patient with a cold or a sore throat, and I would have very little idea what I was doing.
Learning medicine is a slow and steady process, with vast amounts of knowledge and expertise required before one can truly practice. However, it feels like many physicians in training (or me, at least) have much less “practical” experience than our counterparts, like paramedics or nurses, at any given stage. Plop a bleeding guy in front of an EMT, and he or she would know exactly how to stabilize the patient. In my case, I would know WHY he was bleeding, and could label all the vessels contributing to his bleed, but I would have no idea how to actually save him.
This disconnect between the abundance of medical knowledge, and lack of knowledge on how to actually apply it, is what I think is driving medical schools to reform their respective curriculums. This new “holistic” approach to medicine now implements more patient contact, more problem based learning, and more hands-on experience into the traditionally pre-clinical, by-the-books curriculum. These changes certainly seem welcome, but whether they are the right answer is not completely clear.
While having dinner with some classmates one evening, we had a debate about this topic. One student advocated that the first semester of medical school should be scrapped in favor of EMT training – practical, applicable skills right off the bat. Another student thought it was a horrible idea, and that the first two years of medical school needed to be straight textbook learning, in order to build up necessary foundations before even setting foot into clinic. In my opinion, the right answer lies somewhere in between these two extremes. Whether we figure out what that right balance in the future remains to be seen.
(Note: This post was written when I was a first year, but still holds true.)