How Medical Students Learn from Patients

A recent article was published which stated most medical students learned more from their patients than they did through their actual schooling. This was found via a web-based tool called ‘Learning Moment’ in which patients recorded what, where, and when they learned certain things, so they could be shared with other medical students.

The article’s authors also noted that some medical students learning was accomplished at computer workstations, as well as resuscitation rooms meant for critically ill patients.

Commonly known as ‘bedside training,’ the learning experience revolves heavily around all patient-intimate items. This includes, among others:

  • Taking a patient’s medical history
  • Physical examination
  • Learning of proper bedside manners

These items are always accomplished under the watchful eye of a trained physician and includes physically laying hands on both physically and mentally ill patients.

Why Learning Moment?

Learning Moment was created because the developers predicted bedside education had diminished to an estimated 20 percent for current medical students. This would have been a drastic decrease from the 75 percent of training which took place bedside in the 1960’s.

Medical School Training

While bedside education is of the utmost importance, medical school training should not be underestimated. Without the fundamentals learned in medical school potential physicians would never be able to safely practice proper procedures and care on real, living patients.

The very first thing medical students learn is the medical vocabulary, followed by the underlying physiological processes contributing to both health and disease. Finally, you learn what interventions should be taken based on what is wrong with the patient. That is where bedside training typically comes in, to fill in a gaping void that the education system cannot fill with books or lessons.

The Importance of Bedside Training

A carpenter would not be able to practice without wood, and a welder without metal. A hair stylist must eventually work on real human hair, and a teacher must eventually practice in a real classroom. So, it is for medical students. To become truly proficient in the medical field, they must practice on real patients.

The old adage “practice makes perfect” holds true. Without the ability to practice on real patients, potential physicians would never be able to progress in their studies to a point of true proficiency. This is, of course, done under the watchful eye of a licensed physician. Each skill can, during this period of training, be practiced repeatedly until it is memorized. The possibility of life-threatening errors is removed by the attending physician, who double-checks the work of the student doctor.

Although the creators of this new application assumed bedside learning to have been greatly diminished, they have actually found the opposite to be true. The practice of bedside learning is still alive and well, and still accounts for a considerable portion of training received by medical students. What the new application did was increase the effectiveness of this part of learning by allowing medical students and practicing physicians to share their experiences with patients.

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