Improving medical students

Handling the Pressure of Med School

Posted by medliorator on March 17, 2008

Wisdom from Dr. Talmon at MedScape:

how does one deal with pressure from more senior physicians?

To start, it is important to recognize that “pressure” does not equal abuse. The days are over when medical students had to put up with verbal abuse from supervising physicians. Even if an attending is glaringly upset with your performance, there is no excuse for name-calling, swearing, or insults. In such instances, nearly every medical school has mechanisms for reporting unacceptable behavior, often starting with the rotation director.

It is also important to determine the source of your pressure; is it coming from your superiors or from inside yourself? Almost all medical students are driven to overachieve, so we often set unrealistic standards. We feel that we need to answer every question correctly, present every patient perfectly, write the best clinic notes, etc. Whenever we fail at one of these self-imposed goals, we experience internal anxiety. Then, the more that is asked of us, the more pressure we feel. In hindsight, I realize that most of the time when I felt “under pressure” while on service, it was of my own making. Two nonthreatening ways to determine the source of your pressure is to ask other students who were on the rotation before you what the attending expected of them, or talk to your residents about your performance.

you may be able to reduce the pressure from senior doctors if you know precisely what they want from you. Thinking back, some of the best attendings and experiences I had on service came when I was told at the very beginning of my rotation what my responsibilities were …It is almost never incorrect to ask your supervisors this question, although it is advisable to have such discussions in private and at a less hectic time than during the middle of rounds or a surgery.

…the key to handling these situations is talking with your senior physicians. Ask them for their assessment of your performance and for hints and/or advice on how to improve.

The overriding theme in all of these tactics is communication. When you, as the student doctor, feel that the weight of demands placed upon you by senior physicians is causing excessive anxiety, talk to them about it. Ask them what is expected of you, whether you are meeting those expectations, and what you could do to improve. Because the goal of academic medicine is to turn you into a better physician, such questions are not inappropriate, and they can help reduce the amount of stress and pressure that you are feeling.

How Can I Handle the Pressure of Medical Training? [MedScape]


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