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On Being a Doctor |

The “Practice” of Medicine

Michael Papper, MD
[+] Article and Author Information

From University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ 08903.


Requests for Single Reprints: Michael Papper, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, 51 French Street, MEB 478, New Brunswick, NJ 08903; e-mail, pappermi@umdnj.edu.


Ann Intern Med. 2006;145(4):308-309. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-145-4-200608150-00014
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Anyone becoming a doctor will at some point be told by a reluctant patient, “You're not practicing on me,” or “I'm not having a medical student or a resident learning on me.” Usually, what ensues is a cowardly exodus of the trainee from the patient's room, a quick plea to the attending physician, and either 1 of 2 scenarios: The trainee is demoted to observer status, with a visceral feeling of humiliation, or the attending physician makes the compelling argument to the patient that training in medicine is necessary and the patient concedes, leaving the poor trainee even more apprehensive and anxious than he or she was before. Occasionally, hospital administrators declare patients VIPs and exempt them from a teaching service. Countless times I have been looked at by patients who saw themselves as “volunteers” about to endure various trial-and-error experiments to further my education. These experiences caused me to question whether my role as a student was contributing in any way to the patient's overall care.

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