Perspective from Medical Students: Important Lessons Patients Teach


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Medical Students

A career in the medical field is one of the noblest out there. After years of studying and exams, one can easily forget what a medical career is all about i.e. serving patients. All the effort you are putting in the medical school is assisting you build an important foundation so that you can be able to help people out there one day. Remember that whatever the textbooks teach you or you learn from a lecture can never be matched with practical hands-on experience. The point being that when you, as a student of medicine, start your practical work, the patients will be a first-hand source of teaching you things which no textbook or lecture can teach you.

Below is what students from different medical schools have said or written about their interaction with patients and what they taught them during their experience.

  • A Lesson in Kindness –

Kathy Hope, from Harvard School of Medicine, says the foremost trait which she learnt from one of her patients was compassion. She recalls one of her patients who was taking French Lessons in Brisbane, a middle aged woman, suffering from severe cough. The patient almost pitifully brought up the issue in front of Kathy that you must have seen many patients with such cough in the past couple of days, so it must not be anything new to you.

As a matter of fact, right at that point it when it struck Kathy that the patient was absolutely correct, we as doctors find it normal and the mere fact that I have seen severe cough before doesn’t make the cough of my current patient any less  of an issue. So we as medical students must always practice compassion be it a case of an illness as trivial as a slight headache. Kathy believes that kindness is the universal language of humanity and we as medical students should be the embodiment of compassion.

  • Perception –

Jason Newman, a medical student from Imperial College London, shares his experience of how certain patients have their own understanding and perception about a certain disease they are carrying. These patients, alien from the medical reasoning and treatment, have set their minds on linking their diseases to a certain event, practice, or even a thought pattern.

They have colored their illness in different shapes, shades, lines, and colors. Therefore, the medical students should dive into the frame of the patient and see it from his/her perspective as to what the disease is like in the minds of their patients. Interestingly, Jason Newman, linked the perception of the patients to their disease as an extended part of psychological aspect. He believes that the unique insight provided by the patient can help understand a patient’s psyche, through which we can start the mental process of healing and recovery even before the actual surgery or treatment has begun.

  • Birth and Death –

Different medical students were taken into consideration, together with their unique views, while compiling this death and birth part of the lessons taught by the patients. A medical student has only studied the process of birth as far as the textbooks available. Likewise, death of a patient is only witnessed when one of the patient passes away after a prolonged or short lived struggle for life. These two experiences are quite opposite.

The birth part, as told by medical students, taught them about life, hope, and human prosperity. Everyone is joyfully invested in the newborn, laughing, rejoicing, and linking the child’s features to his/her parents. The death part is often a sad spectacle, humbling even the strongest and richest people on the earth. This aspect has well taught the traits of staying humble, submissive, and down-to-earth even if you’ve got all what life has to offer, because in the end death is the only certain thing.

  • Final thoughts – Patients are unique teachers for any medical student. They come from different backgrounds and cultures; bringing with them one of a kind perspective, which serves as a gateway for the textbook students to learn a thing or two. No matter whatever the profession, the aim should be the wellbeing of humanity and learning throughout the process while maintaining professionalism.

Author Bio:
Amelie is the CEO of French Lessons Australia. Her passion for languages never quitted her: Amelie undertook multiple language exchanges in Spain, America or Ireland, and also decided to make it part of her academic life as she completed a Bachelor of Applied Linguistic at the University of Paris and a Languages program at the not less renowned University of Cambridge.


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Hassan Khan