The Curious Med Student
There is a term I have come to hate in medical school: high yield.
To me this term means “tell me what will get me a high score on the test, nothing more, nothing less.” This is a problem. If medical school is about memorizing First Aid, then we are producing doctors with no real clinical skills and no real critical thinking ability. There is a time for things like First Aid, and it isn’t during the basic science curriculum.
When I talk to older doctors I find that there is a newer trend in medical school. Students want the best scores with the least amount of work. I couldn’t imagine going through medical school 20 years ago, without the internet. But students did it, and they became great doctors. I will never forget the time I asked an ER residency director what iPhone programs he preferred for looking up drugs. He replied, “I don’t use them much, I went to school when we actually had to learn that information.” The internet is full of helpful tools, but we can’t take all the work out of medicine.
School is competitive though, as are residency spots. How can you survive without using high yield study aids? I have said time and time again that cultivating a mentality of curiosity makes it fun to learn. I spend many extra hours reading things because I find them interesting. I get better patient histories because I find patients interesting. In fact, Faith Fitzgerald wrote an entire article on why we need curiosity in medicine.
Students get so wrapped up in what facts will get them the right answer. But patients don’t present with the pathognomonic signs you find in your high yield study aids. They present with real problems, real worries and real confusion about what they are experiencing. I am not saying we shouldn’t learn clinical signs, I am saying we should go deeper.
I use study aids. The weekend before a test I look them over to remind myself of key concepts I need to know. But those other 8 weeks I think of myself as an explorer, sailing into limitless threads of knowledge. The more I can explore knowledge the more grounded facts are in my mind and the more likely I am to recall them. I spend my time with the intention of learning, not the intention of acing a test. I feel like the latter just naturally comes if you can obtain to former.
It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game. But remember, we are training to be doctors not pass a test.
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