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The Differential

Balancing Scut With Learning

Stephanie Nguyen, Medical Student, 08:42AM Aug 19, 2017

Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA

On a recent rotation, I found that a combination of factors contributed to the medical students doing an inordinate amount of "scut work." There were too many students for the number of cases in the operating room, there was no electronic medical record system, the only teaching time with the attendings was during rounds, and interns that were on the service only recently came on a couple weeks prior and were still getting their feet wet. This conglomerate lead to the medical students being responsible for many paper-pushing tasks that included faxing papers, constantly updating the patient list and "to-do" tasks on an excel spreadsheet, checking on and manually copying down patient labs and vitals throughout the day, tracking down patient records from other hospitals, checking on new imaging studies, and typing up dications.

I understand that there is a basal level of scut work that medical students should be comfortable with. Documentation and administrative tasks are important in managing patient care. Checking up on imaging studies, labs, and vitals for patients you're following is also very important. However, many of the paper-pushing tasks are minimally beneficial for learning about what it's like to be in surgery and certainly don't improve my potential score on the shelf exam.

There have been a couple days where I only saw patients for an hour in the morning and changed dressings for an hour in the afternoon, with the time in between running around the hospital delivering papers with no OR time. I also understand that it's rare for a rotation to be set-up perfectly for student learning. I just feel that it is reasonable for me to be spending most of my time being a student and learning about the aspects of how to be a doctor rather than completing menial tasks, especially since we are paying so much in tuition to be here.

Lately, I've been insisting on spending more time in the OR on cases that are not specifically on our service and normally check back with the residents later in the day to see if they need help with anything after I had seen a case. I do want to be useful and try to lighten their workload, but my primary objective is to learn about medicine.

Have you found it difficult to balance scut work with your learning time?

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Medical school and residency can be a stressful, demanding time. These medical students share their insights and experiences, good and bad, in order to create a community of support and understanding for medical students everywhere.

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