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UW begins allowing medical students to learn on the job earlier. Better for students, but better for patients?

Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2016 by Tyler Goldberg-Hoss

Recently the Seattle Times ran an article on UW Medical School’s recent shift away from intense classroom learning for its first and second year medical school students, and towards more hands on training.

The article describes two weeks of intense training to start the school year, following which the students will wear white doctor coats and spend a day a week in hospitals and clinics. One student described how he began learning to take a medical history on the second day of class, and on the third day they practiced on real patients at Harborview Medical Center.

As a product of a higher education system still rooted in traditional lecture-based learning, I am a big fan of “learning by doing.” However, with this new program brings significant responsibility – namely for the physicians supervising these students.

It is common knowledge in our firm not to get medical care from UW, Harborview, or other hospitals that train doctors on July 1. That is traditionally the day when the third year medical students began their residency, working as doctors treating real patients. Unfortunate medical errors occur with more frequency when the doctors involved have less experience, which was the case every early July.

Now it appears the model has changed, allowing greater hands on learning earlier. While such training will likely make the same third year students better able to handle the rigors of the work on July 1 of their first year, now there will be students with even less training and experience treating real patients.

In such a scenario, it is my hope that there is a rigorous supervision program that allows the students to learn while at the same time protecting patients from medical errors and serious harm. This includes devoting enough resources (read simply: money to pay for supervising doctors) to ensure that patients are treated safely in this system.

You can read the full article here:

UW medical students now learn hands-on patient care from Day 1

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