Injection of Humanity

By Debra Wood, RN
Elective rotation allows medical students to observe nurses

Tired of feeling like your physician coworkers just don’t understand you?  Some physicians are sick of it, too.

Sujay Pathak, a third-year Johns Hopkins University medical student, sometimes fears that physicians and nurses “lose sight of our sense of shared mission in healthcare. Everybody cares, but we often get entrenched in our respective silos and miss the bigger picture.”

Determined to enhance interdisciplinary collaboration and collegiality, Pathak developed an elective hospital rotation during which fellow medical students shadowed other members of the healthcare team.

“One of the more powerful things participants saw was that there are dimensions to patient care that doctors do not have the time or, sometimes, the inclination to approach,” Pathak says. “From the nursing perspective, living a whole day with a patient is different than coming in for five minutes during morning rounds and then dealing mostly with their chart.”

The program, which took place in April, allowed the four medical students to walk in the shoes of the nurses, social workers, therapists, and other members of the healthcare team and witness the challenges they face. Pathak collected pre- and post-rotation data about medical students’ attitudes toward each discipline.

“There was a big perception shift,” Pathak says. “There’s an injection of humanity into the situation, so you understand what the people who carry out physician orders go through, and what they see that we don’t, and how that perspective is valuable.”

The rotation offered a more complete understanding of the function of the parts that make up the mechanism of hospital care. Pathak plans to offer the rotation twice annually and hopes to secure support for it becoming a permanent part of the curriculum.

“Most of the students who come to Hopkins are interested in being change-makers,” Pathak said. “My motivation was to create a rotation that would broaden the perspectives of our students and by extension the community of physicians at large.”

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