The life of a medical student in Iceland. “As K., a 25-year-old female medical student who I met in a small rural clinic, explained: ‘Icelandic students are trained to be very independent, sometimes aggressively so. Coming to the country gives you an opportunity to work on your own . . . to see what you can do when you’re put in the situation.’ ‘Here,’ she said, ‘you learn by doing.’

When I met K., she was acting as the sole physician in a small fishing town about 200 km north of Reykjavik. As a fifth-year medical student, she applied for this summer position to gain experience and confidence in her clinical practice. At the clinic in which she worked, she was supported by a staff, including an experienced nurse and a midwife, who helped guide her in her daily practice. This situation was far superior to that of her boyfriend, who was placed in an extremely remote area on the other side of the island, alone, to act as the sole care provider of that region. Still, K., a petite blond woman, who looked younger than her age, held the enormous responsibility of caring for the 1100 residents of her town. She took her own x-rays, drew her own blood, and interpreted the results of the basic tests that she performed in the small laboratory in the clinic. She casted limbs, sutured wounds, and stabilized patients in emergencies before they were sent to larger hospitals for evaluation and treatment.”

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  • Samson Isberg

    Iceland has 700 doctors and 700 members of the Icelandic bar assiciation. That’s not bad odds at all. Explains why a doctor can work like that. Enough to make anybody jealous.

  • Anonymous

    My google search showed 850 physicians (700 in practice and 150 in residency training). For
    lawyers, there were 620 listed as qualified in 2003. I guess the bottomfeeders and bottomdwellers freeze in the ocean depths by Iceland.

  • gasman

    I trained at the tail end of medical students in the US having some real hands on responsibility for patients. In modern US hospitals in the US in the ’80s I drew blood, ran some of the equipment in the lab, obtained the EKG, took the patient to radiology (rules kept our fingers off of the shutter most of the time), sutured lacs unsupervised, closed in the OR after the resident scrubed out to dictate.

    The experience Icelandic students get today would have me severely taxed even with more than a decade’s experience. But I’m certain they are outstanding clinicians as a result of their practice.

    All physicians should be better practiced in actual hands on basic medical care.