Medical students need more interdisciplinary training

The past three and a half years have flown by, and somehow, I’m completely done with clinical rotations! I just finished up on the pediatric infectious disease service, and this rotation was unlike my others in one key way: I was joined on the service by students who are training to be nurse practitioners and pharmacists.

Training alongside other students isn’t itself new, but on every other rotation, they’ve always been other medical students, rarely trainees from other disciplines. This new experience was invaluable to me. Each of us brought a different perspective to patient discussions, and listening to the other students take histories, I found that they astutely inquired about details that I hadn’t even thought about.

For instance, our service consulted on various children thought to have a central line infection. I went to see one of these patients, along with our nurse practitioner trainee, who had also been working as a nurse for several years. We conducted the interview together. I asked about when the line was used, sick contacts, any other symptoms and so on — the traditional history-taking approach. When my co-trainee jumped in, she inquired about the ins and outs of caring for the line, how it was accessed (not just when it was accessed), how often it was changed and how they used the equipment. She examined the line site in much more detail than I would have thought to do and gently replaced the dressing with more skill that I would have ever mustered.

These experiences made me think about the value of integrating interdisciplinary learning into medical training paths. The hospital is inherently a very hierarchical space, with more acronyms for roles than I can even begin to understand: MAs, NPs, RNs, PAs. It’s hard to know what each person’s role is, what one person has trained to do that another might not be able to. Spending these past few weeks alongside NP and pharmacy trainees, I gained insight into their unique skill sets and learned so much from watching their patient interactions.

Many medical schools have been moving toward changing their curricula in the past few years. Perhaps interdisciplinary clerkship training — involving all levels of medical trainees — would be a worthwhile consideration for the next innovative clerkship curriculum.

Hamsika Chandrasekar is a medical student who blogs at Scope.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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