How to pimp, or, mastering the art of Socratic questioning


Nothing makes a new medical student more nervous than answering a series of medical questions from their attending, known as pimping.

There is a definite art to the tactic. Ask too many questions based in triviality, it can be interpreted as intimidating. However, used correctly, it can be a valuable learning tool.

Over at orthopedic blog Them Bones, we have a detailed history of medical pimping (via Life in the Fast Lane). There are some interesting observations, including that, “Many times pimping is used as a way for an attending to show his/her knowledge. Knowledge is power. Pimping sets the hierarchy.”

Various pimping techniques are given, along with how to defend them. But in the end, pimping is a game, with the attending “controlling the many of the parameters of play,” and, “with time, a learner will develop both a knowledge base and thought process.”

Attendings shouldn’t lose sight of the overall goal of the exercise, which is to educate students.

Internist Rob Centor, a master pimper with 30 years of ward experience, gives his thoughts on the subject and explains the mindset behind the questions he asks.