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Teaching residents to teach will improve medical education

Medical residents take on a variety of responsibilities. Some are clear, upfront, and obvious: the responsibilities they have been training for since entering medical school. Coming up with a treatment plan and carrying it out is first and foremost their raison d’etre, and they put an enormous amount of effort into it. However, they also acquire a host of other duties. They run interference for attendings. They coordinate with nursing. Hand-offs take a chunk of time at the beginning and end of every shift.

Teaching medical students is a job they have had limited, if any, training for. For many residents, it is also an everyday part of their lives.

In grad school, I taught labs on psychometrics. It was a requirement for funding, but it was also one of the most pleasant, rewarding aspects of my academic life. Teaching is always challenging: Finding the level the student is at, using language that works for them, and helping them make as much progress as they can in understanding difficult topics. Not coincidentally, teaching is also a key part of working with patients; patients are students of their own bodies. Healthcare providers need to be able to explain a patient’s medical situation clearly and at the patient’s level of comfort.

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