Learning From The Pros

Northwestern Medicine
For Students September 19, 2012

Northwestern Medicine medical studentsIn their first week of medical school, 166 students from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine got a taste of what happens behind the scenes at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Each student was matched with one of more than 130 employees representing 28 different areas of the hospital who participated in the first-ever shadowing event. The shadowing is part of a new set of programs at Feinberg to introduce the incoming class to the themes of professionalism and professional identity they will encounter throughout their medical education and careers as physicians.

The hospital employees gave students a glimpse of their daily routines, which ranged from finance and security to social work and patient escort. Whether in direct patient care or non-clinical roles, employees illustrated how their work impacts patients.

Patrick Briggs, director of Patient Representatives, took two students on a walkthrough of the Emergency Department, explaining patient flow, patient populations served and reoccurring challenges faced by staff. Among their responsibilities, patient representatives respond to questions and concerns about experiences at the hospital. Briggs advised the students to observe not as young physicians, but from the perspectives of the people coming to the ED. For example, he pointed out that the staff may understand patient flow and bed counts from an operations perspective, but how do you explain wait times to a patient in the ED.

“Putting the 'people' in patient interaction was a critical aspect of our discussion. As first years, our focus is mostly on the science of medicine; we learn mostly about how to heal patients, regardless of bedside manner,” said student Sanjay Saraf. “For me, the takeaway was being able to understand things from a patient's perspective, and to take the little details more seriously when managing patient care.”

Claudia Leung shadowed John Lawlor in Patient Escort, the department responsible for transporting patients to different areas of the hospital including to tests or procedures and to and from their rooms.

“I had the opportunity to view hospital operations in a whole new light. I learned that small things, such as a brief conversation while escorting the patient can make a big difference in their experience,” Leung said. “Just as the factors that contribute to disease are not only biological, but also social and environmental, the path to a patient's healing is affected by much more than procedures and medications. So, becoming a physician ought to involve not only devotion to medical knowledge, but also the constant practice of basic human compassion.”

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