Sunday, September 23, 2007

Medical Student's Job

This morning, as I was completing the computer information system orientation for (insert hospital name here), I encountered a stern warning from the chief information officer regarding medical records. Yes, that's really him over there on the left - the web based tutorial was quite well done. He says:
Hospital policy is to respect and support the privacy rights of patients and their families. Only access a patient's chart when it is necessary to do your job.
This begs a question: What is a medical student's job?

You have to grant that this learning module was created for hospital employees, but the 100 medical students and our colleagues from the nursing, PA and pharmacy schools probably compose a sizable contingent of course takers each year. As I see it, our 'job' is to learn. Given that we only see a small number of patients, how do we draw the line between privacy and educational benefit? I am sure this will become clear to me as I am on the wards, so this question is more theoretical than indictment of the system.

For me, learning takes place in the midst of action; reading the chart and following a treatment course is one way of systematizing knowledge.

I imagine that I will only interact with the charts for patients for whom I am providing care. Perhaps there will be incidents when I am invited to participate in a chart review or a didactic involving another chart. That will be the practical resolution of this issue. But what of the theoretical?

What is the job of a medical student?


Ben said...

Don't kill anybody?

thomas said...

Yeah - I'd say that's as good as any. Hopefully there are enough checks in place to prevent this from occurring! The first check being that I know what I am doing in the fist place.