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Addressing medical students as 'student doctors' may help quell patient fears

Letter: Switch to title of student or trainee doctor may be helpful BMJ Volume 327, pp 1107-10

BMJ

Simple semantics may help quell patient's fears about taking part in medical education, according to a letter to this week's BMJ.

Surprisingly, patients tend to accept a trainee's presence in a consultation if they are addressed as student doctor or trainee doctor, as opposed to medical student, writes Dr Hany George El-Sayeh. This may be because of fears about being seen by a scruffy, disinterested youth who may well later report their intimacies in the bar.

He also recommends introducing a "donor card" system in education, whereby patients attending clinics are warned in advance of a trainee's potential presence, and the onus is put on them to opt out of the process. Currently patients are usually asked (rather embarrassingly) in clinics if they mind a trainee being present.

Trainees themselves could counter stereotypes by making a greater effort to appear interested, smart, and punctual - all in line with their new "student doctor" status, he concludes.

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