Defining Medical Student Patient Care Responsibilities Before Intern Year: Results of a National Survey

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Program directors have noted that first-year residents struggle with many of the patient care responsibilities they assume as they enter the US graduate medical education system. A national description of medical students’ patient care experience in advance of graduation has not been published. We sought to describe the experience of US medical students during their clinical training by surveying the student representatives of each school.


We developed a mixed-methods survey that was delivered to representatives of 82 schools via an e-mail link to an online survey.


Our response rate was 54% (44/82). Of those responding, 28% reported that students do not write any patient care orders at their institution and 34% reported not receiving pages related to patient care. Only 26% of institutions provide an increased patient load to students during their final year of training. Students identified many areas to improve the role of fourth-year medical students, including writing patient care orders, answering pages, increasing autonomy, defining their role better, and providing them with a longer subinternship experience.


Our survey suggests that students are graduating from the undergraduate medical education system and moving to the graduate medical education system in the United States without a guarantee of having answered a page related to patient care or having placed a patient care order. Further studies of students’ experiences should be conducted to explore whether exposure to these skills improves first-year resident performance.

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