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Student Editorials

Closing the gap between professional teaching and practice

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/sbmj.0105130 (Published 01 May 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:0105130
  1. Len Doyal, professor of medical ethics1
  1. 1Department of Human Science and Medical Ethics, St Bartholomew's and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, London E1 2AD

A policy can help protect students from being asked to behave unethically

Learning to be a doctor can be uniquely rewarding. Unlike other undergraduate study, clinical medicine has a practical edge such that students can directly experience the relevance of their academic work through their educational contact with patients. They also have the privilege of experiencing the range of human intellect, emotion, achievement, and failure embodied in the patients from whom they will learn. Finally, their positive interactions with patients reinforce the altruism that brought many of them into medicine. At its best, medical education can make students feel good about themselves and what they are learning, as well as preparing them for good professional practice. But if a gap exists between their clinical teaching and what they know and feel to be morally right the effects can be disastrous.1

Once their clinical training begins medical students are subject to high levels of stress, and some do not respond well. This is hardly surprising: their youth and immaturity leave them emotionally unprepared for experiences of illness, suffering, and death. The emotional price of clinical training can be enormous, and this price can be raised still further by the professional values of their educators. Too much focus on confidence in decision making, for example, may make it difficult to respond constructively to students' distress or even to recognise it before it poses a serious psycho. logical and educational threat.

Policy on the rights of patients in medical education

Particular care must be taken to obtain the consent of patients for participation in educational …

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