Med School Hell – Gunners

This post is raw and holds nothing back. If you’re uncomfortable with vulgar language, please turn back.

March 20, 2006
By: Hoover


Before starting my first year, I had heard stories about gunners. I was told that a gunner was someone who hid study materials from his fellow classmates, wouldn’t help his colleagues out with an academic-related problem, or sat in the front row and answered all of the questions in class. After 3.75 years of being around gunners, I can tell you that the initial bit of information that I was provided with was somewhat incomplete. Here’s your complete crash course in gunnerism — be sure to print it out so you can study it on rounds:

  1. Guns-Blazin’ – This is your no-frills steel-balled gunner. The ones that practically wear a t-shirt that states “I’m A Gunner, So Fuck Off.” You can spot these usually from just the way they look — I don’t know what it is, but I’ll be damned if they don’t have a permanent facial expression that just screams intensity. Coming in on their day off to check up on patients and answering questions about your patients on rounds is typical behaviour. They’ll probably bring in multiple journal articles for added attending flare before, during or after rounds. If you get one of these on your rotation, the best thing to do is just let them do your work. In most cases, you’ll still get a decent grade on the rotation and they’ll be lucky if their grade is any higher than yours (depending on shelf exam weight). They’ll most likely come back to you after the rotation has ended and inquire about your subjective evaluation. Rub it in that you did as well as they did with 40% more sleep.
  1. The Closet Gunner – The closet gunner is the one that tells you he never studies but manages to hold a 4.0 throughout his entire medical school career. Around other classmates they try and play down their intense study regimen, but let an attending pose a “difficult but interesting” question to the group and these guys break. You’ll often be greeted on Monday morning with tales of beer and whores down at the local pub. The truth is that they were really at home with their nose crammed into First-Aid for the USMLE Step 1 memorizing random facts for the entire weekend.
  1. Gunner Wannabe – Perhaps the most misunderstood species in the gunner family, this type walks, talks and acts like a gunner but has a hard time living up to the role. The opposite of the closet gunner, the wannabe gunner wants you to think that he spends enormous amounts of time studying outside of the hospital when usually that time is spent fucking off. They will occasionally bring in a journal article or two to try and strengthen their argument. The motive behind being a wannabe is purely an attempt to fortify relationships with attendings and residents. However, these people do not put in the actual work to make Guns-Blazin’ status and will eventually migrate down the chain and fall into the final category.
  1. The Stupid Gunner – Criteria for entry here include anybody from the above categories who just can’t cut the gunner lifestyle. These people will typically try and excel at non-academic tasks to make up for their lack of questions answered correctly on rounds. Examples include always being first to volunteer for dressing changes, staple removals or prostate exams. If the resident needs “one student” to help him with a task, more often than not the Stupid Gunner will be the first to volunteer. Note, however, that categorization here can become difficult: Those who live at Guns-Blazin’ status can and often will volunteer for these tasks as well. It is the shelf exam score which differentiates the stupid gunner from the elite Guns-Blazin’ types. The Gunner Wannabes will eventually fall into this category typically after the first two to three rotations.

There you have it, based on my experiences throughout medical school. Be sure to check out this commentary on NPR from medical student Joe Wright, who offers an ivy-league view on gunners.

Are you convinced to leave medicine? If so, you may feel like you are alone. You may feel clueless about what to do next. However, quitting medicine could turn out better than you have ever thought possible. And here is why you should get out …

This article is part of Hoover’s Med School Hell series. Med School Hell reveals the crazy truth about the crappiness of the US medical education and healthcare system … while making you laugh so hard, you’ll crap in your pants.

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