This post is raw and holds nothing back. If you’re uncomfortable with vulgar language, please turn back.
March 11, 2007
“Pimping” is derogatory slang used in medical education to describe an ersatz version of the Socratic teaching method. Most of you pre-meds have experienced this from time to time, perhaps not to the same degree though.
What is it, really? There are varying definitions proffered, but I consider it to be any type of on-the-spot quizzing. Many times it’s in front of lots of people. This allows for maximum pressure, maximum embarrassment, and maximum dignity lost. Pimping can occur anywhere, and the subject can be anything. Sometimes the questions are unfairly difficult and often it’s done in a way to create anxiety. I’d say 90% of the time it’s somewhat related to pertinent medical subjects, but attendings can pull a lot of nasty crap from their asses.
I liken it to a pop-quiz oral exam in which you have no idea for sure what the subject will be. In other words, there’s no way to prepare: you just have to deal with it on the spot.
Medical students obviously have varying opinions on it. Myself, I hate it. Most med students generally tolerate it and try to learn from it. There are a select few gunner dickwads who just love it. These are the type that are most likely to pimp YOU as a student while they’re still students.
Hoover links to an article about the history of pimping. Goes back to Dr. Osler himself. Turns out the honorable “father of modern medicine” might have also been a bastard who loved to pimp his students.
Okay, so what’s the point here? I question this as a learning method, especially during medical school. Many people say it works, because if you look stupid or feel anxious, you’ll remember the answer…blah blah blah. Hmm, horseshit? Perhaps there’s no better alternative for overworked residents and attendings than to informally quiz you in hopes that you will glean a few tidbits of knowledge. But while I’m not necessarily a touchy-feely person, I don’t know if the proper learning environment is created when students are anxious all the time. It’s adversarial and it’s just plain annoying. Save the oral exams for the end of the damn rotation (or abolish them for all I care). Teach me. Give me pertinent, important information for each patient we cover (assuming I give a rat’s ass). Good grief.
Another thing that kinda ticks me off: sometimes I’ve heard fellow students say something like “Dr. Bob Pimpcrazy loves to teach.” Teach as in “help me learn”? Or teach as in “try to make me (intentionally or not) look like a dolt”? I’ve encountered both types of attendings who “love to teach.”
Now, some might say that you shouldn’t worry about it and it only affects you and your ego as much as you want it to. That’s probably a valid argument. However, I don’t really care. I honestly just think there are much better ways to create a more ideal learning environment and convey important information.
Many attendings probably do it because it was done to them. It’s kinda “just the way things are done” in medical training. Lots of bullshit there, similar to anti work hour restriction arguments. Misery loves company. And any crap about “it toughens you up” is nonsense as well. Getting raped with a medium-to-large stick every day for a few years would probably toughen you up. Doesn’t make it something that should be done.
In fairness to medical pimping, I think many professional schools (law school for one) utilize this method. So it’s not exactly unique to medical training, though we might have the worst variety of it.
If an attending must pimp, he should make it pertinent to the patient at hand and do it in a non-threatening way. Medical school is difficult enough, so why make it worse by being an asshole? If you’re a male and secretly worried about your dick size, or if you’re a female and you tend to go psycho when you PMS*, do us all a favor and see a psychiatrist.
Observe the golden rule, jerks.
*PMS = pimp medical students
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.