Med School Hell – Medicine Is Simply Repetition

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

May 13, 2007
By: Hoover


If you’ve been in medical school for any length of time, you’ve most likely seen those docs who think they’re Gods gift to Humanity. They flaunt the fact they have have two letters after their name and even go as far as to beat down other specialties of medicine. After all, their specialty is supreme. It is those physicians that I’m calling out: Medicine is simply repetition.

Medicine Is Simply Repetition

Do something enough, and it becomes part of you. For example, before starting medical school I had no idea what a normal white blood cell count was. After just a month of internal medicine and seeing WBCs every day, I quickly picked it up. No, I didn’t go home and commit to memory the normal value. Rather, it came to me just from working with WBCs every day.

The same can be said for just about anything in medicine. Do a procedure enough times, and you know it cold. Work up a diagnosis enough times, and you’ve got it down. With that being said, there’s really nothing magical or special about medicine. Well, nothing more than being able to memorize and regurgitate large amounts of information during medical school to make it to residency training where you eventually repeat things enough that they become second nature.

Medicine Is Simply Repetition

Medicine is algorithmic. Each major clinical diagnosis or surgical procedure follows some type of pattern. Here, let’s take a look at an example:

Evaluation of Palpable Breast MassesEvaluation of Palpable Breast Masses

Let’s say you’re on a family medicine rotation. Your attending physician might find it enlightening to pimp you on the diagnostic evaluation of palpable breast masses one day. So, as the studious student you go home and commit the above algorithm to memory. The next day, the attending pimps you on the evaluation of palpable breast masses, you answer the question correctly, and then move onto your psychiatry rotation next month.

The attending no doubt has the above algorithm memorized in some form or another. It might not look identical if you had him or her draw it out on paper, but it gets the job done. What the attending most likely didn’t do, however, is go home like you did and memorize the algorithm straight up. Instead, he knows it because he’s been evaluating palpable breast masses in patients for years.

You, on the other hand, who has just begun your psychiatry rotation might not see another palpable breast mass. Ever. After a week or two, you’ve completely forgotten about the evaluation of palpable breast masses and if asked about it in the future will know just a fraction more about the evaluation of said breast masses than a high school dropout on the street.

Medicine Is Simply Repetition

So you see, there’s really nothing magical and special about medicine. Sure, physicians are smart people. However, the those that go into medicine to begin with have the personality type that allows them to succeed in such a competitive and repetitive environment. This takes precedence over intellectual capability.

The next time that an attending pimps you on something, remember that he’s been doing this for years and it’s second nature for him to know the material simply due to the fact that he has repeated it much more than you have for your level of training. Some may argue that pimping then helps to reinforce the material, but I disagree. You will have ample time to repeat the material during training, so pimping is technically not necessary in order to learn the material.

If you don’t believe that the above statement is true, then think about this: Residency training programs have minimum requirements set in place for all residents. You must do procedure X Y number of times in order to complete requirements. This is where repetition comes into play, and not through pimping.

You’ll eventually learn whatever it is you need to learn through repetition. In fact, you could probably completely skip the first two years of medical school and head straight to the wards and start repeating stuff over and over. Give it 10 years and I bet you’d make a decent physician.

After all, it’s simply repetition. Oh, and it was the way it was done in the old days, too.

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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