The clerkship years of medical school expose students to a range of specialties medical practitioners may select as an area of advanced study during residency. Pediatrics, surgery, general medicine, radiology, psychiatry, and more are part of the array of educational exposures students gain from during these rotations. As an educator facilitating discussion groups which provide the opportunity for reflection, questioning, and connecting expectations to the actual experiences, I have found that there are gaps in understanding the roles of other personnel that are essential to the physician role, but not always well defined. As we strive to encourage future physicians to do their best to understand that the business of medicine takes a small village of practitioners in order to work best, we do too little to help them learn the perspective of these other providers. Lectures and readings may offer some insight, but the street-level day to day operations may be a bit of a mystery. I propose clerkship years include time spent working alongside professionals beyond physicians such as pharmacists, billing specialists, security guards, social workers, lab technicians, and visiting nurses. While learners may not be able to fully walk in the shoes of other essential staff members, but being alongside another who is willing to teach and share the tasks, the struggles and rewards of their position. Many med students will someday be in position to lead large groups of staff members in clinics, hospitals, and private offices. Recognizing the unique roles, strengths, and limitations of the non-physicians who contribute to the day to day operations of our vast healthcare industry will help build well rounded doctors who are prepared to be effective leaders.
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