The Difference Between Medical Students & Residents

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Can you tell apart a medical student and a resident?

metamorphosisA medical student is often mistaken for a small, furry animal due to their undeniable cuteness.  They are cute and shy because they are tremendously clueless and forgivable.  Unlike small, furry animals, they do not have tails.  A medical student is motivated by the quest for knowledge and a hope for a better tomorrow.  A resident is always angry and bitter.  A resident isn’t clueless, just indifferent and jaded.  There is no hope for anyone.  The world is an oyster: a poisonous, ugly, diseased oyster.  A resident is motivated only by coffee and sleep.


A medical student loves to ask and be asked questions: why? where? what? when? how?  A resident asks only two questions: (1) can the patient go home? and (2) can I go home?  A medical student knows anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology, pathophysiology, and pharmacology, but knows nothing about clinical medicine.  A resident knows clinical medicine and is only too happy to have forgotten everything else.

A medical student is healthy appearing, but carries a lot of weight in his or her white coat: journal articles, index cards, a review book, medical tuning forks, reflex hammers, ophthalmoscope, microscope, colonoscope, and calipers.  A resident is chronically-ill appearing.  A resident’s white coat carries the bare minimum of a stethoscope and patient list but he or she will have a bigger belly and larger love handles compared to four years ago in medical school.

A medical student can spend eight hours with a patient and feel like he or she was rushed.  A medical student will never know the diagnosis, but will definitely give you a family history involving no fewer than fifty family members.  A sexual history is deferred.  A resident hears everything that he or she wants to hear within two minutes of entering a patient’s room and starts fidgeting after five.  “Hurry up!” is all a resident thinks.  “Slow down!” is what a medical student thinks.

A medical student struggles with an oral presentation despite having everything written down on several disorganized sheets of paper.  A resident cuts to the chase in five words or less.  A medical student has all the time in the world, but a resident lives or dies by his or her efficiency or lack thereof.  A medical student’s note is a neverending thesis; a resident’s note is shorthand haiku.

A medical student occasionally gets flustered and forgets to examine the patient.  But when a medical student performs the physical exam, it is either significant for a murmur that doesn’t exist or negative for a murmur that does exist.  A resident’s physical exam is always unremarkable even when it is completely remarkable.

A medical student is always awkward.  A resident is always “over it.”

A medical student goes home to reflect upon that great case or incredible pearl of wisdom.  A medical student studies and studies, looking for ways to improve and impress their residents and attendings the next day.  A medical student strives to be great.

A resident heads straight to the closest alcoholic beverage before passing out in bed without changing scrubs.  A resident is a blubbering, tired mess and proud of it.  A resident is always on the tireless pursuit for rest and relaxation.  A resident strives to survive.

A medical student wishes to be like his or her residents: “I sure wish I can be as smart and efficient one day.”  A medical student has big dreams.  A resident struggles with self-doubt and wonders why he or she went to medical school: “Why oh why, what on earth did I get myself into?!”  A resident is sleep-deprived.  A resident no longer dreams; he or she daydreams.

A medical student often can’t sleep because he or she is nervous, perhaps over something quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  As for a resident, he or she can fall asleep anywhere at any time.  A resident always has a great story about falling asleep at a ridiculous moment or in an absurd place.  Narcolepsy is a resident’s greatest strength.

Now, do you know the difference between…
a medical student and a deer in headlights?
a medicine service and a garbage dump?
arthropods & orthopods?
RICE & rice?
white clouds & black clouds?

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