Know Your Medical Student: A Guide to Tell Them Apart

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Medical students: they come in all shapes and sizes.  But they typically fall into one of a few categories.  Use this guide to help you know one when you see one.

medical students
“… And, students, that’s how you fill out the all important Press Ganey survey. Questions?”

The Prairie Dog – This medical student is quiet and unassuming but fails to miss a beat when it comes to resident activity.  If the resident jokes, they laugh, if the resident thinks too loudly, the prairie dog hears.  The name comes from the quick elevation of the head and room scanning when the Prairie Dog senses resident activity nearby.  The condition is fulminant when the medical student is on their sub-internship.


The Familiar – This medical student is too comfortable around a group of people he or she just met.  They will roast residents when they get stumped on rounds or flub in the OR with the thought that they are one of the gang.  They poop in the call room bathroom.  They never commit a mortal sin but just rub everyone the wrong way.

The Houdini – Master escape artists, these medical students always have a lecture or lab, mandatory meeting, lunch conference, doctor’s appointment, or grandma’s funeral to which they must escape the hospital.  The song of their people is, “Sooooo it looks like not much is going on, anything I can help with?”

The Fluffer – These folks are very eager to join the ranks of your specialty and want to set a good impression.  They go on coffee runs, offer to tie shoes, take a bullet, and eat dirt with a well-rehearsed smile.  You try to hate them but the coffee, bagel, and accolades of your genius have softened your edges towards them.

The Interrogator – Someone told these folks that asking questions shows interest and they have ridden that pony hard.  With pen and paper in hand, they start off with legitimate questions but quickly run out of material and spiral into a slog of questions like, “What type of blade was the first scalpel?”

The Existentialist – Every rotation redefines their purpose on this planet.  At first, you feel a little inspired and recharged hearing someone shout the praises of your field from the roof tops.  That is, until you talk to your buddy from another specialty and hear how they found God on dermatology last week.

The Keeper – This is a good medical student.  Discussions at evaluation time resound with the highest honors of “Didn’t drive me nuts” or “They knew a decent amount.”  These students navigate the thin line of showing interest without being overbearing with elegance.  You want them to join your group, but they will match at their number one choice elsewhere.

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