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Thursday, Jun 8, 2023
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Mercer Patienthood Internship Program offers medical students a unique experience from the patient’s viewpoint

While the idea for the program arose in fall of 2015, the Patienthood Internship Program was not founded until last year, and the program currently has 15 undergraduate pre-medical, pre-physician assistant and pre-nursing students enrolled.

The program is meant to give undergraduate pre-medical students a look into the medical world both through their work in the classroom and through their experiences serving as practice patients for the medical students who are practicing for their different exams.

Carol Bokros, the Assistant Director of Pre-Professional Programs at Mercer, started the program due to interest from undergraduate Mercer students.

“Over the years, Mrs. O’Neal, who’s the assistant director of the Clinical Development & Assessment Center (CDAC), has called me off and on asking for undergraduates who might participate in these practice sessions,” Bokros said. “I have a lot of students interested in doing it, but it’s really hard to schedules times when they could come over and be patients for the full afternoon.”

The solution to this problem, Bokros said, was to create the Patienthood Internship Program. This was created as a one-hour class with internship credit that students could take that had set times when they would participate in the practice exams as patients for the medical students.

“When we first started talking about this project in fall of 2015, I threw an email out to my professional group, the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions, to see if anybody was doing anything similar,” Bokros said.

She said that nobody replied to her email, but she later talked to other advisors for different schools and said that she found no other schools were doing a program like this.

Before the students partake in the practice exams each week, they are trained by Mike Hinshaw, the Standardized Patient Trainer at Mercer University’s School of Medicine.

He tells the students what to expect from each session and then teaches them the types of techniques and procedures the medical students will be using so that they can learn about it themselves.

“To me this is one of the most important things that the first and second year students will do,” Hinshaw said. “All the academic requirements are a must, but this is where they learn to communicate with the patients. They learn to listen. They learn to be empathetic. They learn technique and procedures so they can get good diagnostic results. But the communication skills is the big thing.”

Bokros said she wanted the students in the program to learn these things through the practice exams with the medical students. Empathy was a subject she said was the main lesson she wanted the students to get out of the program.

“One of the things that last year’s interns told me is how eye-opening it was to talk to the medical students and see how nervous they were as they gave their first physical exams,” Bokros said.

One of the current students in the program, Dru Ford, said that it was eye-opening to discover that he was learning a lot during this program just like they still are in medical school.

“[The medical students are] not these superhuman beings that just know everything their first day here,” he said.

Bharath Sharma, who was a part of the program last year, said the program gave him great insight into what it is like during a physical examination from the patient’s point of view.

He said that patients may often feel nervous in a doctor’s office and be unsatisfied with the experience and that this program helped him understand both sides of different medical procedures.

“It’s been really interesting to figure out the different minute aspects to certain physical exams that we’ve talked about so far, such as the pulmonary exam that we [took part in] today,” said Kelsey Duffey, a junior pre-pediatric Mercer student taking part in the patienthood internship program. “It was just really fascinating to actually begin to learn some of those medical terminologies and physical exam skills before even being in a medical school of any kind.”


Editor's note: as of 11/2, this article was edited to reflect the correct spelling of Dru Ford's name.


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