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Tip Tuesday: How to be helpful

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hospitalist Jeffrey Winer (pictured here!) writes: 

One of the things I wish I had known as a medical student which I now try to impart to my own students is how best to be helpful to a medical team. I have found over time that one rule can govern this effectiveness: NEVER ASK AN INTERN IF YOU CAN BE HELPFUL.

Bear with me, I know this is the core of a medical student's repertoire. I am sure that most MS3s in their first month have had the experience of asking this question and having the intern busy with hundreds of tasks, respond that no, there isn't anything that he or she needs help with. That intern was too busy to stop and figure out what to tell you to help do.

The better thing to ask an intern is "I NOTICED X NEEDS TO HAPPEN. IS IT OK IF I DO IT?" Here, the answer will almost always be yes. The intern will appreciate it, and the intern will have more time to teach you later!

The exception to the rule, and repeat this to yourself, is the following: "IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I CAN DO TO BE HELPFUL TODAY?" This question is reserved for times after 4:30PM when the intern is busy and is forgetting to send you home. It's not that they want to keep you in the hospital, necessarily. It's usually that in their busy day they have forgotten to look out for getting you home. Asking "IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I CAN DO TO BE HELPFUL TODAY" has two possible answers: 1) Yes, can you help me with X, or 2) No, you should go home.

Try these out, I think you'll like them!

ABOUT OUR GUEST POST CONTRIBUTOR: Jeffrey Winer, MD, was a faculty pediatric hospitalist here at Children’s National Health System. Dr. Winer is a graduate of Yale School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital pediatric residency. All he wishes for in his career is his own eponym. Preferably some test or treatment, but he would definitely settle for Winer’s disease.


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