The importance of training for medical students

Professor Dr Shah Yasin shares how medical students are prepared for the realities doctors face.

Training medical students

The challenges faced by medical students and doctors, upon graduation, is one that is well documented.

Professor Dr Shah Yasin, Head of School for the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences (JCSMHS) at Monash Malaysia shares how medical students are prepared for the realities doctors face.

Private Hospital Involvement in Medical Students Education

Medical students at JCSMHS have been engaging with patients in private hospitals over the last few years.

“We have a number of private hospitals which actively take our students. These include Sunway Medical Centre (which hosts the largest number of our students) and Tropicana Medical Centre in PJ and the Darul Ehsan Medical Centre in Shah Alam,” shared Professor Shah.

In private hospitals students can tap into the knowledge and experience of highly experienced specialists many of whom have previous experience in teaching in medical schools both locally and overseas.

In comparison to public hospitals where students see a large number of patients, in private hospitals, they may see fewer patients. However, this is compensated as they get to spend more time with each patient, which allows them to more thoroughly evaluate patients’ problems.

Both consultants and patients have found students helpful in helping patients navigate the complexity of the hospital. Students get involved in patient education and act as information bridges, when patients are reluctant to ask specialists questions.

“Initially when we approached private hospitals for student training, hospital administrators were sceptical medical students may not be well received by patients. They felt that patients in private hospitals would want privacy and would not welcome students,” Prof Shah explained.

In reality, this has been quite different. Very few patients have refused to let students get involved in their care, especially when they are introduced by the consultants.  In a survey conducted in Sunway Medical Centre where senior students were posted in the medical and surgical wards, no patients refused to be seen by students.

“The initial scepticism among hospital CEOs and senior administrators has now become much more encouraging and enthusiastic. We now have more private hospitals wanting to be engage in student training,” shared Prof Shah.

Pre-intern Posting

The year 5 program at JCSMHS at Monash University is essentially a pre-intern (ie, pre-housemanship) year and consists of six blocks, each lasting six weeks. In each posting one or two students are attached to a consultant.

Students do these six pre-intern postings in different places, with two compulsory postings in Australia and four locally, of which one is in the rural hospital in Segamat, Johor and another is in a private hospital. Students act and behave as interns with a strong emphasis on professionalism and ethical behaviour. They are involved in all the work of an intern under the close supervision of the consultant.

These pre-intern postings gives them a taste of what it is like working as a houseman and it exposes the students to various environments including the Australian healthcare system, a rural hospital, a private hospital and a large public hospital, such as the Sultanah Aminah Hospital.

In addition they also complete a Patient Safety Module, which is an important part of the curriculum which deals with ensuring the safety aspects of patients in a complex system like a modern multispecialty hospital. An especially important aspect is learning about the correct way of transporting critically ill patients.

With the rising life expectancy in Malaysia and an aging population, there is now an increasing need for geriatricians. In one blocks of the program, conducted in Australia, students undertake an Aged Care posting.

There is also an emphasis on Indigenous Care that focuses on the health of the indigenous people and marginalised population who have unique health issues and frequently worse health outcomes compared to the general population. In Malaysia, students will also look into health issues of the Orang Asli, both in the hospital and through Orang Asli community visits during their pre-internship program.

Professor Shah explained that rural hospital postings in Segamat has the advantage of students acquiring a broad range of skills and experience as the number of specialists are fewer in number.

Through their holistic approach to education, Monash has produced well-rounded medical graduates who have benefitted from learning in a wide range of health systems including public and private, urban and rural, Malaysian and Australian healthcare centres.

For more information of the medical program at the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Monash Malaysia, please visit www.med.monash.edu.my.