The Difference Between Medical Students and Residents


Can you tell apart medical students and residents?

A 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. 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.

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