Towards more empathic medical students: A medical student hospitalization experience

Michael S Wilkes, Etan Milgrom, Jerome R. Hoffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Objective: We designed a curricular exercise intended to expose healthy medical students, near the end of their basic science training, to the experience of hospitalization. We attempted to assess how a standardized hospitalization, for medical students just about to start their clinical rotations, was experienced by student participants. Design: A qualitative observational design was used, both to explore the perceptions of the hospitalized students and to generate hypotheses for further exploration. Setting: University and affiliated hospitals. Participants: Second-year medical students, towards the end of their basic science training. Outcome measures: Qualitative assessment of hospitalization experience. Results: Among key themes expressed by student participants were the following: they felt a profound loss of privacy; they found the nursing staff to be caring, attentive and professional, and repeatedly commented about how much time the nurses took to talk and listen to them and to take a complete history; in contrast they were particularly upset about the distance and coldness they felt from the medical staff; they expect this experience to affect their own future practice as physicians. When asked how this might change their attitudes in the future, students' comments generally reflected a primary concern with improving the human aspects of the patient experience. Conclusions: Student participants in a standardized inpatient hospitalization generally experienced strong feelings about issues of privacy, and about interactions with medical and nursing staff, which they expect to have an important impact on their own professional development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)528-533
Number of pages6
JournalMedical Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2002


  • Curriculum
  • Education medical undergraduate, methods
  • Hospitalization
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Professional competence
  • Students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Education
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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