How to Handle Being Paired with a Lazy Medical Student on Rotation

Being paired with a lazy medical student on a rotation can be a frustrating situation, especially if you are on a sub-internship in the field you desire to go into. No matter how bad he or she is, do not let it get to you. While it is upsetting and may create more work for you, focus on yourself and what you can do to best serve your patients and contribute to your team.

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Try your best to work together with the other medical student to accomplish your assigned tasks (pre-rounding, making the list, calling consults, etc.). At the end of the day, you can’t control the drive or helpfulness of your colleagues.  Use it as an opportunity to take on more responsibility.  The worst thing you can do is complain or express your frustrations about your co-medical student. Residents and attendings will easily pick up on students just sliding by with minimal effort versus students actively engaging with each patient encounter and diagnostic problem. 

We all understand that on a clerkship rotation you put your personal performance and education before the student sitting next to you. That being said, not only will working together make you look better, but you have the fringe benefit of potentially helping another student improve and become a better doctor. View this as an exercise for what is to come in the future. There will be countless times in your career where you must work with someone who is either lazy or that you just do not get along with. You will have to persevere in those situations and set personal feelings aside to do what is right for the patient and your team.

I have worked with lazy or disinterested medical students both as a medical student on clerkships and have had some on my service as an intern. Regardless of situation or specialty, the best group of medical students work together. Any bickering or whining amongst the students is an automatic red flag. It does not matter if it is provoked or warranted. As the more polished medical student, you have to work through difficult situations or unfair work balance with a smile. Your attitude is important.

The way you handle working with that student will be noted by the attendings and residents alike. Lift them up with you and you will both shine brighter and be better doctors in the end.

How have you handled working with difficult co-rotators on your clerkships? Let us know in the comments below.

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