When Medical Students Shouldn’t Become Doctors

Ochsner Journal spring issue Featured Contributor Dr. Jennifer Schafer tackles head on the problem of dealing with medical students who are not cut out to be doctors.

These are the students “who—having expired all of the usual resources in terms of academic and pastoral care, teaching, feedback, and remediation—are finally recognized as lacking inherent suitability for medical practice,” Dr. Schafer writes.

Her editorial “Futile Education: When Graduation Is Not the Best Option” discusses the limitations of the student selection process, the constraints of law, the difficulties of developing an objective process for measuring professional behavior and teamwork, and the lack of insight among many of the students who should not be in medical school.

Her suggestion is to use a palliative care approach in conversations with these students about transitioning into an alternative career path:

“We know that for people approaching the end of life, there comes a time when further active intervention is not in the best interest of the persons or their families. Unnecessary and futile interventions fuel false expectations, prolong suffering, and generate inappropriate expenses without any hope of changing an inevitable outcome. Best interests are often better served by transition to palliative care, which promotes acceptance, provides symptomatic care to minimize pain and suffering, and enhances dignity.

“Similar words could be used to describe futile education.”

This editorial is a must-read.