Most students would agree that presenting a patient on rounds or to your attending is one of the scariest parts of being a third or fourth year medical student. Whether you are in a group or one-on-one, all eyes and attention are on you. There is the potential to do or say something incorrect, embarrassing, or perhaps you might not know the answer to a question that you are asked. Also, depending on the level of responsibility that you are given, what you say can have a large impact on the course of a patient’s visit. As if this was not enough, there is the fact that you are being evaluated. And in a busy environment like an emergency department (ED), this may be the only interaction that you have with your attending physician.
Being in the environment of the ED adds a few more factors into the equation. You may have been rushed and your history or physical may feel incomplete. Or as you are getting ready to present, your attending may say, “just give me the pertinent information; nothing else.” And last but not least, your patient may be really sick and in need of immediate help. If your patient is truly sick and needs immediate attention, it is important to get your attending (or resident) in the room before you even complete your history and physical. Not only is this the right thing to do for your patient, but also you will demonstrate your ability to recognize an unstable patient.
Now that we’ve established the importance of giving good presentations, I have compiled a list of 10 tips that will help you succeed. These tips come from an article titled “The 3-Minute Emergency Medicine Medical Student Presentation: A Variation on a Theme.” I highly recommend reading this article before starting your EM clerkship, but here are a few highlights:
Finally, remember that you will not achieve excellence without plenty of practice. Do not expect to be great at presenting on the first day of your clerkship. It will take weeks, months, and even years to perfect your presentation skills.
Hopefully by using these tips in combination with plenty of experience, you will stop seeing presentations as the enemy and start viewing them as an opportunity to show off your knowledge. A great presentation will help to not only enhance teaching and learning, but it will also help to provide quality care to your patients.
Author: Jennifer Stancati, Midwest Regional Representative, AAEM/RSA Medical Student Council
Reference: Davenport C, Honigman B, Druck J. The 3-minute emergency medicine medical student presentation: A variation on a theme. Acad Emerg Med. 2008; 15(7): 638-7.