The Attack of Medical School Senioritis

A new study examines the reasons why fourth-year medical students slack off.

By + More

Senioritis is an ailment often associated with students completing their final year of high school or college, but the term applies to fourth-year medical school students as well, according to an article published Wednesday in the Academic Medicine journal.

The article's six coauthors, five of whom are medical school professors at the University of California-San Francisco, argue that students slack off during their fourth year of medical school because many universities' fourth-year requirements are not sufficiently challenging or robust, Inside Higher Ed reports. The article's authors also note that students spend much of their fourth year applying to and interviewing for residency programs throughout the country and that fourth-year grades are typically not included in the application process, two realities that exacerbate the onset of senioritis.

Primary study author Pamela Lyss-Lerman says medical schools should use their fourth-year curricula to give students a more "authentic role in patient care." Lyss-Lerman hopes schools will modify their curricula and put a greater emphasis on student learning through subinternships in internal medicine and rotations for critical care, ambulatory care, and emergency medicine.

"The problem of the fourth year is a pervasive one," says Larry Gruppen, a professor of medical education at the University of Michigan. "When students are interviewing for a residency, it's important, but schools see it as taking away from students' educations. It has to be done, but it gets in the way of medical school . . . It all contributes to a widely felt frustration."