Medical students speak out against pointless ‘CV buffing’ activities


1 Jul 2019

AMSA President Jessica Yang

A medical student leader has called on senior doctors to fight the growing culture in medicine of doing unnecessary education activities simply to enhance a CV.

Jessica Yang, president of the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA), says one of the main contributors to burnout among doctors in training is the pressure to continually demonstrate academic achievements to “look good on paper” rather than enhance clinical skills or help patients.

Speaking at an AMA meeting in Brisbane, she said students were already falling asleep during the day due to the huge amount of hours they had to put in to study as well as clinical placements, and it appeared things would only get worse after they graduated.

“If this is the environment in which we start our journey and form our habits in medicine, what happens when we have the responsibility of patient safety on our shoulders? We work harder, and longer and become more tired. We make mistakes,” she said.

Ms Yang said it was disheartening for medical students to observe the examples being set by their older peers of pursuing achievements to “signal” their worth and to gain job or training places, rather than to improve their skills.

“Medical students are watching, and we’re worried. We see our mentors, who are vastly more qualified than us, fighting unprecedented competition for specialty training. We watch our recently-graduated colleagues, who are pursuing a PhD for no other reason than to improve their chances of getting into training.”

“We hear stories of extracurricular courses and pre-training exams which contribute to a very expensive curriculum vitae, just to keep up with shifting college goalposts. We think to ourselves ‘how am I EVER going to get there?’ Know that we are watching and listening to you, and we see that you are under pressure.”

Ms Yang said the problem was being driven by the current environment in medical education and training that rewards academic paper qualifications over clinical experience

“HDs [Higher Distinctions] in exams, getting multiple degrees, “CV buffing” – these things certainly require talent, and look good on paper, but are we becoming better doctors in the process?”

She said the mentality was filtering down into medical school, with her own experience of new medical students telling her they wanted to be involved with AMSA but only because it would look good on their CV.

“These students have not stepped foot in a hospital and are already thinking about how to outdo their peers in 10-years’ time,” she said.

One hopeful sign was a motion passed at last year’s AMA National Conference, to credit postgraduate clinical experience more heavily in specialty college applications, rather than the current focus on academia, she suggested.

“I applaud this preventative step in addressing an increasingly competitive climate. It reinforces the idea that we should be working with each other for our patients and their safety, instead of adding lines to our CV, which do not drive our passions or improve our clinical ability,” said Ms Yang.

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