Medical student name tags: identification or obfuscation?


Journal Article

OBJECTIVE:To explore how U.S. medical students doing clinical rotations are physically identified to patients via their name tags, and how patients interpret the educational status conveyed by those name tags. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS:A letter was sent to the dean of students at all 141 medical school campuses in the United States, requesting a photocopy of the name tag distributed to third-year students on clinical rotations. We then surveyed a convenience sample of 100 general medicine outpatients at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center and presented them with examples of four ways medical students were identified on name tags we received: "medical student," "student physician," "student doctor," and "MD student." Patients were then asked to rank these, and three other identifiers ("faculty physician," "resident physician," and "house staff"), from least experienced to most experienced. Patients were told that some of the identifiers might denote the same level of experience. Fifty-three percent of the medical school name tags we received identified the medical student as "medical student," 11% as "student," 6% as "student physician," 2% as "student doctor," and 1% as "MD student." Four percent of name tags had only the student's name, and 18% had only the student's name and university affiliation. Patients thought that the four student descriptors ("medical student," "student physician," "student doctor," and "MD student") on medical student name tags indicated less experience than the other three descriptors. However, of the four student descriptors, patients thought "medical student" indicated less experience than the other three (p < .0001). CONCLUSIONS:There is great variation in how medical schools identify medical students on the name tags used during their clinical rotations. These different ways of identifying medical students are not interpreted as being identical to many patients.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Silver-Isenstadt, A; Ubel, PA

Published Date

  • November 1997

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 12 / 11

Start / End Page

  • 669 - 671

PubMed ID

  • 9383134

Pubmed Central ID

  • 9383134

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1525-1497

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0884-8734

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1046/j.1525-1497.1997.07138.x


  • eng