Background: A well-known phenomenon among U.S. medical students known as pimping, or the pedagogical device of questioning students in the clinical setting, receives virtually no attention in medical literature.
Purpose: Identifying 4th-year medical students' relevant knowledge and attitudes about pimping may help educators understand the range of beliefs about pimping and the role it plays in the socialization process into the medical community.
Methods: Over a 2-month period, 11 fourth-year medical students at a Midwest medical school were asked 6 open-ended questions focusing on pimping as understood and experienced in the clinical setting. Investigators individually analyzed the interview data using qualitative methods to characterize students' experiences and recurring ideas and concepts.
Results: All students noted the hierarchical nature of pimping, viewing it as a tool for attendings or residents to assess students' levels of knowledge. Although some students experienced malignant pimping, humiliated by incessant questioning or questions inappropriate to their level of training, all the students in the sample were positive about pimping and its effectiveness as a pedagogical tool. Investigators found that location within the clinical setting determines how students define and understand the motives for pimping.
Conclusions: Understanding how students define and experience the pimping phenomenon prepares medical educators to scrutinize pimping as a pedagogical tool and to provide the most effective and encouraging environment for students.