The next generation of doctors will start their careers at a time when physicians are feeling pressure to limit prescriptions for opioid painkillers.
Yet every day, they'll face patients who are hurting from injuries, surgical procedures or disease. Around 20% of adults in the U.S. live with chronic pain.
That's why some medical students felt a little apprehensive as they gathered recently for a mandatory, four-day course at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore — home to one of the top medical schools in the country.
The subject of the course? Pain.
"I initially was a bit scared and I guess a bit wary coming into this course because of the opioid crisis," says medical student Annie Cho. "That seems like that's the only thing that people have been talking about nowadays."
She wasn't the only one aware of how fraught pain can be right now. Student Jenny Franke says she has been shadowing doctors in a clinic and has seen new patients come in with pain.
"And it seems that the therapy that they are on hasn't been working, and a lot of the time, their past primary care providers just keep prescribing the same thing over and over," Franke says. "Sometimes those patients will ask for opioids, and then it turns into kind of an awkward conversation."