Amol Utrankar was in his second year of medical school and working a shift at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee, when a supervisor asked him to obtain a new patient's medical records.
Utrankar, who was 22 at the time, needed to get the records from a smaller community hospital, where the patient was previously getting treatment. That involved filling out a standard records request form with the patient's signature, and faxing it over.
The only problem? Utrankar did not know how to use a fax machine.
"It was embarrassing," he admitted.
After consulting a nearby nurse, Utrankar learned how to input a number by putting the page in the right slot, physically pressing the buttons, dialing out, and collecting a confirmation fax. But after he sent the request, unlike with email or SMS messages, he had no idea whether the right person had received it.
"I had zero context for how to make it work," said Utrankar.
Utrankar is far from alone. Thousands of would-be doctors from across the country are learning to use outdated technologies like pagers and fax machines for the first time while in medical training. About a dozen medical students told CNBC that they had never seen a fax machine before, let alone operated one.