Clerkship Advice

Now that the M3s are about to start their rotations, I thought I’d put together some advice about clerkships and doing well on the floor. Personally, I did well on rotations and got great evals and comments. This wasn’t because I was some kind of magical social butterfly either; it was because I just wasn’t a freaking weirdo. And yes, you will encounter lots of weirdos this year (patients, other medical students, doctors, etc.). Below is a compilation of advice based on my experience from this year. As always, take everything I say with a grain of salt.

  1. Third year is one big game. Everything is subjective. Your evals will be based off how much work the evaluator thinks you did or how hard he/she thinks you worked. This is why it’s important to be cognizant of what you’re doing at all times. If you think you’re slacking, chances are your evaluator thinks so too. Also, and this is huge, be smart about who you give your evaluation to.
  2. Don’t take anything personally. You’ll learn to develop thick skin during rotations. Embrace any criticism that you’re given and learn from your mistakes. I advise against trying to talk back for the sake of ‘making a point’ or to prove that you’re ‘right’. Just take it, say thank you, and move on.
  3. Be a good communicator and listener. Reply to your resident/attending/intern’s texts and answer their calls. If you’re going to be late or can’t make it to work, then let someone on your team know. It’s much better to at least let someone know then have people wondering where you are, even if you’re gone for a legitimate reason. In addition, pay attention and actively listen. People can tell if you’re not tuned in and sometimes they like to surprise pimp you. Nod, ask questions, whatever it is that you do to show people that you’re actually listening and paying attention to what is going on.
  4. If someone tells you to do something, do it. It helps to keep a running checklist of things that you need to get done for people. As you finish each task, check it off. Even if it’s scut work, you should do it. Every little thing helps the team out!
  5. Don’t lie. This is especially true on the physical exam. It always amazes me how many people falsify the PE findings. If you didn’t do it, don’t add it into the note! Just say that you didn’t do it. I’ve never seen people get yelled at for forgetting to do an exam, but I have seen people get yelled at for adding findings that they didn’t actually do.
  6. Help others. Not just the residents you work with, but your fellow medical students as well. You never know who will have your back when you need it. Be nice to everyone, and help everyone out. Never ever ever put someone down or make someone look bad. That’s the quickest way to make everyone hate you.
  7. Always be doing something. Don’t just stand around. If you’re in the OR, then help prep for the case. If your resident is typing a note, read about whatever the patient has. If there’s actual down time, then you should be studying for the shelf. You get the idea.
  8. You’re only a third year. There’s only so much that you can do. If someone tells you to go home, then go home. It is not a trick. Same with if someone tells you to go eat.
  9. Be prepared. Read about your patients, read about cases you want to scrub in on, bring your stethoscope or purple book or whatever other thing you need.
  10. Don’t take crap from people. This includes residents, other medical students, PA students, nursing students, nurses, and other staff. This is still your rotation and you’re here to learn. If your intern is giving you problems, then talk to your resident. If your resident is giving you problems, talk to your attending. If your attending is giving you problems, then tell the school. If there are students who are being rude, inconsiderate, or are hogging cases/patients, then it helps to just talk to them about the issue first before going to a resident. I’ve only had a problem with students a couple of times, and each time it was resolved after I talked to them.
  11. Every rotation has its own curriculum. It will take a couple days to get settled into each rotation and figure out what you’re supposed to be doing on a day-to-day basis. It helps a lot if there is another M3 or M4 on the rotation who can show you what you’re supposed to do and how to do it. It’s usually a good idea to ask an upperclassman or a classmate who has had the rotation before so they can give you tips and advice.

Anyway I think those are the basics, I hope it helps. Again, most of this is common sense. Good luck to all the soon-to-be M3s! You’ll do great.



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