Starting off my third year of Medical School, I had little idea as to how to behave during Clinical Rotations. It was an ongoing process of learning and tweaking my behaviors and objectives. This is a list of pointers that I wish I had known prior to beginning my rotations, things that I believe were essential to my success during my clinical years.
Don’t steal anyone’s thunder. Don’t be a know-it-all.
This is possibly the most important piece of advice I could give. If a question is not directed at you, do not under any circumstance butt-in and answer. This might seem like a good opportunity to demonstrate your prowess, but what it actually does is make people, especially the ones who were specifically asked the question, resent you. Matters are made worse when the person that was asked the question initially was a resident. This will put a mark on your back. You do not want to be labeled a know-it-all! Do answer when a question is asked directly to you or if the floor is opened up to everyone for an answer. But do not step on anybody else’s shoes just to make yourself look better. You want to be a likeable team-member, not an individualistic egoist.
It’s okay not to know everything.
Stepping into the hospital for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. The amount of knowledge out there is impressive and at times daunting. Being methodical and persistent is the best way to remedy the situation. Reading and doing practice questions every day is the best way to build on your knowledge base. Remember that building a solid foundation is imperative to building yourself up as a competent clinician. Do not let the sheer volume of the material overshadow your desire to succeed. Take it one day a time. You will be surprised how much you will learn by the end of each rotation. The key is to remain persistent and keep growing every day. The third and fourth years of medical school are all about consistency. Keep focused and keep persevering!
Come early, leave late.
This is the old adage that many people propagate and for good reason! Showing up early to work and making sure not to be too eager to leave is an easy way to win some brownie points with the staff. It demonstrates professionalism and an ethos for learning Medicine. Additionally, the hours you put in at work will be rewarded through lived experiences in Medicine. Medicine is an art form that requires practice and hard work to master. One does not simply become a good clinician by only reading books. You must see and treat the nuances within each disease in person to supplement what you have been reading. Very few patients are going to present in a textbook fashion. There may only be vague complaints, and it is up to you to look for clues in order to guide your assessment and plan on each patient. Showing up early and leaving late will have you reap the most out of each rotation experience. In Medicine, like with most professions, it is all about lived experiences.
Look up/Google everything.
Whenever you come across a term you are not familiar with, ask someone or look it up for yourself. Whenever a patient comes in with a new disease or syndrome, read about it on Google or UpToDate. This is an extremely important part of lifelong learning. It is a skill that must be developed over time and it is something that you should carry with you well into your career as a doctor. There are always new things to learn or new therapies to be aware of or new pathophysiologic mechanisms unveiled. Medicine is an explosively growing field that is expanded on a daily basis. Making sure you are up to date with new guidelines or cutting edge research is going to be instrumental in developing into a competent physician.
Become friends with everyone, whether it be students, nurses, physician’s assistants, therapists, social workers, residents, etc. It is important to build alliances and make a good name for yourself by being friendly and helpful to everyone. People talk. Your name may come up in conversation, and it is your professional duty to make sure that the conversation is a positive one! You never know who will end up helping you out in the future. Another important thing to keep in mind is that if you are ever invited out with your residents, take advantage of the opportunity. Not only will you become closer in terms of them putting in a good word for you to the program director when the time comes, but they may also share some tricks of the trade or important experiences that they have gained throughout their training. These can be very fruitful experiences which you should absolutely take advantage of!
Above all else, try and immerse yourself into this experience. Enjoy the journey. While it may be difficult some days and you may have many sleepless nights, the process of becoming a doctor is a deeply fulfilling and gratifying process.