It’s time for your clinical rotations, and you’re understandably a little nervous. All the book knowledge you’ve absorbed over your last few years of medical school is about to be put to the test in hands-on situations. It’s exciting and scary at the same time!
Although established physicians will supervise your time in clinical rotations, it will be in various medical specialties that you might or might not be familiar with.
This clerkship period is usually spread over years three and four of your education. You’ll go through an array of required and elective rotations.
You will survive them, but diagnosing and treating patients in real-life situations can be intense. These tips from others who have been in your shoes can help you get through your time of clinical rotations with a little less stress and a lot more confidence.
1. Understand What’s Expected of You
When you’re in the heat of an emergency or involved in a busy practice, it’s easy to forget that it’s not your job to fix the patients. You’re still taking a class, and you’ll be graded on certain expectations.
Your instructor will likely pass out rubrics discussing the grading system. Many medical schools use a combination of honors, high pass, pass, or fail as their final grades for clinical rotations. The distinctions are usually based on your exam scores and your evaluations from your supervisors.
Your subject-based exams will determine what you learned after each core rotation. Because the National Board of Medical Examiners licenses them, you can prepare for them and ensure you learn what you need to know during your rotations.
Your evaluations from those supervising you and the attending physicians you work with are the other part of the grade. Those evaluations will discuss your knowledge but also reflect your professionalism, work ethic, competence, and communication abilities.
Knowing what’s expected of you based on your rubric will help you prioritize where to put your attention. Don’t worry about getting the right diagnosis every time. Your supervisors will be more concerned about how you learn from your mistakes, how you treat the patients and those around you, and how you communicate.
2. Develop Your Reputation
You already know that you need to impress your supervisors and attending physicians with your professionalism, knowledge, and work ethic. But your reputation extends to the others around you, too.
You’ve likely seen the quote, “I was raised to treat the janitor with the same respect as the CEO.” This simply means that you live by the philosophy that everyone is deserving of respect. When you’re kind to everyone, regardless of their position or ability to help your career, that kind of humanity shows up in your reputation.
Decide what kind of image you want others to see of you, and work on actively building those characteristics. It doesn’t matter what your reputation was before entering clinicals, although you might have to work a little harder to change old perceptions.
You don’t know whose opinion of you may matter to your career in the future. But when you’re respectful and kind to everyone you meet, you never have to worry about your reputation costing you opportunities.
3. Be Open to Learning From Others
Let’s face it. Criticism always hurts just a little bit. But when you’re open to constructive feedback, and you seek out advice from others, you might learn more from those conversations than you would a textbook.
Everyone has something that they’re an expert in, whether it’s a situation they went through that taught them a valuable lesson or a patient they treated who had a rare diagnosis. When you have a rapport with other people built on respect, you tend to have more discussions with them, opening you both up to a store of knowledge you might never access otherwise.
Having that open line of communication gives you someone to ask your questions, too. Maybe you overheard your attending physician talking about their contract negotiation using MGMA salaries, and you’re curious about what that involves. Physicians Thrive discusses this topic here, but who can you ask if you still have questions about it?
Money is often a sensitive point, so you might not want to ask your AP if you don’t know them well. But when you have a mentor or someone you’re comfortable seeking feedback from, you can discuss your questions with them.
Your ability to listen to constructive criticism, seek feedback, and learn from others will play a strong role in your success during clinical rotations.
You’ve made it this far, and you’ll get through your clinical rotations, too. But the next two years of your life are crucial as you develop your knowledge, reputation, and relationships in medical school. Use these tips to survive and thrive during your clerkship.