Every medical students dream is to roam the halls of the hospital, white coat and ID badge on and interacting with patients. For some reason, after 2 years in classrooms and surrounded by endless books we begin to loose confidence and become a nervous mess the days before our first rotation. This is completely normal but can definitely set you off for a rocky start. There are some things that will help you so that you show up your first day without your hands shaking when the resident asks for a pen. Here I have gathered a small list of 5 things that will guarantee YOU survive and succeed on clerkships.
Good, comfortable shoes
This might sound silly to some of you but believe me, tired, achy feet can keep you from focusing on your patients. They can also hinder your concentration and learning after a few hours. For this reason good comfortable shoes are a MUST. I always recommend flats first. More so, flats that have a good sole, with a cushioned insert, have been broken in, and are comfortable to stand in for hours. This will be especially true on surgical rotations. In the beginning I was more focused on the fashion aspect. This meant I got home with very painful feet and almost unable to walk. I have found that sometimes low wedges are good because they help give you better posture, keep your feet off the ground and balance your weight points. This is most important for rotations like Ob Gyn, Internal Medicine and Surgery where you spend many hours on your feet and walking around the hospital.
This is a no brainer. Sometimes in clinic or in the hospital wards things get complicated and there is no time for a break. I am guilty of having really bad habits regarding breakfast. Early in my clerkships I learned that either making good meals or having several healthy snacks is essential to keep your mind and body sharp for lots of learning. The best way to do this is having snacks EVERYWHERE. For example, in your white coat pockets, your bag, and even your car. I enjoy having varied types of snacks, from taking yogurts to eat while writing notes, to protein bars to snack on between surgeries. My favorites are the BelVita biscuits. For me, I also keep something sweet for the afternoon. Trust me, after 2pm you begin to feel tired and a little sugar can get you through the next few hours.
This might be a tricky one but fret not. There’s a million books and resources out there to help you prepare for shelf exams and step 2. Truth is that the best way to prepare to sit in for the shelf is doing as many questions as you can. There are many options out there to choose from. My recommendation is to find one that speaks to you and STICK TO IT to do during the year. I also recommend to use one that either has an app or has a good mobile version. This way you can study when you have a chance at the hospital or clinic. The important thing is that you do the questions relevant for each clerkship, revise them, and read through the discussion to verify your train of thought. Some of the most popular alternatives are UWorld, Online Med ED, Exam Guru, and Lecturio.
I cannot emphasize the importance of having a good bedside manner. Many students go through each service every month. Doctors, residents, and nurses work with hundreds of people every week. As such it is not easy to remember every single student on the service. The best way to make yourself memorable to your team is to make an impression, good or bad. I pride myself on my bedside manner. To the point where my ERAS personal statement‘s main focus was precisely that.
I always listen to my patients, offer to help anyone on my team no matter the task, and care about how and what my patients feel. Something as simple and offering to hold someone’s hand during a procedure or finding an additional bed sheet when a patient is cold, is not something every student is willing to do. THAT leaves an impression. The feedback I have gotten from all of my clerkships has always had to do with those mindful gestures, and it makes me proud to be this way.
Never take information at face value
This is something several of my attendings and residents taught me. Residents receive massive amounts of new information daily and from numerous sources. Attendings have been in practice for several years. Many have lived through practice changes, plus they have their own beliefs and practices. On top of this, they are human just like everybody else. For these reasons what they say is not always correct, nor is it absolute.
ALWAYS verify what someone teaches you. Not only for your education, but for theirs. If they give you inaccurate information let them know. They will certainly appreciate you refreshing their mind (of course doing this in a respectful way and with tact is essential). In addition, the best way to truly learn, is to absorb information from different sources in order to better internalize the material.
These tips are simple. Yet I believe are what got me through my clerkships successfully. Yes, there are many other things I can share that will help you during third year. The books and tools are just add-ons that will aid you, but with these things you will survive, succeed, and live to tell the tale.
What things have gotten YOU through your clerkships? Tell me in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!
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