How to Survive Clinical Rotations
Clinical rotations are an exciting time. You get to shadow doctors and residents at teaching hospitals, interact with patients, and apply everything you’ve learned in classrooms, labs and libraries. This is when you get hands-on experience, deal with real-life medical situations, and truly learn how to become a doctor.
Clinical rotations can also be grueling and stressful. You have to learn workflows and electronic record systems. Your knowledge will be tested by both patients and doctors. The experiences may not be what you expected. You could run into personality conflicts. Clinical rotations can also serve as informal interviews for the physicians and administrators who you eventually ask to write recommendation letters.
Although you know the stress and frustration will be worth it, there will be times when you’ll just be happy to survive the day. Here are some tips to help you get through your clinical rotations.
Talk to Those Who Have Been There Recently
Pick the brains of students who have already gone through clinical rotations. What are the schedules like? What are the expectations? Is there a resident who will be particularly helpful? The better prepared you are, the less surprised you’ll be, and the more you can focus on learning, contributing and making a strong impression.
Know Where You’re Going. Literally.
Is there anything more stressful than being lost? Familiarize yourself with the hospital. Learn the fastest way to get from point A to point B, from the bathroom and the supply closet to radiology and the emergency department. Knowing the lay of the land will make you more confident and productive during clinical rotations.
You can only learn so much in a classroom or lab, which is why clinical rotations are so important. Be curious. Ask as many questions as you can without being disruptive, even if they involve simple tasks like labeling equipment or adjusting oxygen levels. When caring for a patient, research their condition and learn as much as you can about causes, symptoms, treatments and outcomes. This information will help you in the short-term and long-term.
Remember the Basics
Show up on time. Dress appropriately. Work hard. Volunteer to help. Carry notebooks, pens and snacks. Be respectful of everyone – physicians, residents, nurses, administrative staff and, most importantly, patients. Never forget that you’re in a hospital, and patients who are sick and often scared have placed their lives in the hands of the people in that hospital – including yours.
Don’t Let Clinical Rotations Control Your Life
It’s okay to blow off steam at the end of a long shift as long as you do it responsibly. Laugh, cry and do whatever you need to avoid becoming physically, mentally and emotionally overwhelmed. Clinical rotations can seem like they consume your life, but you need to enjoy life if you’re going to enjoy medicine. Make time for people and activities that make you happy.
Clinical rotations can be giant rollercoaster of highs and lows, joys and sorrows, success and disappointment. Make the most of this critical part of your journey and take advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow.