13 tips for medical students starting their clinical rotations

Each year, medical students across the country prepare to start the long-anticipated core clinical rotations. Suddenly, we’re thrust into a world of constant adaptation and evaluation, with many highs and many lows.

As I finish up the year and new students get ready to start, I’ve been asked time and time again for my advice. I decided to aggregate my key takeaways from the year, and what I wish I had been told:

1. Normalize the subjectivity of the year. One person’s “honors”  is another person’s “pass.”  Don’t let the numbers define how you feel about your competence. It’s a wild ride.

2. We (and everyone else) hold ourselves to such high standards. Remember that constantly being evaluated and having to be “on” is exhausting and not necessarily “normal,” as much as it may start to feel like it is.

3. Everyone makes mistakes. That’s why you’re a student. You’re here to learn.

4. Sometimes, you just can’t study when you get home. That one night isn’t going to make a difference in your shelf score. Actually, you might do better if you take the night off.

5. General well-being and feeling whole is so important. I know people toss around the word “wellness” a lot, but make it a priority from the beginning—whatever that means to you.

6. Take care of your mental health, whether that means talking to friends, talking to a therapist, or starting an SSRI. We deserve to care for ourselves just like we care for our patients. No one’s mental health should be sacrificed for the sake of clinical year.

7. Life happens during clinical year. That means breakups, family illness, personal health issues, etc. Don’t neglect these things. Everything else will work out. Take care of yourself.

8. It’s OK to cry in front of your resident or an attending. You’re human.

9. Sometimes you’re going to work really, really hard and not do as well as you like, and other times you will. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense. One grade doesn’t define how good of a doctor you’ll be.

10 You’re not supposed to be confident your first day or even your first month or even your last month. Everyone throws around the word “confidence.” Yes, confidence is important, but you are also a student and here to learn, not to know everything on day #1 or day #352.

11. Nice residents make such a difference. Remember that when you’re a resident and be kind to your medical students.

12. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself, whether it’s asking “anything else I can help with?” at the end of the day if you’ve been sitting around for a while, or grabbing that textbook if you have downtime. After a year of wearing (and disliking the feeling of) white coats, I finally worked up the courage to wear a Patagonia during my final rotation because I realized no one cared.

13. Eat lunch. There, I said it.

Netana Markovitz is a medical student. 

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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