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What Medical Students Need to Consider When Preparing for Clinical Clerkships?

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Okay, finally it’s time to leave the nest, or more specifically the safety and comfort of your lecture hall, and venture a foot forward towards your clinical rotations. Third-year medical students are required to learn to take care of patients under the supervision of practicing physicians and develop their professional identity as a physician. Clinical rotations during your clinical science programs help medical students  develop self-confidence, valuable skills, knowledge and professional attitude required to pursue a rewarding career in medicine.

During clinical clerkships, medical students critically think and apply a huge amount of information learned in the classroom to new healthcare settings. The ultimate goal of clinical clerkships is to prepare students to elicit patient histories, complete physical examinations, suggest the right confirmatory tests, write progress notes, assist in surgeries and medical treatments and develop an effective treatment plan. In a nutshell, clinical clerkship teaches medical students all the fundamentals of clinical examination, evaluation and care provision, while enabling them to choose their future specialty and career more effectively.

Therefore, students are advised to spend most of their time focusing on the academic preparation for clinical rotations that are the most important part of clinical science programs. Here are some proven tips for succeeding in clinical rotations.

Get Ready for Your Clinical Rotations

If your medical school follows a traditional structure of core clinical education and rotations, you will be rotated through the major disciplines of medicine for usually a month or two. Therefore, it is critically important to prepare both academically and mentally for each rotation. From an academic perspective, plan ahead for each rotation by finding out the specific requirements for each. Make sure you have all the relevant resources available to gain essential knowledge before you get your foot wet in the experience. Talk to other students who have already rotated in that specialty or hospital and find out exactly what is expected of you and the skills that you must hone in on before starting clinical rotations.

Convey a Professional Attitude

Keep in mind that clinical rotations are the most important yet challenging time of your medical school,  where you will immerse deeply in different disciplines of medicine and gain professional experience. So, it is highly advised to learn how to behave professionally and try your best to become a helpful team member. Dress appropriately, make sure your lab coat is clean. Avoid pulling out your phone and checking text every 5 minutes. Most importantly, exhibit your determination and motivation for learning.

Come Early and Stay Late

Show up early and stay up late until you have completed all the pertinent tasks for the patients assigned under your care. Being on time and staying up late when needed will clearly prove your dedication for the job. Try to make the most of this terrific opportunity and let it speak volumes for your passion and professionalism.

Learn from the Patients You Treat

Take every patient as a learning opportunity and learn about their specific disease or condition. Even if it’s the 5th patient with celiac disease that you have encountered for the day, you will still get to learn something new. It is recommended to keep a notebook with you to enter each patient’s history and the suggested treatment plan. Make sure that you have a strong academic background as part of your clinical science programs in the specific disorders and infectious diseases that you are treating. This will also help you come up with an effective treatment plan for your patients.

Communicate Effectively

Your clinical rotations are indeed a great deal for several reasons. Though you may flaunt a strong academic background, now is the time to apply your knowledge, develop effective communication skills and amenable bedside manners with patients. You will be interacting with doctors, staff, technicians, patients and their family members on a day-to-day basis during your rotations. Everyone, irrespective of their role, should be treated with respect. Learning how to work as a team and communicating effectively will give you an unparalleled experience.

Put in Extra Efforts

During your rotations, you will be asked to do certain tasks, such as see patients, attend conferences, perform lab work and more. Ask residents if they need your help, consider volunteering to do more. This will help you stand out in your rotations.

Be interested and Engaged

Clinical rotations are the only time when you will have the opportunity to learn about various diseases and infections by interacting with the patients who suffer from them. If you inform your preceptors about your interests in advance, this will make it easier for them to rotate you through various disciplines according to your long-term goals. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, show your commitment towards continued learning, and read as much as you can about topics, cases, and procedures before seeing your patients.

All in all, clinical rotations provide you with a clear idea of certain specialties of medicine. Going through rotations as part of your clinical science programs may help you decide what area of medicine you want to pursue down the road. Hopefully, these easy tips will help you perform better during your clinical rotations and become a competent physician.

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