Medical School - Clinical

Should Medical Students Work Holidays?

As an already overworked, stressed, and exhausted medical student, the last thing you’d want to do is come into the hospital for a clinical rotation shift. But the sad truth is, it’s a reality for many medical students. I’ve compiled reasons for both sides of the argument, hopefully by the end of this blog, you’ll have your own formulated opinion on the matter.

Working holidays means medical students are able to do more

During holidays, the hospital staff is usually tight. According to an article published by Painter Law Firm, it stated: “As a former hospital administrator, I know that many hospitals operate on reduced or even barebones staff during major holidays.” With a barebone staff, you can expect to be granted more opportunities to scrub in on surgeries, suture patients, interview patients, and examine patients. However, with a full hospital staff present, medical students are more likely to just observe and watch physicians perform these actions. A limited staff requires all the help it can get, so medical students can be expected to help out in any way they can.

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Working holidays shows determination and passion for the field of medicine

By coming in or volunteering to come in on holidays, your determination for the field of medicine is apparent. Putting the needs of patients before yours by missing out on holiday festivities, can show an attending physician how passionate you are about medicine. Your preceptors will take notice and write great reviews about you come the end of your rotation.

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It acclimates medical students to the reality of working holidays

Working a holiday shift helps you determine as a medical student if working holidays is something you wouldn’t mind doing in the future. It helps determine what specialty you’ll pursue. If holidays are very important to you, then you might steer away from specialties such as emergency medicine or surgery. As these types of physicians work holidays regularly and are on-call often. According to an article published by Sermo, an emergency medicine physician stated, “I worked pretty much every Christmas eve and Christmas day for most of the past 45 years.” 

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Holidays could be used to study for board and shelf exams

Throughout the 3rd year, as you rotate through different clinical rotations you’ll be tested on the material you come across during your rotations. Not to mention the USMLE step 2 exam which is usually taken at the end of 3rd year. Holidays can serve as a great means to catch up on studying or even getting ahead on material. Considering the aforementioned exams medical students are required to take, coming in for a clinical shift during the holidays can be counterproductive.

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Holidays serve as a means to reset and replenish a medical student’s mental state 

Medical school is hard, extremely hard at that. In fact, according to U.S. News, it stated: “Most medical schools expect their students to work 60-80 hours a week every week.This is a very demanding schedule. It’s inevitable that medical students will experience burnout if this schedule is prolonged. One way to alleviate that burnout is by relaxing and spending time with family and friends during the holidays. The holidays are a time when students can relax and take a break from the constant stresses of medical school. Having to come into the hospital for a clinical rotation shift during a holiday only exacerbates the continuous stress. 

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If medical school is closed during holidays why am I expected to come in for my clinical rotation shift?

Across the board, medical schools throughout the country have major holidays off, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. Meaning there are no classes being taught and medical students are not expected to be on campus (if your school has mandatory attendance). However during 3rd year, most of a medical student’s time is spent in the hospital, and of course, hospitals are never closed. Technically, as a medical student, you’re not required to be in the hospital during a holiday if your school is off. But the problem lies when residents and attendings guilt trip medical students into coming.

There you have it, arguments in support and against medical students working holidays. Upon the completion of 3rd year, medical students should begin preparing for residency applications. And MedSchoolCoach is here to help you with just that. MedSchoolCoach offers residency match support. You’ll be matched with a physician advisor who served as program director for residency programs. Your physician advisor with strategically work with you to make you the best candidate for the residency program of your choice.

Yaseen Elhag

My name is Yaseen Elhag. I hold a bachelor's in Health Science and I have aspirations of becoming a physician. I have a deep passion for eliminating healthcare disparities. Some of my hobbies include Mixed Martial Arts, traveling, and playing chess!

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