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Starting a New Clinical Rotation

Transitioning between clinical rotations in medical school

By: Sarah Wang

Whether it’s you first clinical rotation or your last, jumping off one service to start another in a matter of a few days can be daunting. Just when you got comfortable with your team and completing your tasks, you are asked to learn a whole new set of skills while working with a new group of people. Fortunately, there are some tried and true tricks to get you off to a smooth start.

Get the inside information from a classmate/friend

If you don’t have an inside info buddy yet, grab one! Having a friend or partner you can trust to exchange information with is crucial. Hopefully you two will have had different rotation schedules so that you can give each other tips on how to succeed in each one. Text/call/email the other person a few days before the start of your new rotation and ask for his/her general review of the rotation, which teams/residents are best to work with, how the clerkship is run, and what study strategies worked for that person. Sometimes a 5 minute conversation can save you from working with a notoriously difficult resident or wasting days on a low-yield review book. Of course, academic honesty is of the utmost importance, so please do not share any specific testing information that can jeopardize both of your careers!

Study as much as you can during your orientation

Many schools have 1 or 2 days of orientation/lectures before sending you onto the wards. Use that time to learn the best way you can. If you usually benefit from lectures, pay close attention. If you usually do your own flashcards or review notes, take the time to work on those during breaks in orientation.

Try to get a general overview of the specialty in the first week

Many schools have a Wiki page or some sort of guide to each rotation that is written by the previous students. I find it to be a helpful start to peruse through this before the rotation and get some of the resources they recommend. Many of my classmates like to use www.onlinemeded.org as a starting point. You can watch the videos on 1.5x or 2x and get through them in a week or so.

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Establish expectations with your new team early

I wish I did this earlier on my rotations. It can be intimidating to walk into a workroom full of people who have known each other for weeks if not years. Hopefully your senior residents are kind enough to help orient you and let you know what roles the medical students usually take on. If they do not do this the first day, it is extremely beneficial for you to ask to have a brief meeting to establish expectations. It does not have to very formal and can be as quick as, “Hey, I know you guys are really busy, but when you get a chance, do you mind going over how medical students can best help the team? This is my first week. Thanks!” Usually the residents are more than willing to go over workflow and their expectations for students. They were just students not too long ago!

Once you are all caught up on the overview of the rotation and acquainted with the new team, it’s time to learn as much as you can from the patients and develop your skills as a future physician. Don’t forget to have fun while you are at it!

 

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