Ensure a smooth transition from the classroom to the exam room
Former students suggest you prepare as much as you can, demonstrate a willingness to learn and accept feedback with grace.
Rotations present a prime opportunity to learn about every aspect of providing care, from clinical tasks to department protocols and electronic medical records. They also give students the chance to make lasting connections that could eventually lead to a residency placement.
Once you’ve scheduled your rotations, it’s time to make sure you’re prepared to demonstrate your medical knowledge, learn as much as you can and make a great impression on your program director, attendings and hospital staff.
What to bring
Prior to your start date, email your preceptor questions on how to prepare for the rotation, such as the dress code and what you should bring with you on your first day. Here are some items former students found to be helpful during their rotations.
- Tablet or smartphone loaded with medical apps for quick access to medication guides, medical journals and specialty resources.
- Scutsheets or index cards to track patient data.
- Physical exam equipment, including a stethoscope and pen light.
- Copies of rotation-specific books, such as Case Files or Blueprints, to brush up on references for different specialties.
- Something to write with.
- Healthy snacks. You’ll need to keep your energy up!
Making an impression
You can make a good impression during your rotations by:
- Showing up a half-hour early to ensure plenty of time to find parking and to find out where you are supposed to be.
- Creating a list of goals for the rotation, including skills you want to learn or practice.
- Wearing professional attire.
- Letting your attending physician know early on if you’re hoping to receive a letter of recommendation. Some programs have specific requirements for students to fulfill before receiving a rec letter, so you’ll want to learn what they are.
Here are some steps to ensure a smooth transition from the classroom to the exam room:
- If you get stumped on how to treat a patient, make a note to read up on relevant case studies later. This will help strengthen your knowledge base and may help you contribute more to a patient’s treatment plan.
- Teaching moments are important, but don’t expect your attending physician to give you a personalized lecture.
- Some students find it difficult to transition into a learning environment that isn’t centered around a formal teaching structure, but rotations are a great opportunity to be self-sufficient and apply everything you have learned so far in medical school.
- Take the opportunity to engage with the teachers you have on hand – the ancillary staff, the attending physicians, the patients and their peers – by asking questions about their role on the medical team.
- Check in with your preceptor from time to time to see if you’re meeting their expectations and learn how you can continue to improve.
- Be professional, especially regarding social media. Don’t use your phone for personal calls or texts unless it’s an emergency. Remember also that patient confidentiality is protected by law—medical students have been asked to leave medical school for posting patient info online.
- Brush up on your tech skills by becoming familiar with the rotation site’s electronic medical record system.
The attending physician doesn’t expect you to know everything, especially when you’re first starting out in rotations. Ask for help if you need it, and if you make a mistake, admit it honestly, learn everything you can from the experience and move on.
You might not be accustomed to hearing negative feedback on your performance on a regular basis. However, accepting the feedback, even if you do not agree with your preceptor, demonstrates your willingness to improve your skills.
The bright side is that not all feedback will be negative. Remember to get letters of recommendation from the medical staff who supervised you during your best rotations, especially the supervisor for the specialty in which you want to practice.