What Is The Best Advice For Medical Students Starting Clinical Rotations?

    Authored By

    Doctors Magazine

    What Is The Best Advice For Medical Students Starting Clinical Rotations?

    Embarking on your first clinical rotation is a pivotal step in your medical education, so we've gathered invaluable advice from seasoned professionals, including Surgeons and Doctors. From embracing curiosity and inquiry to actively engaging in learning opportunities, explore these six pieces of wisdom to help you navigate this new and exciting phase of your journey.

    • Embrace Curiosity and Inquiry
    • Learn the Natural History of Illness
    • Prioritize Mental Well-Being
    • Observe Diverse Medical Approaches
    • Prioritize Attentiveness During Rotations
    • Engage Actively in Learning Opportunities

    Embrace Curiosity and Inquiry

    As a surgeon with a deep appreciation for both art and science, my advice to medical students beginning their clinical rotations is simple: Embrace curiosity. View every day as an opportunity to learn from everyone around you—peers, nurses, and patients alike. Never hesitate to ask questions, no matter how fundamental they seem, in the pursuit of knowledge.

    David Hill, MD
    David Hill, MDPlastic Surgeon & Medical Director, Fulcrum Aesthetics & Surgery

    Learn the Natural History of Illness

    Clinicians at all levels will work with patients who have an array of medical problems. The student's first task is to learn the natural history of these illnesses. They should find out what will happen to the patient during their hospitalization and after, and whether the illness will resolve or continue to outpatient care. An easy way to learn this information is to look at the patient's problem list for diagnoses and potential diagnoses, then look up each ailment in a reliable medical source. Commonly, the student will find themselves diagnosing an illness in the general sense, running to a computer to look up more information, and then presenting the information to the resident or attending physician. This process is crucial for clinical learning and puts evidence-based medicine into direct practice for patient care.

    Next, if you're having difficulty understanding a patient's complaint or medical history, learn how to ask open-ended questions that encourage patients to elaborate. Never be afraid to ask for elaboration or clarification about a symptom. Don't presume that it's not important just because you're having difficulty understanding it. Oftentimes, our intervention for a patient will be based on the little, yet significant, pieces of information that we uncover with thorough history-taking. Articulating to the patient your interpretations and impressions about their condition will not only improve patient understanding but also serve to validate or correct your understanding of the information that was given.

    Always invite and address patient questions as well. This lets patients know that you have a genuine concern for their worries and are willing to spend the time to inform and reassure them. Finally, be sure to explain in clear and simple terms the history, physical findings, assessments, and plans for any given medical situation. This is an area where frequent practice with daily reinforcement will lead to vast improvements in communication skills.

    If patients trust you and feel that you genuinely care about their well-being, they will be more likely to disclose personal information that may be relevant to their health. Show confidence and comfort with patients by first mastering the basic elements of doctor-patient communication. It is important to make good eye contact, introduce yourself in a friendly and polite manner, acknowledge the patient's discomfort, and avoid interrupting them when they are describing their symptoms.

    Dr. Priya Arcot-Joshi
    Dr. Priya Arcot-JoshiDoctor, Modern Family Medicine

    Prioritize Mental Well-Being

    Entering your first clinical rotation can be both exhilarating and overwhelming. If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be to prioritize your mental well-being through mindfulness practices like meditation. In the fast-paced environment of healthcare, clarity, calmness, and focus are invaluable assets. By incorporating meditation into your daily routine, you not only enhance these qualities but also cultivate resilience and compassion, essential traits for a successful medical career. Remember, taking care of yourself is paramount to providing the best care for your patients. Make mindfulness a priority, and watch as it transforms not only your approach to medicine but also your overall well-being.

    Dr. Shaili Parmar
    Dr. Shaili ParmarCEO, Satya Health

    Observe Diverse Medical Approaches

    You will have the opportunity to learn from a lot of different attending physicians; you will see many different approaches to the same problems. At first, it may seem confusing. What you will find is that this is, in fact, the art of medicine. You will learn the facts and information from the texts. Then you will see management styles, which may vary, and different physicians' clinical judgment in action. And there may be a variation that the doctors deem as the "right" way or the "wrong" way. This is all part of the learning process. Pick up what you can stylistically along the way.

    Pay attention to the way the residents or attendings explain things to their patients and how they obtain consent. Notice how they perform their exams. Hold on to the parts you admire and incorporate those pieces into your repertoire. Respectfully let go of the other parts when the rotation is over. This is how you learn to create your own practice of medicine.

    Dympna Weil
    Dympna WeilMaster Coach, Writer, OBGYN, Prescribing Possibilty™ at The Physician Wayfinder

    Prioritize Attentiveness During Rotations

    I would recommend to medical students that they prioritize their attentiveness during rotations. I often note students making sure they are within sight of attendings; however, I recommend moving to be able to see images, labs, etc., on the computer that the attending is using to teach. Also, just be attentive to all conversations between the attending and others on service or patients as well—learn from the conversation and not just from the comments directed specifically to you.

    Tim SchoonoverNeurologist. Senior Vice President Dayton Center for Neurological Disorders., Dayton Center for Neurological Disorders

    Engage Actively in Learning Opportunities

    Immerse yourself deeply in every learning opportunity. Clinical rotations present a unique chance to observe and engage actively with the medical field in a real-world context. Approach each day with curiosity, seeking to learn from the conditions you encounter and the professionals around you. Their insights and techniques are invaluable, offering lessons that extend far beyond textbooks. This proactive approach will enrich your understanding and sharpen your skills, setting a solid foundation for your medical career.

    Most first-year medical students enter clinical rotations with excitement, anticipation, and a certain dose of anxiety. They're eager to apply their theoretical knowledge to actual patients but also anxious to figure out their readiness for such an important responsibility. However, I've found that the students who embrace every encounter as a valuable opportunity to learn and grow are the ones who thrive in their rotations. As you engage firsthand with patients and healthcare providers, remember that each experience is unique and precious, offering insights that will revolutionize your understanding of medical practice.

    Dr. Peter Hinz
    Dr. Peter HinzFounder, Chiropractor, and Certified Acupuncturist, Cool Springs Chiropractic