9 Easy Tips to Excel in the Clerkship

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Sooner or later this year, you’ll experience some uncertainty in how your clinical preceptors interpret your performance. We always encourage your periodic solicitation of feedback, but here are a few easy suggestions that can make you shine as a team member.

Establish good resources early.

  • Perhaps more important than finding the information you’re seeking itself. Identifying good sources of information early will lead to easier searches in the future. A good list has been provided above, but consider asking your residents where they turn for information early in the rotation.

Share these resources.

  • One of the best impressions you can form is that of a good team player who wants to ease the workload of his colleagues and help them succeed. Whether it be a relevant journal article or a good database for herbal remedies (e.g., Natural Standard!), share it with your team if you find it helpful.

Master the phone.

  • A willingness to call other departments in the hospital who are involved in the patient’s care shows initiative and dedication. For example, if the daily lab results haven’t populated in the computer at a time when they normally would, call the lab and ask about it. Or if another team has agreed to see a patient you are caring for but hasn’t left a note, call the intern/resident/fellow on that team and see what you can find out. DISCLAIMER: Be sure you understand how your team collects and shares information before acting independently. Your goal is to be helpful in providing the best care to the patient, not to show off in front of the whole team on rounds. Be sure your supervisors are aware of your actions and report back to them what you find out.

Organize.

  • This rotation heavily emphasizes developing your ability to present your patients thoroughly, efficiently, and correctly. This will be stressed to you at orientation, but we advise taking it seriously. Use whatever system works for you (e.g. a spiral notebook, stack of notecards) to organize the pertinent information for your patient concisely. DO NOT “WING IT.” If you consistently present your patients while shuffling through a stack of papers, it looks sloppy and reflects poorly on your level of effort.

Practice presenting patients before rounds.

  • This follows as a corollary to #4. It may sound silly and awkward, but we highly recommend doing it a few times early in the rotation. If you have your medicine rotation later in the year, this may not be necessary. Ask your residents or fellow students to help you. Receiving corrections before rounds will smooth out your delivery at the bedside, and your preparation will shine through.

Smile.

  • You look so nice when you smile!

Ask questions appropriately

  • One of the most common pieces of advice given to third year medical students is to “act interested.” This does not mean to pepper your supervisors with questions in order to meet some unspoken quota. Basic tips:

Ask questions you are actually interested in/unsure of.

  • Ask questions in the appropriate setting. It can be inappropriate and disruptive to ask a question not directly related to the patient’s care while on team rounds, so write it down and ask about it in private company later.

Don’t ask questions that can easily be answered with resources you’re privy to. (e.g. ‘Is amitriptyline a TCA or SSRI?’ Just look it up.)

Introduce yourself.

  • …to everyone! Make an effort to introduce yourself to nurses, other ancillary staff, and patients’ families that you anticipate spending time with and learn names in turn. Things often move fast, but it doesn’t take long to say “I’m xxxx, nice to be working with you today.” Almost everyone working or staying in a hospital appreciates being acknowledged personally, and it will make you more memorable.

Bring food. (Kidding. But seriously…)

  • It may look like a desperate, shameless attempt to suck up to your team with petty bribery (no one will be fooled), but if you bring in a batch of your Mom’s famous bean dip or a box of Krispy Kreme donuts, you will receive at least one favorable evaluation should you ever work with the author of this list.