Congrats! The moment you’ve been waiting for since you started med school (or even sooner than that) is upon you. But what is it really going to be like? How do you prepare?
After 6 months on the wards, here are some tips I think are pretty important:
You will hear this on any rotation, but it really is important. UpToDate is your new best friend. Hear about an interesting patient? Read about on UpToDate. About to go interview to a patient? Skim through UpToDate on your way. Prepping for a presentation on a topic? UpToDate. You can even download the app straight to your phone.
Case Files is a fantastic series. I read it cover to cover for every rotation. It is a great introduction to each rotation. The cases are really quick, very high-yield informative reads.
2) It can be really stressful starting a new rotation, especially if you’re at a new hospital.
Spend the first half your rotation getting used to the rotation. Read about your patients, learn the terminology and figure out what’s expected of you.
Then spend the 2nd half preparing for the shelf. It is sort of pointless to try and study for the shelf in the beginning anyways. Sure, the weekends are a perfect time to whip out Blue Prints or First Aid, but where you really learn is on the wards. Once you see a patient, reading about them in the textbook helps you reinforce the material.
3. Do practice questions.
For shelf prep, UWorld Step 2 is amazing. You can have it on your computer, your phone and your tablet/iPad. It’s definitely pricery ($400 for a year) but completely worth it. Not only does it help you get used to the format of the Shelf exams, but each question has a lengthy explanation and it basically serves as another source of information.
4. Dress professionally.
This is a tough area because the residents and attendings might dress a little more casual, but as a rule of thumb, you should always dress more professional than your seniors.
For guys, its pretty strait forward. For ladies, it can get a little more complicated. There are so many combinations! Dress pants and a nice shirt are always a safe bet. I think skirts and dresses at or a little above the knee are totally appropriate. You can never go wrong with tights. Boots in the winter/rain are ok as long as they are in good condition.
I basically paid attention to what the residents were wearing and tried to dress as professionally, if not more professionally, as they were on a day to day basis.
5. Get used to not knowing the answer.
It’s okay. That’s the point of this year. Attendings and residents don’t expect you to know the answer to every question. The questions they ask you are meant to teach you and guide your learning.
It’s also important not to lie. If you don’t know an answer to their question, tell them you don’t know but you’ll look it up!
6. Try not to take things too personally, especially in the OR!
The attendings/residents will get upset and they will inevitably get mad at you for holding the camera wrong or not retracting the right way, but don’t take it personally.
This also applies to patients. Not every patient is going to love med students. There will be patients who don’t want you in their deliveries or their surgeries, but don’t let that get to you. You’re awesome and it’s their loss!
7. Be honest.
I know I mentioned this already, but it needs its own category because its so important. Rounds are stressful, you will inevitably have forgotten to look something up before hand, but if you do, don’t lie about it! Even if you are pretty sure there sodium was okay, just tell your team you aren’t sure and you’ll get back to them. No one will fault you for that (unless you are consistently forgetting, that’s another story).
8. Work hard, play hard.
Good work-life balance is essential. A happy person is a better student.
Seriously. Exercise, paint, take pictures, go to happy hour with classmates, whatever floats your boat, but make time for things besides studying and work.
9. Be enthusiastic. You are living the dream.
Even if this is the 10th cholecystectomy you’ve seen, go to the surgery. Is there another med student scrubbed in the case and you have nothing to do? Go to the case. A lot of my feedback so far has focused on my enthusiasm. It’s easy to get caught up in the scut work or trying to study for the shelf, but remember, this is what you’ve always dreamed of!
As a side note, while it’s important to be enthusiastic, it’s also important to be genuine. The residents and attendings don’t expect you to want go into their field and you don’t need to feel pressured to tell them you want to go into their field just because you think that’s what they want to hear. Most of the time they see through people that are being insincere anyways.
Stay true to yourself and you’ll rock this year!
Oh and most importantly,
10. The wise words of Elle Woods: