Medical Student Electives - How to get the most benefit from your Clinical Rotation - part 1

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What to expect?

Okay, so if you're reading this you may be a medical student, might have a medical student friend or you're simply interested in how clinical rotations are organized. A clinical rotation means you will be working for the first time in the hospital and be directly involved in patient care.

For most medical students the first clinical rotation is always an emotional time. You go to your assigned hospital in the morning and you really don't know what to expect. Of course you might have some idea about what goes on at the hospital and what you should do, but even with older friends to give you advice you can still find yourself totally unprepared on the first day.

Benefiting fully from your clinical rotations can make a huge difference in your medical education. This is when we finally get a chance to integrate the knowledge from the books with day-to-day patient interactions.

What to expect?

1. Patient interactions

Patients can be scary for a medical student. Your first encounters will probably be clumsy, but that's OK. That's how all the great doctors began their careers. Even your most esteemed university professors had embarrassing moments. You may not find the right words to say to the patient, you may be asked a question you have no idea how to answer. Just relax and take it all in, admit to yourself that you are just a medical student who is there to learn. Patients always miss having someone to talk to so try to be that person. Try to really understand what they are going through and they will be kind to you. If you can't manage to take an accurate history at first, don't worry! As you gain more experience everything becomes second-nature.

2. Doctor interactions

Depending on where you live in the world, there may be different approaches to clinical medical education, but the idea remains the same: Students will be following a doctor around the hospital. That's how it usually is. As time passes you will start to have more responsibilities yourself, but first you must see how things are done.

The doctor responsible for the medical students is usually very kind and will gladly help you out if you are really interested in learning something. Try not to be a know-it-all and be open to learning whatever he/she might teach you. He has years of experience in dealing with patients, in administering drugs etc. Ask many questions, there are no stupid ones.

If you are asked a question about something you haven't got a clue about, never be afraid to say: "I don't know". You are there to learn.

3. Preparation

Try to come to your rotations well-prepared. Reading your textbooks in advance really helps you out by making it easier to integrate everything. Reading attentively creates a structure on which you can add various other knowledge. During clinical rotations, doctors don't really have the time to give you the information in an organized manner. You will be seeing lots of patients, signs, diseases and procedures in a very short time so you should know the theory in order to ask better questions.


Thanks for reading!


Comments 1 comment

Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

Oh, excellent tips! Thanks for sharing!

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