Five Top Tips to Maximize Your Clinical Rotation

February 27, 2019


A clinical rotation arguably is among the most important aspects of medical school. After all, it’s typically the first opportunity for students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world medical situations. They comprise the final two years of medical school and involve students working directly with physicians to help solve complex medical problems. Recently, the American Medical Association talked with physicians who shared their five top tips for students looking to maximize their experiences.

  1. Keep your options open: Many students enter medical school confident in their choice of specialty, only to change their minds once they’ve been exposed to other options. Focus on your primary interests, of course, but keep an open mind about possibilities you may not have considered. Ask questions and seek opportunities to see multiple specialties in action.
  2. Think about coordination of care: Even if you’ve definitely settled on a particular specialty, another reason to consider a range of clinical rotation possibilities is to gain exposure to elements of care that will coordinate with the care you’ll provide in your own future practice. Today’s practice of medicine is increasingly integrated. So, experiencing clinical rotations across a variety of specialties will help you more effectively practice team-based care.
  3. Talk with your fourth-year peers: As you head into your third year of medical school, it’s helpful to connect with a fourth-year peer who already is doing what you’ll experience in your near future. These fellow students can help keep you informed and offer advice about new health technologies, important clinical skills, work hour requirements and procedures that you’ll want to practice in training.
  4. Speak with an attending in that specialty: A top perk of a great clinical rotation is the rare opportunity to interact with attending physicians and observe firsthand how they care for patients in a real-life setting. Pay attention to every detail and don’t hesitate to ask questions so that you’ll gain a full understanding of the everyday expectations and culture of your chosen specialty.
  5. Have fun: Make no mistake – the study of medicine is challenging and the hours you’ll spend in lectures and labs and studying for exams likely will prove daunting. But the excitement of donning your white coat or gaining real-world exposure and experience will be worth every moment. Says Dr. Michael Rakotz, MD, primary care physician and director of chronic disease prevention with the AMA’s Improving Health Outcomes initiative: “I still remember what seems like every second on my first clinical rotations. I remember how much fun they all were and how great it was to get out of the classroom because I did not enjoy sitting in a classroom eight hours a day. But I loved every second of learning how to practice medicine from real doctors in a real hospital with real patients. I loved every second of it, and I know most students to do too. It’s really where you learn how to become a doctor.”

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