If there is one piece of advice I could go back and give myself as a medical student as well as any medical students getting ready to rotate through their third year, it would be this.
Focus on being an asset. This applies whether you are a medical student, resident, or really in any role that involves working with others.
Everybody you work with, try to make their life easier.
No one teaches you this directly as a medical student or intern and I don’t understand why.
Looking back, I was definitely not the best med student, but now as a resident I see it so clearly.
When I have med students working with me, there are some where I actually miss having them around afterwards because they were so great.
Most are not memorable to be honest. Then there are some that kind of slow you down and get in your way. That’s just the honest truth from the other side.
Every one of them can improve and change the category they are in. Most do as time goes on and they become more experienced. Hopefully this advice helps you guys out to shorten that process.
The great medical students that I miss, it is almost never their knowledge base that impresses me. If you made it to medical school, you have the brains and intellectual ability to learn the medicine. That is what med school and residency are for.
But med school and residency don’t teach personality, work ethic or common sense. When you are on your rotations and electives, this is what preceptors and residents are truly assessing you for. All the medical/surgical stuff is what residency is for.
Every time, the best med students go above and beyond what they are expected to do in terms of being valuable to who they are working with.
I started applying this more as I started residency but I was blind to it during med school.
Having lists printed for the team, gathering procedure supplies, having charts pulled up. All this kind of little stuff is what sets people apart. You don’t need to have even gone through medical school to do these things, but you do need to make a deliberate, mindful effort to make things better. You need to be invested in the work you are doing and participate as a part of the team. You are there to become part of that physician (s) team for that day and you have a common goal with the team. You are not there to watch the clock (even though it may feel like it sometimes).
Show up to every rotation, every day, prepared. It doesn’t matter if you absolutely hate the specialty and are never going to pursue it. For those 4-6 weeks, pretend you are the best specialist in the city in that particular field. You are paying to be there, and someone is allowing you to literally make their day less efficient in an effort to teach you.
Make the most of your money and time, and make sure you are showing up with at least a base level of knowledge. You won’t know everything, and no one expects you to. But you should know the bread and butter of every specialty you rotate on. If a patient list is available the day prior, then have an idea of the conditions people are coming in with.
Treat every patient like your own and pretend you are the attending physician. A lot of medical students will just interview a patient, then regurgitate that information to the resident or staff. Same thing when a nurse tells them about a concern. They just pass it forward to the next person and nothing more.
But this is a complete waste of your time. A high school kid with an average IQ can probably chat with a patient and gather a decent enough history. Your learning, and the reason you are in med school isn’t to gather information. It is to put that information together, in the context of a particular patient and try to solve it.
That is what your literal job will be in a few years any ways. You won’t have the right answer many times as a young medical student, but you need to set up that framework as soon as possible. You have the luxury of having layers of protection and backup around you so you can afford to be wrong right now. Take advantage of it to learn as much as you can. That luxury diminishes very quickly as you start and progress through residency.
The best med students I have worked with, efficiently tell me their history and physical, then put together at least something as a potential plan. I don’t care at all if it is right or wrong, but putting in that effort and treating that patient as their own is what makes the difference.
They’ll either be right, or it’ll be a teaching point. In any case, it shows engagement and care.
When I was on my OBGYN rotation as a resident, the clinic and all of my preceptors enjoyed having me around. It was because I applied this mentality, despite how much I did not enjoy OB. I treated every patient like my own, had a plan in mind for them, and it was like I worked with them as a colleague with slight backup rather than just existing in their space watching them work and slowing them down.
So regardless of where you are in your training, make it a conscious effort to become an asset to the people around you. Be kind, hardworking and a pleasure to be around. It’ll end up serving you in the end. Obviously don’t be taken advantage of and be sent on coffee runs all the time, but you get the idea. It is also easy to become annoying with this and start stepping on toes, so find the balance.
Medical school is a conveyer belt and the lectures and exams are the same for everybody. What will set you apart is your personality, work ethic and ability to provide value to the people around you.
Don’t pretend to be someone you are not, but make every effort to be helpful and take pride in your work. Your name is on it.