For all 3rd and 4th years out there…

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    I started 3rd year at the beginning of July with Pediatrics as my first rotation. I thought that it would be a little slower during the summer and that I could ease into clinical rotations without being too overwhelmed. WRONG!!! Peds has been slammed! Complex cases, traumas, kids who have been abused, you name it. Every day when I walk in I feel totally useless; the teaching has suffered because it’s been so busy, and the med students are having a hard time just trying to keep up…no time for extra studying. Is it always like this? I looked forward to my clinical years, and there are some aspects of it that I love. I enjoy spending time with my patients and their parents and applying what I’ve learned over the past couple of years to clinical medicine, but I feel like I spend all of my time trying to keep my head above water. When is the point (if there is one) where you start to feel competent, and start to feel like you really can do this for the rest of your life? Is it dependent on the rotation? I’m hoping to start a family in the next year and the stress of the past few weeks is starting to affect my decision…and my physical well-being as well. Any thoughts? All advice is appreciated.


    Hi there,

    I don’t know if it’s any help, but I am a 3rd year who feels exactly the same way!… Only I am doing Internal Medicine right now, not Peds.

    Our Medicine clerkship is 8 weeks, divided into 4-week blocks. The first four weeks (spent at our main medical center) were pretty much horrible. I felt stupid, abused, useless, and confused most of the time. A few exceptional teachers along the way but pretty much everyone being too busy (or confused themselves) to really care about us med students.

    Now, the last four weeks I am on a rotation at a community-based hospital (Kaiser) and things are a lot slower with more time for teaching. I also feel more confident now – most of the time I know what my role is and (sort of) what is expected of me. Once in a while, however, my newfound confidence comes crashing down, mostly when I am told that I need to improve my write-ups or my patient presentations – just when I thought I had it down! I usually feel great when I am with the patient – and I see that as a good sign, I guess.

    So, if it helps any at all, know that others are going through the same frustrations right now.



    Thanks for the reply, Sofie. Things did get better once I made the switch to the peds clinic. Better teaching, more time, and simpler cases changed my outlook a little. I still feel pretty useless at times though. Like you, I start to think that I finally have it down and someone comes along and pulls the rug out from under me! I just keep trying to think that I’m here to observe and learn, and that I won’t ever be perfect at this. And that despite what everyone else on the rotation does or thinks, sometimes time to yourself and with family is more important. Good luck with whatever one you have next, and thanks again.


    My personal observation was that I began to feel comfortable round about the second to last week of the rotation. Then you are thrown into the next one.

    Because my last name starts with “A” I always get stuck taking call the first night (how original). When I started my OB call 3rd yr, they expected me to know how to read a fetal monitor, the various stages of labor, and the rotations of the baby through delivery my first day on the rotation. That was a fun night. If it wasn’t for my 2nd yr resident, I would have looked like a complete idiot even though I was brand new on the service.

    M4 does seem to be better. Somehow you get used the routine of being thrown into a situation, and as your M3 year goes on, you learn to adapt quicker. Still never seemed to have time to study for the NBME shelf exams AND look competent on the wards.


    (who will be starting a gyn onc rotation in a week… trying to make sure OB is what I really want to do… oh… and who STILL hasn’t written her darned personal statement yet!!!)


    Well I am a third year and I am just about half way through my Ob/Gyn rotation and I love it. The moto here is “see one, do one, teach one”. We have a great intern who takes time to teach so that when it gets busy in Labor and Delivery we (medical students) can really contribute to the team. Many of us according to the 4th year students will delivery or help in delivering a baby. The thing that I really don’t like is Gyn. clinic. Maybe its because it don’t get the same rush that a C-section or delivery would give. I don’t think all rotations are this exciting though. Some of my friends in medicine feel disgruntled and the like. I think the best thing is to have a good attitude and show a willingness to learn. I have found that a willingness to learn will often make others feel a responsibility to teach. Don’t be fooled though! We have some days when teaching is not paramount and you just end up scutting all day or being somebody’s shadow. My thoughts or attitude on those days is always one of “just try to glean whatever you can”. Hope this helps.

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