what is the secret to doing well on 3rd year clinical rotations?

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    I keep hearing that the boards and 3rd year rotation grades are the most important factors in obtaining the resdiency of your choice but how do you exactly excel on third year clinical rotations? is it all or mostly subjective i.e. due to whether or not the attending likes you? is it how well you scut? or how much?

    Andrea JanAndrea Jan

    In my experience, scut earns brownie points in Surgery. Otherwise, it’s not that important to your grade.

    My NEVER-FAIL TRICK for getting a good grade on a rotation? After two weeks on any given rotation, tell the attending that you would like to sit down with him or her and find out how you’ve been doing and what you can improve on. And don’t let the attending just say, “You’re doing fine.” You need details, and you should say, “Can you suggest anything specific I can learn to help improve my clinical skills?”

    This forces the attending to stop and really take note of you. After your critique session, you really shine at whatever it was the attending suggested you should improve on. And…Viola! You’ve become a stellar student in the eyes of your attending! 😀

    You should also ask the same input from the resident who will have a strong say in your evaluation.

    This strategy works fantastically well because it helps eliminate some of the subjective-ness inherent in the evaluation process. It forces your evaluators to verbally express exactly what they are looking for in you. Then, you give it to them. Plus, it makes the evaluator recognize that you are a consciencious medical student who really cares about becoming a good physician.

    Easy! You’ll be a huge success!

    😉 Andrea Jan


    I pretty much refused to scut and came away with Honors in a bunch (like medicine, surgery, OB). I literally refused to do the classic scut rectal on a patient I didn’t know by giving the a**hole resident a withering look. He didn’t try it again.

    You’re there to learn. Be interested. Be eager to do procedures, pick up more patients. Ask lots of good questions. Practice suturing. Laugh a lot. If they think you’re handling the stress well they’re more likely to think you’re “able”. ITA with the above – meet with your attending and resident to discuss your progress.

    Good luck and HAVE FUN!!!!!


    Be a part of the team! It pays to work well with others. Be nice and helpful to your classmates who are on the rotation with you (residents and attendings do notice), and to your residents and attendings…without crossing the line.

    Know your patients. From the resident point of view, I don’t care how much information students can spout off to me from a textbook. I care that they get here on time and take responsibility for their patients.

    And do study for shelf exams/OSCEs, or whatever makes up the objective portion of your grade. They can make the difference between one grade and another!



    I agree…be apart of the team.

    Don’t be a “spoiled” medical student, who does no scut, but wants to be taught. With residents its a trade-off…you look up these labs for me, I’ll go over their significance with you. It pretty selfish to expect without giving. You’ll learn more if you’re more involved, and not always “in lecture.” Remember, you’re the student, and repect people’s positions…when you’re an intern you’ll appreciate a helpful student (vs. one who thinks they know everything, and feels entitled to all of the perks without actively participating in the work).



    Having done really well on my rotations, I think the real secret is more than being part of the team in terms of enthusiasm and work — it is also realizing that no one has as much power over how you do as you do.

    I think the most important thing is really to remain professional. Really professional. If someone’s inappropriate to you, tries to scut you out all the time (and doesn’t repay you by praise, warmth, teaching, or anything), yells at people, generally acts unprofessional — your best defense is to be totally professional.

    1. Define your job. Most med schools will write in the clerkship description what they want you to get out of the clerkship. Your job is a combination of these goals (ie “know how to do xyz procedures”, “know the content of this book for the shelf”) plus the daily tasks of the team that you have to help them accomplish to the best of your abilities. The resident who runs the team will tell you what these tasks are at the beginning of the year, but the basics really don’t change. you can read First Aid for the Wards and they give you a really good run down of how you should conduct yourself in each rotation and what counts the most.

    2. Do your job uncomplainingly and with as much positive attitude as you can muster.

    3. Realize people (residents, interns) can be jealous, moody,on a power trip, PMSing, sexually harassing of women med students, high (literally), incompetent, lazy, any of those things — and ultimately, you can’t do anything about it at all, you can just be professional. That also means not showing too much emotion — just remember, in a matter of weeks, if you don’t like these people, you NEVER have to see them again. Ever.

    4. Read, read, read. It’s amazing how empowering it is to read about your patients and about hwat you’re seeing.

    good luck! You will do fantastic. And just remember you don’t have to be perfect to match well. I know a classmate who did terribly in a few clerkships, only average in others, who matched into a very decent residency, got a stellar fellowship based on her nwe start, and is now an attending at a prestigious academic hospital. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to try and just keep in mind — no matter who you come across in clerkships, they do not determine your future, you do.


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