How to be a good medical student in the clinic

This post is an expansion on an answer I wrote on Quora on what makes a great medical student in the clinic. It’s very similar for interns and junior residents so I thought I’d share it here.

Be motivated, but not too much. We’re aware that our specialty is probably not the one you want to do and that’s fine. Just don’t try to fake a special interest in what we do. It’s obvious. It’s best to clarify your interests at the beginning of the rotation so we can tailor the rotation accordingly.

You can ask questions (obviously), but not too many. Don’t fake an interest by asking questions. It gets annoying and slows down the clinic.

Never make up a clinical finding. When you didn’t do something on an exam, just say you didn’t do it. Same goes for history, but we’re well aware of the “patient say something to the med student and a totally different story to the attending” phenomenon.

Write clear, concise notes. Seems obvious, but it’s more difficult than it seems. It’s often an overlooked aspect of pre-clinical years. I assume it’s because schools assume this will get taught during clinical rotations and clinicians think this has been taught during the pre-clinical years…

Procedure Note

Show up on time. Leave when the work is done. Sounds obvious but I’ve seen people try to get away with it. Ward and clinic = team work. If you slack others will have to pick up the slack and they’ll remember.

Do what you’ve been asked to do. No hiding in the library.

If you’re asked to do a presentation, make sure you don’t go over the allotted time. I know your topic is super interesting, but it’s probably something I know very well already… Think about those classes when the prof would go over the allotted time…

“Pure medical knowledge” is not as important as most students think. Knowing how to get access to that information is way more important, especially now that we have a world of knowledge available at our fingertips.

Keep an open mind. It’s easy to start a rotation thinking “there’s no way I’ll ever enjoy doing this”, but it’s a trap. I never for a second thought I’d enjoy my psychiatry rotation but I really did. I even got a good reference letter out of it!

When you sit down and think about it, it’s easy to be a top med student - intern - resident. Be a good team player and do the best you can. You’ll get rewarded with a good evaluation plus you’ll have someone to call when you need a favour — or a reference letter!


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