Seven Necessary Tips for Your Third Year in Medical School

How do you do well on during your third year in medical school and on your clinical rotations? What are tips for the third year of med school that you can use?

In this post, I’m going to give you my top 7 tips which have helped me achieve honors in almost all my rotations and honors on over 90% of my evaluations.

If you prefer a video format, then check out this Youtube video and consider subscribing to the channel for weekly content!

Also, I’ve created for you a free step-by-step guide on how to plan out your study plan for a rotation. 

This will help you decide how to schedule your practice questions, book chapters, and practice exams to do well on your shelf exams! It also includes a sample monthly study calendar!

1. Stop Worrying About Your Grades, Instead Work About Your Progress

This is the biggest tip and the one I feel most medical students fall short on during their third year of med school.

If you haven’t learned already – you will soon – but grading for the third year of med school can be very subjective.

Often the things we care about the most (i.e. good evaluations from our attendings) are out of our control.

But we spend the most time worrying about creating a good impression.

No! Instead, let’s do a 180 and become impressive to our attendings without trying!

How? Worry about your progress and not your grades!

We all have weaknesses and strengths. So worry about being aware of your shortcomings and work on them every day.

You may be good with your patient interactions, but not the best with coming up with an assessment or plan. (This was me)

So everyday work on getting better at that weakness.

Don’t do what most medical students do – which is to cover up their flaws. Actively work on them.

If you’re not sure what weakness you should work on first, ask your attending for feedback.

If they tell you to have more concise presentations, then make it a goal to improve on that every day!

Your attending will be able to notice the change you make from the first day to the last.

I’ve tried my best to be aware of my strengths and weaknesses. And I’ve gotten better throughout my third year to work on them before the attending even mentions it.

Thus my evaluations continue to highlight the strengths I already had (interacting with patients) but also speak highly of my growth on my weaker points (coming up with plans, etc.)

So stop worrying about your grade. You’ll be less stressed out and likely will improve the evals you get at the end.

2. Be Your Patient’s Advocate

Make it a goal to have each patient truly feel you care for them.

One tactic I like to use when I am wrapping up my first meeting with a patient is using the following line:

“And again my name is Lakshya; I’m the medical student on the team. If you need anything at all, please let me know. Since I’m the medical student I will have the most time to spend with you, so please let me know if there is anything I can do to improve your care.”

This statement is something I use in almost all my patient interactions.

Most of the time the patient will smile and say thank you – but they may not take you up on it.

But you will find that one patient who tells you something they may not have told the attending or resident. You can then take that information (ideally with a plan to address it) to your team.

Not only will your patients know that you care, your team will realize that the patient trust you enough to communicate with you.

So always make sure your patients know you care.

Other small things you can do when no one is watching:

1. Join them on their physical therapy sessions to support them
2. Make sure you track down the nurse/phlebotomist if the patient didn’t get their meds or labs drawn
3. Checking on them in the afternoon before you leave
4. Learning about their life and not just their symptoms

The above tips have helped me get good evaluations. But honestly, I don’t remember much about what my evaluations say.

What I do remember is that interaction and relationship I had with that patient.

It’s much easier to grind through medical school when you approach every patient as a life-altering experience for you.

3. Know Your Patient Better Than Anyone

Going off the last point, learn your patients better than anyone.

You will be an all-star student during your third year of med school if you can do this. 

Now if you’re first starting off during your third year of medical school, it can be tough to know what you should know.

So first start off with just knowing about your patient’s life. What do they do for a living, who do they live with, what are their hobbies, etc.

You can gain their trust and comfort by learning just one fact about them every day.

As you become more adept during your clinical rotations in medical school, you’ll be able to ask about medically relevant history.

To keep track of their medical history, use a scuttsheet if you’re on the wards. I prefer this one here.

Using a scuttsheet helps you keep details of their medical history down. You can have their ejection fraction, A1C, medications, etc. on theirs.

With just one scuttsheet you can have all the info your attending may want to know. As you learn more just add it to your sheet.

4. Take Care Of Your Body

Don’t use being a third year medical student as an excuse to not take care of yourself.

If anything now is the most crucial time of medical school for your health. 

So make sure to get some exercise. Schedule a few workouts a week ideally during your lighter or off days.

Attempt to make >80% of your meals each week. Meal prep on your days off if necessary.

Get 6-8 hours of sleep every night. Take naps if you can.

Limit your coffee dependence. A cup or two a day is fine but don’t overdo it.

To perform at a top-notch level, your health has also to be top notch. Don’t ignore it.

5. Always Ask Why

If you want to grow your medical knowledge beyond just what you learn for your shelf exam then follow this one tip – always ask “why”.

Learn to become curious about your patients, their management, and work up.

You will learn and remember much more when you have a patient with a specific condition.

You can expand your knowledge about them and their condition if you become extra curious about everything surrounding their care.

Why did they get this specific medication? How do you dose their insulin? Why did we not do this imaging exam?

Ask your residents and attendings when appropriate. You can show your interest in the patient as long as your questions are well thought out.

So don’t just be satisfied with what your shelf exam resources tell you. Keep asking “why”!

6. Gather Your Resources Early and Stick With Them

Now since we’re talking about the shelf exam, pick your resources early!

Once you pick your resources, stick with them!

Here are my articles for the top resources for each rotation:

Top Resources I Used To Honor My Ob-Gyn Rotation
Top Resources and Tips to Honor Your Family Medicine Rotation
Top Resources to Honor Your Internal Medicine Rotation
Top Resources to Honor Your Pediatrics Rotation
Top Resources for Your Surgery Rotation
How to Honor Your Neurology Rotation

Once you pick resources from the above articles, stick with them.

Don’t switch from one text to another halfway into your rotation.

Pick a highly recommended resource and finish it.

Here’s my step-by-step guide on how I study for my clinical rotations!

7. Start Studying For Your Shelf Exam Day One

Once you pick your resources, start studying your first day.

Don’t be one of the medical students who want to “save” their UWORLD questions for the end.

No! Make sure to start your practice questions from the very start. 

You will become more prepared for the rotation and shelf if you do!


So hope you enjoyed this post on the top tips for the third year of med school and your clinical rotations.

To receive more specific tips for each rotation, check out the following posts for each rotation I’ve done thus far.

Internal Medicine
Surgery
Pediatrics
Family Medicine
Neurology
Ob-Gyn

Also, check out the YouTube channel for weekly videos on succeeding in medical school!

Syndicated with permission.

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Lakshya Trivedi, TheMDJourney

My name is Lakshya (pronounced Luck-sh) and I’m a third-year medical student at UT Southwestern in Dallas, TX. TheMDJourney is my effort to give helpful advice and personal experiences to anyone on a similar journey. It is also my dedicated form of self-reflection and a project I hope to keep on going for a while.