The FAQs About Third Year Clerkships

There was some point in your life, either as a young elementary school kid or a senior in college, when you finally decided that you were going to become a doctor. You dedicated every waking moment of your life to that task, preparing yourself in the best way possible to become one of the best. After four years of college and two years of medical school, you finally arrive on the wards, ready to care for patients. So now what? Being 4 months out from my first day as a third year medical student, I can finally reflect back and answer some of the most common questions and concerns I had about doing well on third year clerkships.

1. What’s the best way to prepare for shelf exams?

In one word – Uworld. To elaborate on this a little more, if your shelf consists of NBME questions, Uworld is a great resource to start with as you are going through the 4-8 weeks of each rotation. There are also NBME practice exams that can be found online to prepare you more. However, as per my experience, I found Uworld to be more than sufficient for doing well on shelf exams.

2. What resources can I use to study while on the wards?

UpToDate, Case Files, Online MedEd. The most common questions you are going to be asked as a third year medical student are going to be around your approach to each patient. Sure, you’ll get some pathophys questions from your Step 1 knowledge, but now it’s finally time to become a doctor and start thinking about patients. The differential diagnosis becomes more important now than ever. And this is where I found Online MedEd videos to be golden. The approach in each video is simple and easy to remember based on the most commonly encountered chief complaints and problems. Once you have this down, go one step beyond by learning management via UpToDate for each of your patients. The more you see, the more knowledge you’ll accrue.

3. How can I get off on the right foot with my team?

The most important thing to do here is set expectations. On your first day at every rotation, ask your residents and attendings what exactly they would like to see in terms of your work, presentations, and H&P’s. Each attending operates very differently. While some may like to see you delve into every aspect of the social history, others will think you’re crazy when you talk about sexual history for a patient here for COPD exacerbation. So ask first and set the tone right.

4. Is it ok to ask to do something, like a procedure?

Yes! The worst thing that can happen is you’re going to be turned down. And that’s ok. It’s better to be said no to rather than miss an opportunity. Just make sure you are not making a request in an emergency situation or asking to do a bedside thoracotomy. Residents and attendings understand that you are there to learn and would like to do stuff, so they’ll generally be receptive of your participation. Usually, if they don’t want to let you do a procedure, they will give you a reason why or tell you to watch one and then do the next one.

5. What is it like working with another third year medical student?

It’s an interesting situation. One of many things can happen, including everything from it being a phenomenal experience where you work well together or a terrible experience where you one-up each other. Usually, residents and attendings should be responsible for making sure both of you are given an equal amount of work and are evaluated separately. However, given the subjective nature of third year clerkship evaluations, this is not always possible. As peers yourselves, it is best to set boundaries and expectations from the start in order to avoid such conflicts.

Related Link: Seven tips for your third year in med school

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Yash Pandya

Yash Pandya is a science writer at The "Almost" Doctor's Channel. He is a rising third-year student at the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in Emergency Medicine with minors in Neuroscience and Chemistry. Yash plans on attending the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Fall 2016 with guaranteed admission. In addition to the usual humdrum of academic involvement, Yash loves to play Ping Pong, catch up on the latest "Big Bang Theory," and travel. Having lived in India for half his lifetime, Yash aspires to expand his horizons into international healthcare by practicing medicine globally.

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