10 Tips For Your First Clinical Rotation
1. Contact your preceptor beforehand!
Confirm the hours, the location, and the appropriate dress. If you have no idea where the office/clinic/hospital is located, it might be a good idea to try getting there once before the morning of your actual rotation.
2. Understand that it’s okay to be wrong.
You [most likely] will not be given enough responsibility to actually have someone else’s life in your hands yet. Remember that you are still a student, and that most preceptors do not expect you to know everything. Learn from it and try not to make the same mistake twice!
3. Show up early. (Or at the very least, don’t be late.)
Be proactive and show interest and enthusiasm! Staying late can probably also score you extra points (unless they tell you to go home, in which case, do so–it is not a trick).
4. Be nice to everyone.
Get to know who they are and what they do! The rest of the staff can contribute to making and/or breaking you. If they like you, they will likely be more willing (and happy) to teach you.
5. Have friends that you can talk to/commiserate with.
Not every day will be a good one. Making stupid mistakes, being pimped and not knowing the answers, giving a patient bad news…it can get really tough, and having someone to talk to can really help!
6. Take notes!
I kept a notebook in the coat of my white pocket to document patient encounters, questions that I came up with that I couldn’t ask right away, concepts that my preceptor explained to me, even just quotes throughout the day (funny, touching, or otherwise). It’s nice to have that to look back on, and shows how far you’ve come since you first started.
7. If you don’t know something, ask!
It might also be a good idea to find out early on what your preceptor’s expectations for you happen to be. Feedback is important, and if you don’t know what’s expected of you, it’s hard to improve! About halfway through the rotation, try to ask your preceptor what you can do better, and work on improving those for the remainder of your rotation.
8. If at all possible, try to keep some sort of a set schedule/routine.
Try to leave some time each night (if possible) to study for shelf exams and boards. It’d be a good idea to go through your student clinical manual (or whatever your school’s equivalent is) to see what the school expects you to learn from that rotation. Keep copies of all your documents!
9. Figure out your food situation and plan accordingly.
It’s difficult to function at your best when you’re being plagued by hunger pangs. Will you be given time for lunch? Do they typically go out for food? Do drug reps feed you? If there’s no real set time allotted for meals, would it be frowned upon to stash snacks in your pockets and eat when free moments pop up? I tend to prepare most, if not all, of my meals (unless I know someone will be feeding me that day) because it’s way cheaper, faster, and healthier.
10. Give yourself room to have somewhat of a life!
This last one was what my first preceptor told me on my last day there–these next two years are the only time that your only real expectation is to just show up (and to do the best you can). Try to enjoy it. Learn as much as you can, but also recognize that your grades aren’t everything anymore. Step 1 is behind you!
- Do you have any advice you’d share on how to do well on your clinical rotation? Share them in the comments!
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