This year, keeping in theme with the rest of 2020, clinical placements will be a little unusual. With different medical schools setting individual rules for the return to the clinical environment in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, students may find themselves with fewer hours on the wards and perhaps reduced time to engage with patients. With this being said, it’s more important than ever to make the most from your placements. There is a lot of advice that is circulated by medical schools, doctors and older students regarding the best method to make the most of your clinical rotations, but here we set out some of our favorites which are less commonly discussed.
1.) Make friends with your placement group.
Different medical schools have individual ways of dividing cohorts into clinical placement groups. You may be on your own on placement, in a group of 2 or in groups of much larger numbers. If you are fortunate enough to be in a group of students, do your best to get to know your peers.
It’s invaluable to have peers around to discuss cases, share concerns and practice histories and examinations on each other.
You might not always get on with everyone in your group, but hopefully you find some!
2.) Appreciate that (usually) you are on placement to learn how to be a doctor, not for basic rote-learning.
This is a very common tip passed around by doctors and older students alike. In my experience, it certainly rings true. Shadowing clinical teams on the wards gives an honest view into the lives of doctors and helps you to understand how your knowledge translates into clinical practice. The communication skills you pick up through regularly taking histories and performing examinations on real patients is also crucial. On this note, try to talk to the junior doctors as much as possible. They lead very busy lives, but they were in your shoes very recently and are often keen to help support your learning and give feedback on histories and examinations.
3.) Keep on top of nutrition.
This one can be tricky, particularly on long placement days. Keeping adequately hydrated and fed is key to making the most of your placement. I’d recommend knowing your rough schedule for the day and packing snacks and lunch for the day. Always bring a large bottle of water to placement with you as well! Remember, you can’t take care of someone else when you haven’t taken care of yourself.
4.) Always have a pen!
Yes, it will be ‘borrowed’ and never returned, but are you even a medical student if this hasn’t happened to you at least once? Having a pen is essential on the wards for making notes, filling in logbooks and yes, occasionally to lend to seniors.
5.) Get familiar with your logbook (but not too familiar!)
Your logbook (or any other wonderful term your medical school terms this delightful checklist), is the document that details the tasks you are required to carry out within a certain placement block. It may involve carrying out a certain number of histories, doing examinations or observing and carrying out procedures. Whilst being mindful of what is expected of you through the placement is important and you should definitely try to tick the items off sooner rather than later, be mindful that patients are not in hospital for the purpose of allowing you to complete your logbook.
Some of the most valuable and insightful experiences I have had on the ward were the result of shadowing a doctor with no intention of completing tasks in the logbook.
6.) Enjoy, this is what it is all about!
You’ve made it out of the lecture halls/PBL classrooms, and you’ve finally got to the wards! Try to enjoy the fact that you are one step closer to being a doctor, and congratulate yourself on getting to this stage!