5 Tips for Success in Your Third Year of Medical School

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Here come clinical rotations, the moment you have been preparing for and thinking about for the past two years:

    • You have just received your rotation schedule.

    • Each month brings something novel and exciting.

    • As you enter the clinical wards inside the hospital walls, you find yourself immersed in a new world.

    • Navigating the different floors and learning the EMR system will be just a few of the initial hurdles you face as a clinician trainee.

    Remember – you can always ask for help! And vice versa. Don’t hesitate to offer help, as patient care is a team sport. Here are 5 tips to succeeding in your third year:

    Tip #1: Choose clerkship resources wisely 

    When it comes to preparing for shelf exams, I always tell my students to have a reading resource and a Qbank. Many find value in having a printed book they can read in between patients.

    Read up on your patients and correlate with the cases in your review book. Then, go home and reinforce your knowledge with a Qbank. Many clerkships have specific resources as well; touch base with your classmates who have completed the rotation to see what was helpful. 

    Tip #2: Be engaged when on duty

    Staying focused when working in a clinic or hospital ward is essential. You may be used to minor lapses or zoning out during lectures, but make sure the same doesn’t happen during your clerkship.

    Have some study materials to review during downtime. This way you’ll be ready for the inevitable shelf exam, and you’ll do better on your clerkship as well. Be sure to pause your studying when a resident or attending asks for help, as your enthusiasm will not go unnoticed. This is especially true if you are on a clerkship that you are considering pursuing as a career and are seeking a letter of recommendation; but even if it’s not the case, any clerkship is a precious once in a lifetime experience!

    Check out our blog post on increasing productivity in order to find the most effective options for you! This experience will be useful throughout your medical career, so remain present and stay interested. 

    Tip #3: Know your patients well

    You probably heard that medical students should know their patients better than anyone else on the team.

    Students have ample time to interview, examine, and speak with them. Knowing your patients well can help you shine on your clerkship and impress your attending(s) for a strong performance evaluation or letter of recommendation.

    • Keep a scut sheet on you when interviewing patients; you can find some options online or make your own.

    • Write down everything relevant about them and even some fun facts like their occupations or travel histories.

    Keep this sheet with you until each of your patients is discharged. Having access to a checklist of labs, past medical history, and treatment plans at all times will help you stay confident during presentations. Don’t forget about the added benefit of having an answer ready for your attending should he/she ask. 

    Tip #4: Ask for feedback

    Many schools have mandatory feedback sessions mid-clerkship. You may meet with attendings you work under or the clerkship director to discuss your performance on the rotation. Often, it is a good idea to seek out feedback for yourself: this will let the attendings know that you are serious about your performance.

    You also will get the opportunity to improve before their feedback becomes a part of your evaluation for residency. The rule is, never be afraid to ask for tips to improve; listen generously, as hard as it is sometimes. 

    Tip #5: Make time for yourself

    Transitioning from the classroom to working up to 80 hours, six days per week on rotations  can be tough. Although you may not see your friends and family as frequently as you used to, remember to keep up with your loved ones. Find some time to relax and recharge, be it a chat with your mom in the morning or a quick meditation before you go to bed.

    Third year is demanding, but it also is a unique time to try new things and to figure out your future medical path! Check out our blog post on self care to find ways to decompress during this hectic time. Enjoy this new experience of interacting with patients in a clinical setting, learning from amazing professionals and exploring your own interest in the profession.

    About the Author

    Mike is a driven tutor and supportive advisor. He received his MD from Baylor College of Medicine and then stayed for residency. He has recently taken a faculty position at Baylor because of his love for teaching. Mike’s philosophy is to elevate his students to their full potential with excellent exam scores, and successful interviews at top-tier programs. He holds the belief that you learn best from those close to you in training. Dr. Ren is passionate about his role as a mentor and has taught for much of his life – as an SAT tutor in high school, then as an MCAT instructor for the Princeton Review. At Baylor, he has held review courses for the FM shelf and board exams as Chief Resident.   For years, Dr. Ren has worked closely with the office of student affairs and has experience as an admissions advisor. He has mentored numerous students entering medical and residency and keeps in touch with many of them today as they embark on their road to aspiring physicians. His supportiveness and approachability put his students at ease and provide a safe learning environment where questions and conversation flow. For exam prep, Mike will help you develop critical reasoning skills and as an advisor he will hone your interview skills with insider knowledge to commonly asked admissions questions.