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How to Succeed Vs. Survive During Third Year of Med School

Clerkship year can be a challenging time for many reasons working hours become longer, grades carry more weight, and the burden of disease on patients and family comes into clearer focus. It may seem like a daunting task to balance patient care, clerkship grades, and one’s own well-being, but here are some tips to move from surviving to thriving during clerkship year:

Be Proactive

When you’re first beginning 3rd year, your responsibilities to the team start with being engaged on rounds. Then you move onto owning your patients. This means that when questions arise about a patient’s history, physical exam, or lab results, you’re the person that team looks to first for the answers. You will not always have those answers, but you should still be knowledgeable about each of the patients you are carrying.

Once you feel comfortable with the basics, try to be proactive in helping the team. Whether it’s grabbing supplies before rounds or taking that consult call when the rest of the team is swamped, residents and attendings take notice when medical students chip in. At first, it can be difficult to know how you can help out. But it never hurts to offer your hand!

Even if you require help to achieve your task (ie. properly consulting another service), the effort is appreciated. Next time you encounter a similar scenario, you’ll be even more qualified to handle it independently. Over the course of a year, these small steps can amount to substantial growth in clinical proficiency and competence.

Think Big Picture

During the day-to-day grind of rounds, patient care, and studying for shelf exams, it can be easy to miss the forest for the trees. One point to keep in mind is this: despite often feeling that there is an insurmountable amount of knowledge to gain, your hard work is in fact resulting in daily progress!

It is difficult to be a perpetual novice, rotating from one service to the next just as soon as you begin to feel comfortable with your current role. Take a step back every now and then to appreciate the small and big ways in which you have made professional and educational strides.

Another aspect of the “big picture” is the balance in your life. During clerkship year this may feel nonexistent at times! However, life continues during and after clerkship year; try not to lose sight of this even if you don’t have the time you previously had to dedicate to your hobbies. This can be anything from planning a hike on your golden weekend to grabbing a meal with friends after a long week. Small things go a long way toward maintaining balance during this challenging year.

Stay Grounded

Lastly, don’t lose sight of your motivation. There is a good reason you applied to med school and, now that you have the fundamentals down, you have the chance to apply yourself everyday to improving patient care and developing as a future physician. At the end of the day, it’s not about the clerkship grade or shelf exam scores. So try and appreciate the unique opportunities in front of you and enjoy the opportunity to put your training into action.