Ross University Blog

THE CLINICAL YEARS: The Top 7 Skills Clinical Students Need to Succeed

February 04, 2016

Vijay Rajput, MD, professor and chairman of medicineDean and Chancellor Joseph A. Flaherty, MD
In a follow up to a popular blog Dean and Chancellor Joseph A. Flaherty, MD (left) chatted recently with Vijay Rajput, MD (right), Professor and Chairman of Medicine and Medical Director, Office for Student Professional Development, about tips to help students make the most of their medical school experience.

In our recent blog, The Top Seven Survival Skills Medical Students Need to Succeed, we focused on the Foundations of Medicine portion of the program.

But you'll need different strategies for success during the clinical years. So Dean Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, sat down with Vijay Rajput, MD, Chairman of Medicine and Medical Director for the Office for Student and Professional Development, to compile some tips to help you make the most of your clerkships.

Check out the tips below.

FLAHERTY: It’s important in the clinical years to learn to ask for and receive feedback, and accept it without being defensive. Use it and learn from it. It’s a really good trait and it doesn’t come naturally.

RAJPUT: Ask, “How am I doing?” “Are there things I should be doing differently?” Get regular feedback on your performance.

RAJPUT: You must continue to learn from your patients. Read about the diseases you see in your clerkships. Study more about them when you have down time during your calls and in between rounds. Go to your clinical conference, morning reports, and grand rounds.

FLAHERTY: Learn how to handle the fear of failure and how to cope with poor performance. These things will happen throughout your practice of medicine. Some days won’t be so good. You have to convert your thinking from competition to success. Understand that your learning and knowledge is to prepare yourself to become a good doctor, not to be competitive with other students.

RAJPUT: Dress and act professionally. If the pilot on your plane showed up in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, you’d think twice. When you’re a doctor, think of yourself as a pilot. Do you tip the pilot? Do your job well and don’t expect rewards. Medicine is a high-level profession. Always take the high road. Even minor lapses in judgment can be detrimental to your career. Be aware of your image both inside and outside of the work environment.

FLAHERTY: Make the lives of your resident and attending easier. But do it without drawing attention to yourself. Be extra considerate. In clinical clerkships you have to try harder and go the extra mile for the people who are going to evaluate you.

RAJPUT: Make your resident and attending look good. Do more than you have to in order to make the patients feel more comfortable. Open the milk carton for an elderly patient when you are with your patient for clinical care.

RAJPUT: Understand that modern medicine is teamwork. Be a team player. You can’t practice medicine alone. In a clinic or on the floor, meet and greet everyone, and introduce yourself. Allow people to take credit for the work of the team. Use the word “we” rather than “I” when managing a patient with a team of residents and interns.

FLAHERTY: Make your first priority matching into any accredited residency program in the US.

RAJPUT: Have realistic expectations.

FLAHERTY: What counts are your grades and your track record. There are ways of predicting what specialty you can match into based on your USMLE® Step scores, and you have to take those predictions seriously. It’s crucial that you obtain a match on your first attempt. Every year that passes will make it more difficult.

RAJPUT: You should have a parallel plan, whether you’re going for orthopedics or surgery.

FLAHERTY: Some students have a go-for-broke attitude; the only type of doctor they want to be is a neurosurgeon, and if they can’t be that they’d rather be an accountant. We are obligated to encourage students to match into any residency. Apply for OB-GYN and also apply for family medicine, in only those family medicine programs that will train you in OB-GYN. Make sure you match. Period.

To recap, here are the top seven skills medical students need to succeed in the clinical years:

  1. Ask for and receive feedback.
  2. Continue to learn from your patients.
  3. Learn how to handle the fear of failure and how to cope with poor performance.
  4. Dress and act professionally.
  5. Make the lives of your resident and attending easier.
  6. Be a team player.
  7. Make your first priority matching into any accredited residency program in the US.

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Tags: Leadership , Clinical Program

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