Clinical Advice: “Wear Good Shoes”

If I could give you one piece of advice to surviving your clinical years, “wear good shoes” would be it. The rest of my advice has no basis other my own meandering experiences.

General Words

1. Be nice to the nurses, even when they’re not nice to you (and most of the time they won’t be). The phrase “kill them with kindness” has never been more appropriate.

2. Don’t be the student with the smartphone who spends their time on ward rounds tweeting.

3. Do be the student with the smartphone who looks up the answers to share while the consultant’s back is turned.

4. Never lose your consultant on ward rounds. They will prove impossible to find.

5. Patients will die. You will not be prepared.

6. Try to remember to sleep and eat.

7. Invest in a notebook that can fit in your pocket. Take it everywhere.

8. Don’t overdo it. Whatever people may believe, persons in the medical profession are just as human as everyone else. We all have limits; respect them.

9. Go to school. Please.

10. Don’t be a suck-up. In the future you’ll be practising medicine with the colleagues you spurned, not the superiors you kissed up to.

11. Be prepared to suck. Now, as a junior, being wrong is funny and correctable. As a senior, consultants will fail you for killing your hypothetical patient. Make your mistakes now.

12. Don’t take medicine personally. Your aptitude on the wards/in clinic is not a reflection of who you are as a person. Some days will be better than others but don’t let the horrible days make you doubt your self-worth.

13. Always take the opportunity to leave UHWI. Cornwall Regional and Kingston Public Hospitals are where you will get all most of your practical experience. And everyone is nicer there.

14. Get used to packing, un-packing, re-packing and doing it all over again in a matter of weeks.

15. Lower your expectations, of everything: doctors, patients, the government, the facilities. The joy of medicine is really more like a resigned indifference.

16. Don’t expect kindness or for things to be easy, so be grateful when they happen.

17. Balance your time. Med students study hard but they party harder.

18. Recognize that each consultant thinks his/her word is gospel. Like all gospels, they will frequently contradict themselves.

Academic Tips

19. You will never get asked about the topic you read the night before. You will always get asked about the topic you said you were going to read later.

20. So read. Read all the time. Read everything.

21.  Prepare for your tutorials. You will actually be able to follow the discussion.

22. Dress appropriately. This is a hospital – there are gross things everywhere. The less skin you show, the harder it is for the microbes to get you. And you don’t want to be the student in the consultant’s anecdote about wardrobe malfunctions.

23. Common things are common. Don’t be the med student who hears hoofbeats and thinks “Zebra!” (But if you are, don’t worry. We’ve all been there).

24. Practice your clinical examinations. All the time, everywhere, on anybody who will let you. You can graduate without knowing how to site an IV, but you will fail third year if you can’t competently examine an abdomen. (You won’t, but everyone will think you’re an idiot anyway).

25. Hold on to that sample case note from Introduction to Medical Practice. It will come in handy for your multiple graded case notes in third year.

To all the third years about to start their junior clinical rotations on Monday, good luck and Godspeed.

Edited to add: Oh my goodness, the abdomen station was removed from this year’s junior exams and that makes me hopping mad! (It is also probably way harder to catch the bad students now).

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