It is safe to say that most rotations have more required reading than is possible to do in the span of 5 weeks. So don’t be caught off guard by this. As much as you want to take a breather after didactic year, do your best to hit the ground running day 1 of your rotation so that you don’t fall behind. If you can do a little pre-reading before each rotation, that helps too.

The Material:

-Most rotations have 1 required textbook

-Many have additional required online material, and

-Several have additional textbooks that are recommended though not required.

I don’t know about you, but I am a slow reader (especially when it comes to dense textbook material). To put it mildly, it is a challenge to read a 1,300 page textbook in 5 short weeks. Especially when you are working 40+ hours per week (for some rotations 60+ hours). Add to that the fact that there are other assignments due, including:

-SOAP notes (a format used to document acute encounters with patients)

-Full H&Ps (lengthy History & Physical write-ups that attempt to document every significant component of a patient’s medical history, including social life) (used for new patient intake)

-Spaced Learning Questions (somewhat unique to our program, a list of 10 questions every week that we complete with short-answers and send back for evaluation)

-End of rotation projects (presentations, essays, oral exams, physical exam practicals)

-Extra assignments given to you by your preceptors (generally “research this and get back to me”, although sometimes they want a formal presentation).

So perhaps you’ll understand me when I say that it is a challenge to complete all of the work expected of you. Let’s be honest, most students don’t. Which brings me to my second tip for success, which is to prioritize your studying. In other words, take a quick glance at the chapters in the book, decide which subjects you are weakest in and start with those. And if you are the type to make flashcards/notes, perhaps limit your flashcard-making to those few subjects and add later only if you have time. Otherwise you may wind up getting through only half the material.

Another tip for success is to communicate with last year’s class and with your peers. Find out who has had your rotation already and ask what to focus on for the test. Also find out if they have any suggestions about how to interact with the staff and with your preceptors. Sometimes knowing what to expect is half the battle. Our class actually has a shared Google doc where we jot down our impressions of each rotation as well as a few pointers for the next student. Share notes, flashcards, and resources as well.

That being said, there much less stress this year. Having tests only once every 5 weeks is much less taxing than having them every week. You still have to work all of the time, but much of your work involves being active and socializing with patients. Do NOT spend all of your time fretting about your grades and exams. Remember that the point of clinical year is to learn how to see patients. And your patients will teach you a hell of a lot more than any textbook ever will.

In my experience, I can study a disease process or presentation in a textbook a thousand times, and yeah maybe I will learn the bullet-points and concepts. Much of it I will forget. But it is not until I see a thing in practice, sitting there in front of me with a gown and a smile, that the knowledge truly sinks in and becomes a part of me. I am realizing that, as challenging as I found didactic year to be, I am a sponge for experiences. I imagine this is true of most students.

When you see something in practice, that is your BEST opportunity to learn something new. So go home and research more about it that night. Don’t wait. Find out what it is that you just saw. And what more you could have done to help that patient.

That is probably the best advice I could give. Supplement with textbooks; learn from patients.