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One small step for a current student, one giant leap for me

Andrea Knittel
AMSA Member
6th Year MSTP
University of Michigan

Post #7 of the "Back to the Wards" series focusing on the transition from research years back to the medical school and clinical rotations.

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, an incredibly gracious current M3 let me shadow him on the first two days of his inpatient pediatrics rotation. I would highly recommend this before returning from an extended absence, as it not only gives you a better sense of what will happen in the months to come, but gives the more advanced student a unique opportunity to demonstrate everything he/she has learned and to teach a newer student.

The logistics: The MD/PhD program identified a willing volunteer who was on an inpatient pediatrics rotation this month, which is what I’ll be doing in either May or June, and put me in touch with him. I decided not to go to orientation, as I knew I’d get my own orientation soon enough, but met up with him following orientation before rounds started for the day. I only spent a few hours with the team on Monday, but I got a good sense of how the team works in the hospital, and when I showed up for pre-rounding on Tuesday, I got a real sense of what medical students do with patients who’ve already been in the hospital for a while. I went on rounds again, saw the med students present, and helped with the tasks that followed.

The lessons: Do this! No amount of shadowing can prepare anyone completely for anything, but it can substantially decrease anxiety. I learned that even after eleven months of clinical rotations, there are still new things to learn and different approaches to adapt to on each service. I saw some great medical students in action, and learned that even folks who haven’t taken a break are constantly learning new things. I also learned that interns, residents, and even attendings are not scary (which should not have been surprising, as many of them were my med school classmates!), and are nice and helpful and willing to teach if you work hard, try new things, and aren’t afraid to ask questions. I also learned that “work hard” includes spending long hours at the hospital. I had a good sense before that this was the case, but spending just two half days in the hospital drove it home.

The bottom line: I need to start believing folks that this will all be fine! There will be long hours, and lots of work, but nothing insurmountable. I’m certain that as crazy as next month may be, at the end of it, I’ll join the chorus reassuring you that you too, will be fine.

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