Medical Students

Clinical Rotations: Encounters of a Medical Student during M3 Year

Medical school years are the most eventful, if not the most memorable years in a Doctor’s life. Most of us will agree! You will be exposed to many different personalities during your M3 year, and your success depends upon being able to interact productively with all personality types. No, I'm not speaking of patients now. I'm talking about your fellow medical students.

Clinical Rotations – A Paradigm Shift in Personality Traits

Something about clinical rotations brings out an entirely different set of personality traits among your fellow classmates. If you thought they were aggressive during the pre-clinical years, you will be surprised at how they reveal themselves during clinical rotations. Everyone knows they have to shine. The pressure is on. You will be submitting your residency applications, and you will definitely be competing against some of your fellow students, even against your friends. And it is a zero-sum game. There are a limited amount of spots in the match. The M3 year can be pretty ugly!

At the same time, some students reveal their personality as more compassionate and kind than you might have imagined. They may appear, however, one way to the attending and may present themselves in an entirely different manner to you. Be prepared – Forewarned is forearmed!

Whatever the personality types you encounter, be prepared to accept them and move along. Remember, the change you want in the world must begin with you. Do your best at maintaining compassion and acceptance, and then, move on. There is no plus side to ruminating over the inevitable personality surprises you will encounter.

Be prepared and know that knowledge is power. Always remember that you have a job to do, and that job is patient care. Learning to adapt to different styles of management and coping among your colleagues will help you throughout your medical career. Keep your focus on the patient and his or her welfare. Everything will fall in place!

Medical Students

Medical Students at an Exhibition during M3 year

You may encounter any of the following personality types during M3 Year:

1. The Magician: Among the types you will encounter, there is always a “magician” whose patients are the easiest to care for. Their resident loves them, despite the fact that they leave early and arrive late. No one notices, except you. And it grates on your nerves. The obvious admiration the attendings display for his effortless performance might arouse envy. Get over it. Welcome to the adult world. Someone will always manage to glide by with effortlessly and with better results. Tell yourself you're learning a lot, even if he seems to know more without trying. Don't waste a lot of time agonizing over your obvious shortcomings. Care for your patients and move along. You have other classmates to deal with.

2. The Gunner: There is always the student who has his/her eye on a spot in the program through which you're rotating. They are really the gunners, and they can be totally annoying. They ask questions and they answer them before anyone else has a chance. They stay late, and shadow the residents all day, while the rest of your classmates are sharing a pizza in the cafeteria. They always appear upbeat. This is a life or death rotation for them. They volunteer for the extra scut work you were all going to end up with anyway. But now, they appear to have an unnatural enthusiasm. It's annoying, but the best approach is to learn to live with it.

The gunner is the classic overachiever. They make everyone else look insipid by comparison, but you rarely want to arrive 2 hours early for pre-rounds, and if you do, they'll already be there.  They tend to study alone, and they tend to ignore their classmates in favor of shadowing the residents and attendings (if they can get away with that!) The squeaky wheel does get the grease, however, so you can expect them to get the best spot holding the retractor during the Whipple procedure. They're the first to put in their central line, and usually they do the next few as well. You have to elbow them out of the way to get your clinical experience and procedures in.

However, you and your fellow students can enjoy talking about the gunner behind his back – Great sport during the long hours waiting for the ER to call with an admission! Don't try to beat these guys at their own game. Just do your best.

4. The Ivy League Dude: In both your third and fourth year rotations, there will often be a rotating student from another school. If they happen to be from a higher ranked school than yours, you'll immediately become defensive. On the other hand, some fourth years may see the rotation as vacation time, post match or post application period. They won't help much, but as the M3, it's your job to do everything anyway. You're learning. And besides, if you really want to emulate them, there's always next year.

5. The Improbable Friend: You may have a student on rotation with you who wasn't alphabetically assigned near you in the lecture hall for the entire first two years of medical school. This individual can often end up being your new best friend. Enjoy his/her company for the length of your rotation. Rotations seem like the latest 24-hour news cycle, but when they're over, you'll both move on. The friendship may last, but the bond will be there forever.

6. The Hapless Freelancer: I had a guy on my M3 neurology rotation that showed up every week or so between buying trips to Europe – he ran an antique business on the side – or I guess he did medical school on the side, but his gig didn't last long. He eventually disappeared, and I see him occasionally in his shop. He arranged his rotations around his travels and his tennis matches, and although these types sometimes do well in the match – this guy was prepared when he showed up – he left school only a few months short of his degree, usually not a wise choice, which begs the question if it was a choice. Don't think you should be able to do it all. It catches up with you eventually.

7. The Best Friend: The best possible circumstance is to rotate through a service with your best friend. But sometimes, that entire one on one and one on five or six can cause tension to build up. Competition is consequential, when you both have to shine to get that rec. It's hard, if not impossible to maintain the same relationship during the 80-hour workweek as you have when you meet up with your friend for a night out at the pub.

A Few Words to the Wise

So, with all the different personalities to cope with among your fellow medical students, remember to do the best you can, stay calm, and realize that things will get back to normal after you rotate off the service. You'll also have a lot of great stories to tell your children.

Th e key thing to keep in mind while running up against these “types” when you're tired and overwrought is to remember that “patient care is the goal”, and all else is secondary. If you can adjust to the pressures of living together 80 hours a week, you will all have gained experience that will continue to serve you well during residency and during your entire medical career.

• Meet the Author • Dr. Lawrence Kindo


I am a Medical Professional with a passion for writing, blogging, playing, computers, and of course patient care. My writing in this medical blog will reflect my passion, and you are welcome to be a part of this venture. This medical blog is a tribute to all the great medical pioneers, and to the ultimate source of wisdom, God.


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