After passing Step 1, a huge burden is lifted off our shoulders but, although there is not as much pressure to study for a big test, the 3rd and 4th years may well be the most important years of medical school. The alliances made during these years will make or break a student’s future – clerkship grades and strong Letters of Recommendation all rely on successful rotation experiences. What are some good strategies for optimizing these experiences?

3rd year – Regardless of which core rotation you’re on, these suggestions can be applied:

  • Be early, be on time, but NEVER make your team wait
  • Be courteous to everyone! You’ll have many pleasant experiences if you foster a good relationship with all medical personnel
  • Know your patients! Your team will respect you and it will improve your doctor-patient relationship
  • Don’t upstage your colleagues or residents. Even if you know more than a resident, unless you are asked specifically you should not interrupt when they are being pimped
  • Stay late to show interest if you want to, but if someone tells you to go home, go home!
  • Always read, and anticipate questions that your attending might ask about your cases (Surgical RecallPocket MedicineFirst Aid PediatricsFirst Aid PsychiatryBlueprints Ob/Gyn)
  • Ask questions, but at the appropriate time!

4th year:

  • People choose electives according to their weak subjects, according to their interests, or to try a specialty that they will never encounter again
  • Try to do a Sub-Internship or ICU elective – they will expose you to fast-paced, high-stress medical environments
  • Try to complete audition electives at places you plan on applying for residency. This is a great time for you to get noticed at a place that might not have interviewed you
  • Continue reading and reviewing; remember you still have to take Step 2!
  • Don’t be seduced by “senioritis” and slack off during your last electives – people will notice!

Some brief points:

Step 2 CK: The common question is “how much time should I take?” There’s no straightforward answer to that question – it depends on how well you did on Step 1 and how your knowledge base has increased since then. Again, practice questions are critical. USMLEworld is invaluable in preparation for this exam.

Step 2 CS: Do not underestimate it! It is an easy exam but also easy to fail! The key is live practice with a partner and practicing differential diagnoses for common CS cases. Use every opportunity you have with a real patient as if you were preparing for CS and you will be successful.

by Jasmine Riviere Marcelin, Class of 2011