A couple months into clerkship a few practical tips:
- Buy Pens – Buy lots of black pens. Preferably with a hard tip to write through multiple carbon sheets. Always carry at least 2 with you and know you will lose 1-2 per week on average and later see them in your resident’s coat pocket. That brings me to another point: buy cheap pens. There is a saying that the more expensive the pen, the faster it disappears, also, that pens migrate up the medical hierarchy. The CEO must have a room full of wonderful rollerballs and fountain pens…
- Bring a Notebook – We all like our technology and have smartphones, but pick up a small notebook to scribble important notes in. Much of the teaching takes place right before/during/after patient encounters and you aren’t going to whip out an iPad to write key points. The attending just told you something important, get it down somewhere.
- Wash Your Hands – I know it is drilled into you from the first day, but really, wash your hands, you don’t want to get sick or get others sick. Also, wear PPE and put it on/take it off properly for everyone’s benefit.
- Wash Your Hands – No really, this isn’t a typo. Wash your hands with soap and water before you even think about touching the food you brought or that muffin from the cafeteria. The alcohol-based hand rubs work wonders against bacteria; they also make your food taste disgusting. Don’t believe me? Use some then eat an apple.
- Scrubs – Always have at least two pairs out of the machine. If you get a leg covered in (insert bodily fluid) you don’t want to be searching for the closest scrub machine while (blank) is soaking into your socks.
- Mark you Bag(s) – Do you remember the joyous day when the OMA gave everyone in your year backpacks? Well, now you on the same rotation and they look identical. Make your bag unique so nobody accidentally takes it home and you don’t need to search through the pile when you need to grab a snack or your stethoscope. Also, a unique lunch bag saves much time when on break.
- Buy a Travel Mug – Coffee and tea get cold quickly and somehow they know to page you right after that first sip. Grab a travel mug to keep things warm and avoid seeking out a microwave. You might also save a few cents on coffee by bringing your own mug.
- Good Socks and Shoes – The floors are made for easy cleaning, not for standing on for >12hrs. Get some shoes with proper support. Your knees and feet will thank you for it. Also, grab some compression stockings for surgery to reduce fainting/make you more comfortable. They make a big difference.
- Have Fun – it is a year of learning. Show up, contribute how you are able, and find a field you like, enjoy. It is a time of transition and can have a steep learning curve, but try to appreciate the experiences you are having.
- Kevin D. (Western University)
Kevin documents more of his clerkship adventures and life musings on his blog, Aboot Medicine
10. Wash your hands – It's great to come home after a day of hard work, isn't it? Before you flop onto the couch, reach for that snack, or kiss your significant other, wash your hands.