Having a Positive Experience in Clerkship (Part 3)

In the final installment of this mini-series on clerkship, current clerk Ashan tells us her stories.

Ashan, Class of 2019:

“Clerkship is one of the most challenging, yet fulfilling years of education you will ever experience. The learning curve may feel steep at first, but you will pick up skills and basic principles of medicine in the hospital so quickly you won’t even realize it.

Preceptors love seeing that excitement in your eyes when they offer to let you do a procedure. The first time you catch a baby, intubate a patient, or get all your IVs will be so exciting! Take advantage of those opportunities. You will find the atmosphere at KGH and RIH are much more welcoming to students than in the largest centers. You are lucky to be studying in a program where there are few other students to compete with.

You will feel lost and helpless, but you have two good hands and a sharp mind – use it.

  • On one of my first nights on call in clerkship I was asked to come down to Emerg to assess a young boy who had just been brought in after a near-drowning. As I walked into the trauma bay and saw everyone – Emerg docs, nurses, RTs, family, and so on – surrounding the pale, little guy, I froze. At this point the Emerg doc and pediatrician were both shouting out orders seamlessly, while I stood there for a minute just trying to absorb everything going on around me. Needless to say, I felt a bit overwhelmed. Not really sure what my role was and not wanting to get in someone else’s way, I tried to find little tasks I could do to be helpful (e.g. pulling up notes, getting blankets, etc.). The pediatrician and nurses took notice of this and asked me to help with ventilation. Quickly, I learned that being available, engaged and willing to help could take me a long way on my rotations.

You will push your mind and body further than you could ever have imagined. It is crucial though, to make sure you take care of yourself first, before you can take care of your patients.

  • On one of my first days in thoracic surgery, I was standing in the OR for what felt like several hours when I began to feel my heart racing, my legs going weak, and my body becoming diaphoretic. I was having a vasovagal episode, but I was determined to fight through it. I tried doing calf exercises to help the blood that was pooling in my legs up towards the rest of my body. A few minutes passed but I still wasn’t feeling better. While trying to stay engaged and answering Dr. Humer’s questions, I debated with myself about what I should do next. It was ~9 am at this point, meaning we were barely halfway through the surgery. I sighed and stepped away from the table. The lovely OR nurses were quick to assist me. I felt so embarrassed but everyone, including Dr. Humer, just wanted to make sure I was okay.
  • I would encourage you all to try to come prepared for long days in the OR. Eat a good breakfast everyday, invest in a pair of compression stockings, and always keep a granola bar in your scrub pocket.

You will make mistakes, and that is okay. This year is meant for learning in a safe environment. Some of those mistakes will feel quite silly at first, but eventually you will be able to laugh with your friends about them. So don’t sweat it!”

Developing this mini-series on clerkship has been a wild ride. I tried my best to avoid directing what the current and former clerks wrote/spoke about for this piece, as I wanted to see what they would want to say on this topic. And yet, even without directing them, they all managed to give similar stories and experiences. To summarize the main points of the clerkship stories shared in this series, clerkship is going to be a tough ride, sure, but it will also be an great learning experience where you will see and do amazing things that you may have never considered and connect with patients on an emotional level in a whole new way. I believe my most important take-away of this piece is that all future clerks need to remember that in your third year, you are still a student. You may make mistakes and be embarrassed about it, but in the end, you are there to learn and mistakes are most definitely expected. Through this whole experience you will have the support of the UBC Medical Program as well as most of the health care professionals you will work with. Even I, though I have limited clinical experience, have noticed that the preceptors that take on students do it because they love to teach. So, future clerks, go forth and be confident, and we will all succeed.

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