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School of Medicine discoveries

July 19, 2012

Peers advise third-year students on clinical rotations and teamwork skills

As the Class of 2014 enters its third year of medical school, students participated in a four-day orientation to prepare for their transition to working full-time with patients.

Up to now, the students have spent the bulk of their time in classrooms. In the coming year, they’ll form teams of about a dozen students a piece who will train together under the guidance of physicians as they rotate through the seven specialties of internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery, family medicine, psychiatry, neurology and pediatrics.

The medical school’s curriculum office coordinated this orientation, which prepared rising third-year students for the various challenges they will face. Students learned emergency preparedness and life support techniques and completed workshops on injecting medicine directly into a muscle and Foley catheter placement. They even practiced washing their hands – learning to scrub so thoroughly that they wouldn’t carry bacteria or disease from one patient to another. Professors also advised the students on pager use and social media etiquette.

Rising fourth-year students stopped by the orientation to give their peers guidance. Five students led a panel discussion, in which they told stories about how working and being evaluated as a team could prove to be one of the most important and difficult transitions of the third year.

“It’s always easier to be on a rotation by yourself,” Amy Hempel said. “It’s much more challenging to work as a team.”

But, the seasoned students advised, once third-year students connect as a team, their rotation groups will be excellent support systems and a valuable part of the learning process.

Panel members also described the difficulty of having a patient die.

Dustin Anderson, one of the rising M4s, told of how he bonded with an elderly patient and his family. As his condition worsened, the patient moved to palliative care. After two weeks, the patient passed away and Anderson mourned the loss. Several of his classmates shared similar experiences.

“You won’t be alone,” Hempel advised. “Your team will go through it with you.”

The incoming third year students sought feedback on the best study resources, ways to balance life outside of medical school and tools to improve their skill with medical procedures. Though the past year was a challenging one, the rising fourth-years said third year was the best part of medical school.

“Third year is exciting, because you get to see things you’ve never seen before,” Philip Ernest said. “You should go into the year with the perspective that there are a lot of things to learn. See the value in learning new things.”

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Updated: 04/29/2016