To succeed during your clinical rotations, it’s important to focus on professionalism, medical knowledge, and communication.  


Professionalism is key to success during your third year. Arrive early, dress appropriately, work hard, and act professionally.

  • Treat every member of the health care team with kindness and respect. You can learn something valuable from every member of the healthcare team, including nurses, the respiratory therapist, etc.
  • Be compassionate. Empathize with your patients and their families. Try to think about things from their perspective. Spending a few extra minutes actively listening can provide an enormous amount of comfort to an anxious family.
  • Be enthusiastic. Go above and beyond! Residents and attendings can identify disinterest and negativity, as well as genuine enthusiasm. Their observations will be reflected in the final evaluations. Those who invest time and effort to learn more find that their residents and attendings invest more time to teach and mentor in return.
  • Be a team player. Offer to help others.

Medical Knowledge and Patient Care

  • Take ownership of your patients' care and show initiative. Go beyond reporting facts: become an investigator, interpreter of data, and an advocate. Make an active effort to anticipate and solve problems. Research possible management plans and present them to the team.
  • Read about your patients and their conditions. Come up with a differential diagnosis, follow up on consults and labs, and check in on patients during your downtime. Use each patient encounter as a learning opportunity. Think about what your next steps would be if you were solely responsible for their care.
  • Speak up and show what you know! Don't be afraid to contribute and answer questions confidently. At the same time, be careful not to think – or act – like a "know-it-all," always remain open to other's ideas and open to learning new things.
  • Document precisely, thoroughly, and accurately. If you did not check it, don't write it in your note. It is better to omit information than to include false information.
  • Study! Use resources recommended by your clerkship directors and be proactive about studying. Do not wait until the last week of the rotation to begin reading. Set aside time every day to cover core curriculum topics and review practice questions.
  • Challenge yourself. Third year students often have more free time than fourth year students, interns or senior residents during the day. This is your chance to shine! Find the answer to a clinical question raised on rounds, look up an evidence-based guideline that addresses optimal management of a condition your patient is facing, or help expand a complex differential. You can directly impact patient care, even as a student, if you put in the extra effort.
  • You may be a student, but you can also be a teacher. Incorporate what you're reading and learning into your presentations on rounds. You will elevate your own performance, as well as the performance of your entire team.

Communication and Feedback

  • Know the expectations of your clerkship director, attendings, and residents. Ask for guidance at the beginning and midway through the rotation. Knowing expectations at the onset of your rotation will ensure a smooth transition. By checking in at the midpoint, you will show that you're genuinely interested in meeting and exceeding their expectations. It will also allow you time to enhance your performance prior to your final evaluation.
  • Ask for feedback from your team. Ask for tangible examples of your perceived strengths, as well as areas for improvement. The best way to learn is to get constructive advice and to challenge yourself to integrate what you've learned into your repertoire. This is how you will become a better clinician.
  • Communicate openly and honestly with patients and their families. Explain your role and offer to help them. However, do not answer questions if you are not certain of the answer. If you do not know something, simply state that you will help them find the answer. Always circle back with the family to close the communication loop once you have identified their concerns.
  • Communicate proactively. Check in with the supervising resident before rounds in the morning, throughout your shift, and again before you leave at the end of the day to exchange information and ensure that all outstanding issues are addressed.
  • Don't be too shy to ask for help. Residents and attendings are often distracted with their own clinical responsibilities. They may take for granted that your silence equates to self-reliance. You're a third-year student; you're not expected to know everything! Even a few minutes of coaching may prove tremendously helpful with workflow efficiency, documentation, presentations, or even core concepts you're struggling with.
  • Make your rotation what you want it to be. If there are certain experiences you're interested in— whether it's watching a lumbar puncture, going to the OR to follow your patient, or mastering certain curriculum— make it happen! Discuss your objectives with your supervising residents and attending to ensure they can help you achieve your goals.
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American Academy of Pediatrics