6 Tips for Making the Most of Your Surgical Clerkship

6 Tips for Making the Most of Your Surgical Clerkship

Welcome the most exciting clerkship of third year! (; I’m clearly biased. As someone who loves surgery and being in the OR, I found my surgery rotation extremely enjoyable. I know that not all medical students feel this way. Before this rotation, I was honestly terrified of this field because the hours can be long and some surgeons can be “cut-throat.” While true, it can still be a very fun and fruitful rotation. Whether you’re interested in surgery or not, here are six solid tips that will help you excel on your surgery rotation!


Consider surgery as a career

Even if you already know what you want to do, force yourself to consider it. It’s easy to tell when students or residents are not interested in what they’re doing. If you can truly consider surgery as a career option, you’ll be more interested and motivated. You will genuinely exude an eagerness to learn which will be apparent and appreciated by your attending and residents.

Always be early

Show up 10-15 minutes early to everything, whether that’s pre-rounds, rounds, surgery, or clinic. This is important for all clerkships, but especially surgery where the day to day is very quick and efficient.

Read up on surgeries the night before

Before you leave each day, figure out the next day’s surgery schedule by asking your resident or looking at the OR board. Read about the procedure(s) you will scrub in on. Know the anatomy, indications, and complications for each surgery. I also like to watch a YouTube video on the surgery, if one is available.

Fill your pockets

On your first day, ask the resident what you need to carry. It will usually consist of items for dressing changes such as tape, 4x4s, bandage scissors, etc. This will help your team be efficient during rounds and help you shine as a medical student!

Practice knot tying and suturing

One of the best advice I got as a third-year medical student was: “Use your opportunity to suture in the OR as your time to shine, not to practice.” Realistically, you may only get a few opportunities to suture a wound and you may be evaluated on it. So, make sure you come to surgery knowing how to do it! Surgeons are also more likely to ask you to help suture if they know you can.

Always look for ways to make things more efficient

You’ll quickly learn that the surgical environment is very swift and efficient. Whether it’s helping verify consent forms in pre-op or changing dressings during pre-rounds, there are many simple tasks medical students can do to improve the efficiency of the team. The faster tasks get completed, the sooner you can go home, or get to the OR!


Good luck and have fun!!


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