How to Make the Most of Your Surgery Clerkship/Rotation

“Cutting out bad habits is far more effective than cutting out organs.” 
― Herbert M. SheltonFasting for Renewal of Life

Now that my Surgery Rotation is over, I thought it would be best to share with you all some things I learnt during the rotation as well as things I would have done differently if I knew at the inception of the rotation which may have allowed me to cover more material during the 8 week period.

How to Make the Most of Your Surgery Rotation

1. Gather Your Resources

For some of you eBooks are more convenient; for others hard copy books are a must. Whatever works best for you, before starting your rotation review the recommended book list provided by your school for your Surgery rotation and if possible, either purchase a physical copy or download an eBook or PDF if one is available. By doing this it will ensure you never delay your reading because of a lack of resources.

Also, if you're one who is keen on organization and having things set up in a particular way for each rotation or when you go to study, it may be in your best interest and that of your pocket to purchase all of the necessary items you would need in bulk so you won't be stuck without a post-it note, or finding yourself running out of pens or pencils when you sit down to study. 

2. Schedule Your Activities

Some teams during the rotation will require your presence during your call nights. Yes; 24 hour calls in medical school-THEY DO EXIST. 

As you may very well be on such a team, get in the habit of either using Excel or Word or whichever software that suits your fancy to construct a detailed timeline of each day. By doing this you will ensure you never miss an assignment, you're keeping up with the necessary reading and you're aware of where you're expected to be at a given point.

3. Read Around Your Patients DAILY

As I move from one rotation to the next, I'm always reminded to read around the patients I interact with as this is the easiest way to ensure I'm actively learning and constantly reading. It also makes it easier to understand certain illnesses and how they are managed- believe it or not. 

Take your Consultant's word for it, whenever you see a patient, take interest in knowing everything there is to know about their condition and be sure to voluntarily (either during rounds or in between surgery cases) inform them of what you read or understand and ask those questions that may have came up during your reading that you just couldn't figure out. REMINDER: Don't use this time to ask a question that you can easily find the answer to if you think about it or simply read. Rather ask questions about why a particular drug was used if in your reading you saw that another class of drug is commonly preferred. 

4.  Create a Study Group

If your Medical School has end of Clerkship Oral Examinations, it would be in your best interest to practice not just by yourself, but with a group of people that you're not only comfortable with but who you can seriously study with. 

As clerkships are rather short, you don't have time to waste so forming study groups with friends who you won't really study with will be a disadvantage to you and that's not what we want. Make the most of each study session, by using your case reports as practice and to gather possible questions that may be asked in the examination. 

This is your opportunity to truly learn various topics well. It is recommended that study groups should not exceed 4 persons, but I will leave that to your discretion. 

 The sooner your group is formed, the better. You can arrange to practice and study once or twice a week until a few days before the examination. By doing this you will be well prepared for your Orals and your fear of being questioned by a consultant that you may not have interacted with, will be diminished if not completely eradicated. 

Recommended Surgery Textbooks

These are a few books that I started using towards the end of my rotation, mainly because that's when I came to gather them all. The order in which you use them, is solely up to you and your study style. 

1. Scott: An Aid to Clinical Surgery- Robin Charles Noel Williamson 

2. Browses  Introduction to the Symptoms and Signs of Surgical Disease- Norman L. Browse

3. Davidson's Principles and Practices of General Surgery- James Garden

4. Bailey and Love's Short Practice of Surgery- A.J. Harding Raines

5. Robbin's Basic Pathology

6. First Aid for the Surgery Clerkship- You should be able to read this book through at least twice during the course of your clerkship depending upon the length of your rotation. 

Those are the books that I consulted whenever I needed to know anything about a particular condition. If I could do it all over again, before my Surgery rotation (maybe the weekend before) I would have went on the wards and read the doctor's orders book to get an idea of the common surgical procedures that are performed regularly at the hospital and then inquired with any of the Senior House Officers or Interns about the odd surgeries that are performed. 

Based on this information I would have started reading up on them in Scott's, used Browse's for the presentation of each condition and then read up on them a bit more in Bailey and Love's to familiarize myself with the management and imaging techniques and review the pathology in Robbin's. Davidson's would have been saved for my post-rounds reading and note taking. 

As always, I hope you find this information helpful in one form or another and I wish you all the best with your Surgery rotation. 

Remember preparation and diligence is key!

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