Medical School Rotations: Surgery Clerkship

6 June 2015

*Disclaimer: My experience on every rotation is very site-specific. It may not necessarily apply to your clerkships. I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.
What I liked:
You get to work with your hands.
We finally get to see the inside of a living, breathing human being. It really is a privilege to be in there, and have the patient trust you in their most vulnerable state.
Funny surgeons with great itunes playlists. When I was on pediatric surgery for two weeks, one of the two docs I worked with always blasted 70's music - I became a huge fan of Earth Wind and Fire!
Scrub Nurses
Learning a ton of medicine, which was really helpful since my Medicine rotation was the one right after.
Da Vinci Robots!

Wearing scrubs everyday- aka hospital pj's.
Meeting the best resident of life. Seriously, this guy won awards for a reason. He was instrumental in getting most of our butts on track for MS4 year preparations, as well as teaching us like a pro.
I had the opportunity to also do trauma service for my call shifts, and the nervous excitement in the room is addicting. The team works incredibly quickly to assess damage. My first evening (I did this rotation in the winter) there were 3 motor vehicle accidents within a couple hours of each other - since then I have become hyperaware of my speed on the highway. As many of you know, the faster you go, the lower your chances of survival.
Plastic surgery- I got to scrub in on a few cases with permission from my residents (they love when you take initiative and see other surgeries during downtime). The surgeons I worked with were the sweetest people I've met in this field. They were great teachers, they allowed us to participate a lot, and they just overall created a warm friendly environment (with great music) for the tech and students in the room. Also, if it wasn't for the length and lack of patient interaction, I could see myself doing this. It was like a beautiful art form. All the cases we saw involved skin cancer patients, and one patient in particular had a forehead nasal flap reconstruction to hide the deformity on her nose from cancer removal. It really changed her quality of life, and returned her confidence.

What I didn't like:
The hours - by the time we got around to morning report... it was still pitch black outside. I arrived and left the hospital in the dark. Depressingggg.
The lack of patient contact.
Witnessing terrible bedside manner.
Most of the surgeons wouldn't let us participate on the surgeries (aka suture), since the residents wanted to do everything. My friends doing this rotation at sites without a residency program got to close every case. So jealous!
Spending most of the day eating out of my pocket (snacks) instead of real food.

How I studied for the clerkship:
Review the cases the night prior: Uptodate & Surgical Recall
Take notes during the many lectures they had set up for us: this was the great part of doing my rotation at this hospital. LOTS OF TEACHING!
There was no time for much extra, the hours were long.

How I studied for the shelf exam:
Pestana x2
Surgery UWorld section
GI UWorld section (I didn't get to finish this; I would recommend finishing and reviewing it one more time)
   What I would have done had I had more time - finished GI, not done a double review of pestana (one is enough close to the exam), completed OnlineMed videos for surgery, done the practice surgery questions on USMLEasy, and reviewed a few chapters of SUTM. This was an internal medicine heavy shelf exam, and I had not done IM yet. There were very few actual surgical case questions. If you have IM prior to the surgery shelf, you'll be fine, and the sources I actually reviewed would be enough. If you haven't had IM yet, add the extra textbooks, videos and Qbanks.

Sources: image 1, image 2


  1. I really liked my surgery rotation as well although after a while standing up I got very tired and very cold!

    Pretty Little Stories

    1. I totally detested standing for all that time as well! But my legs looked nice and toned after two months >.<

  2. Thank you for this! I have 2 months of surgery coming up and am so nervous. I'm doing it in a small hospital with no residents so I'm assuming I'll get to be a little bit more hands on, but I'm so nervous about doing stuff wrong and of course the loooooong hours.

    1. You're going to do great Fran! Having the full attention of an attending during surgery were the cases I learned the most. Don't worry about doing stuff wrong. If the surgeons are a bit mean, just let it roll off your shoulders. All of us have to go through it. It's almost like a rite of passage!

  3. How were the other medical students you rotated with?

    1. They were stressed out and tired as well, but quite a few of them thrived off this environment because they were interested in surgery. As I mentioned in the past, surgery is definitely not the lifestyle for me!


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