Watch Words: Advice for Third-Year Medical Students

Last week, I mentioned keeping a diary during your rotations. But what exactly should you be keeping track of in your Diary?

Last week, I mentioned keeping a diary during your rotations. But what exactly should you be keeping track of in your Diary? Here are three things you can watch for that will get you in great shape for later:

  1. Watch your attendings. What did your attending do today that struck you? This can be anything, from observing how they reacted to a patient's nonverbal cues or defused an upset family member's anger to noting how they communicated relevant information to other health professionals. Describe the details so you can recall them later. If what you saw today differed from what you've seen in other rotations, think about whether it's due to the specialty or just this individual's style. And make critical judgments – did anything you saw about this physician or today's tasks make you think about the kind of doctor you want to be?

  1. Watch your patients. Observe how patients and their family members respond – do they ever surprise you? Which cases really piqued your interest? You may already be keeping a case log; if so, that will help supply the medical side when you want to write about specific patients. But your personal statement will be richer when seasoned with personal details that aren't recorded in case logs.

  1. Watch yourself. Since what you write is private, use this space courageously. What did you do well? What did you do not so well? What were the things that interested you and what bored you silly? Not only can this help you to critically evaluate your educational progress, but it can also give you some insights into your future. What is pushing you towards certain specialties and away from others? How are your actions today helping you to envision the kind of doctor that you hope to be?

Three things to watch for now, ensuring that you'll have less clock-watching to do as deadlines approach.

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