Friday, 5 May 2017

Kay's Tips for Being a Good Clerk

So from my accumulated wisdom from the last four months of clerkship, I've learned a handful of things I wish to share. 

1. Carry at least two (functioning!) pens  and a piece of scrap paper at all times. 

2. Watch what your staff does so you can learn how they do things - ESPECIALLY surgeons. You may get looked at like you have two heads for doing something the way you were taught by another staff. Don't take it personally. 

3. Don't take anything personally. 

4. If someone 'corrects' you, even though you are doing something exactly the way you were instructed to do it 24h before, just go with it. Don't argue. Related: if you're told you contaminated yourself and you're 100% positive you didn't, still don't argue. Get a sleeve/new glove/new gown anyway. 

5. Thank people for teaching you. Not everyone will try. 

6. If you need paperwork filled out, let your supervising staff/resident know early on in the day. 

7. Get to know the nurses and other allied health. They almost certainly know more than you do about what you should be doing especially if you're brand new on a service.  

8. Waterproof shoes. 

9. If you feel lightheaded in the OR - and it happens to lots of people! - let the surgeon/resident know, hand off your tools/retractor and step away and sit immediately. Don't try to fight it. Don't risk passing out in the field. For one, it's not good for the patient. Two, no one likes it if the med student creating a mess of paperwork. (I have not passed out, but I nearly did.)

10. If your staff or resident tells you to go eat, rest, or grab a coffee, do so. As in immediately. Don't wait around, don't ask if they're sure. Run for the call room/break room/washroom as fast as your little legs will carry you. 

11. If you're asked if you'd like to go home early, the answer is yes. 


  1. Excellent advice. As a former resident/fellow and a current attending, I would also advise clerks to relax and not be too anxious (as I was). Attendings are often so caught up in their own work and caring for patients that they aren't watching clerks nearly as closely (or judging them as harshly) as the clerks think. In general, if a clerk is hard-working, polite, enthusiastic, and semi-competent, then they will get a good evaluation.

    Just my two cents, and something I wish I had realized as a clerk before I drove myself crazy with two years of panicked insomnia.

    1. I'm never quite sure about the 'semi-competent' part because everyone has such hugely varying expectations for clerks. Some seem pleasantly surprised that I know how to read while others get very annoyed if I have to look something up because it's a drug or disorder I've not encountered before. It's quite frustrating to never know what you're walking into, and I just do not feel like I ever got a good talk about what med students are allowed or expected to do. Fortunately the vast majority of staff are super nice.