The clinical rotations medical students can expect

The clinical rotations medical students can expect

If you are studying in the field of medicine, you won’t be able to learn everything in the classroom or through a computer. Hands-on experience is an essential part of the process through which students acquire the skills and confidence necessary to do the job. This is achieved through the provision of clinical rotations, or placements, which involve observing and performing supervised work in a clinical setting. Some of these core rotations are obligatory for every student because they teach skills that are fundamental to any medical career. Students are also required to choose some of their placements as elective rotations, giving them a chance to pursue particular interests.

If you are studying remotely, as students at Holy Family online nursing do, you will arrange your placements with a suitable medical institution close to where you live. Your tutors can help you do this. Most facilities are used to taking on students because medicine has been taught this way for centuries, and every professional you meet will have been through it. Although it can be hard work, many people consider it to be the most exciting part of the learning process. The Second Degree Distance Hybrid Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program at Holy Family University is dynamic and built for advancing nursing careers amidst ever-changing healthcare needs.

Core clinical rotations

Core rotations vary slightly by course, but usually include:

  • Internal medicine – learn about the diagnosis and treatment of diseases in adults, and the actions which can be taken to decrease their risks in the first place.
  • Surgery – develop the ability to perform operations, including minor ones with minimal preparation, and major ones in theater with a full support team.
  • Emergency medicine – spend time in the emergency department learning to triage patients and provide initial treatment for a wide range of injuries, plus critical and emerging illnesses.
  • Family medicine – acquire the skills and understanding necessary to treat children and elderly people, and to help family members support them.
  • Obstetrics and gynecology – learn how to safely deliver a baby, provide prenatal and postpartum care, and support those dealing with issues around menstruation and menopause.
  • Psychiatry – understand how to work with patients who are cognitively impaired or neurodivergent, and how to diagnose and treat diseases and disorders affecting the mind.

Elective clinical rotations

The elective clinical rotations available will depend on where you carry out your placement and who is available to support you, but they can involve work in any of the major branches of medicine, from cardiology to oncology, urology, rheumatology, neurology, and so on. Most people take their elective rotations after their core rotations, allowing them to make contacts and identify opportunities. You might choose areas in which you have a longstanding interest, or you might take advantage of the opportunity to work in a department with a really strong reputation, giving you a career advantage.

Elective rotations are usually shorter than core ones, but you can still expect to be working 8 to 12-hour shifts. These are likely to involve weekend and overnight work, so you must be prepared to adjust your life accordingly.

What to expect on placements

Initially, each clinical rotation will require you to focus on observation, but you will gradually perform more and more tasks yourself. You will examine patients, analyze results from the lab, apply and remove stitches, and gradually move on to more complex work. Sometimes you will be working alone and at other times you will be part of a group and will be expected to engage in group discussions after your practical tasks are complete.

As you take part in your rotation, your work will be assessed by your supervisors, and this will contribute to your final grade. There will also be an exam at the end of each rotation, to ensure that you have acquired the knowledge and understanding expected of you.

Rotations can involve a lot of work and be quite draining, especially if you are continuing to study at the same time. Bear this in mind when arranging your schedule so that you will still be able to cope with other responsibilities and have the time and energy needed for exams. Rotations are exciting to undertake, however, as they are your first chance to engage with medicine hands-on, and they are often the point at which people first begin to recognize themselves as future medical professionals. One day soon, that could be you.


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