Internal Medicine Rotation / Clerkship: How to Survive It

Heaven. Paradise. Nirvana. This is what the internal medicine rotation seemed like right after the surgery rotation. Let me tell you why.

My Experience with Internal Medicine Rotation

I spent this rotation at two different hospitals. The first 2 weeks were spent in a tiny community hospital, about 30 minutes away. The last 4 weeks were spent in a larger community hospital, about 5 minutes away.

In the first hospital, a friend and I pretty much just followed an attending the whole time we were there. We barely did anything. We did not review charts, look up lab values, nor interact much with patients. We weren’t allowed to do any meaningful work — hospital rules. We did read tons of UpToDate though. Truth be told, it was a bit boring. On the bright side, we got to leave for home by 12:00 PM or 1:00 PM every day. Since it was during the summer, I went for a nice long swim whenever I got back.

The second hospital was more like a teaching hospital. There were a group of medical students, an intern, a resident, and an attending. The resident and attending were pretty cool and chill. I got to do a bit more work too. I saw patients and wrote notes. And I went home around 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM every day — just in time for a swim.

Internal medicine is really about seeing patients, writing progress, and rounding on them with the attendings. The one crappy thing about the rotation was the documentation. For example, the doctors wanted a hand-written list of current medications on the progress note. This could take a long time to write if the patient is on 50 different drugs. To me, documenting whatever is already in the system into hand-written form is a waste of time.

Overall though, I had fantastic attendings. And because I got to go home quite early for a swim, internal medicine rotation was one of my favorites. It was a bit sad to work with hospitalists, because I don’t get to work with any one doctor for an extended period of time. The longest I have worked with one attending was for 1.5 weeks, which is not enough for a strong letter of recommendation.

How to Get Through Internal Medicine Rotation in One Piece

It really wasn’t hard to survive this super-chill rotation. However, you will have to motivate yourself.

Internal medicine is just so broad; there is so much to know. Therefore, I would recommend you to not procrastinate and to start studying whenever you can. Personally, I started studying on my third week into the rotation, which allowed me 3 or 4 weeks to prepare for the shelf exam.

Books for Internal Medicine

It is recommended to read at least one book for whatever rotation you are on to prepare for the standardized post-rotation exam (i.e. shelf exam or COMAT).

Just as a side note, if you are taking the COMAT, check out this excellent resource straight from the makers of the COMAT. It will show you which topics are tested and will give you a short practice exam — all for free!

For this rotation, I used two main books: First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 (which you should be very familiar with by now) and Kaplan Medical USMLE Step 2 CK Qbook. (If I had an online question bank subscription, I would not have used the qbook. Since it was too early to prepare for the COMLEX, and since I did not want to shell out extra money for a year-long question bank subscription, I used the qbook. This worked out well because I got to use the question bank later to prepare for the Family Medicine shelf exam.)

You may be surprised, but the internal medicine COMAT was very, very similar to the COMLEX Step 1. If you have this rotation early enough, like I did, you actually don’t need a Step 2 book, like Master the Boards USMLE Step 2 CK. It would be wise to get it as soon as you can though. You’ll need it eventually to prepare for COMLEX Step 2.

So to sum everything up, it won’t be too bad.

This article is part of the How to Survive Medical School series. Click on the link if you want more tips and hints about surviving academic hell.

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