Success on the Wards: Book Review

Before the beginning of my third year, I knew I wanted to prepare to do well on my rotations. That is why I decided to pick up Success on the Wards: 250 Rules for Clerkship Success. At more than 400 pages, it is a hefty book. What’s in the book? Is it worth the time and money? Read more to find out.

Contents of the Book

I would like to start with the table of contents. It is a quick overview on what the book is about. Here is everything the book will cover regarding doing well in your clerkship years.

Chapter 1 – Introduction

Chapter 2 – Internal Medicine Clerkship

Chapter 3 – Surgery Clerkship

Chapter 4 – Pediatrics Clerkship

Chapter 5 – Psychiatry Clerkship

Chapter 6 – Obstetrics & Gynecology Clerkship

Chapter 7 – Family Medicine Clerkship

Chapter 8 – Patients

Chapter 9 – The New Rotation

Chapter 10 – Admitting Patients

Chapter 11 – On Call

Chapter 12 – Laboratory Tests

Chapter 13 – Ancillary Tests

Chapter 14 – Attending Rounds

Chapter 15 – Oral Case Presentations

Chapter 16 – Write-Ups

Chapter 17 – The Outpatient Setting

Chapter 18 – Evaluations

Chapter 19 – The Written Exam

Chapter 20 – Rotation Success

Chapter 21 – Attendings

Chapter 22 – Working as a Team

Chapter 23 – Giving Talks

From what I can see, these topics are all relevant to performing well in the third and fourth year of medical school. So far the book is on track.

My Thoughts on Success on the Wards: 250 Rules for Clerkship Success

I started reading Success on the Wards a few months before my rotations began. My first impression was that authors supported their points with lots of research. For example, in the introduction, the book stated that 76% of diagnoses made by the doctor were suggested or established by the history. And if you flip to the end of the chapter, you can find the source of that statement (a journal article titled “Contributions of the history, physical examination, and laboratory investigation in making medical diagnoses”). So you know the author is not making up the data from thin air.

Although the book is very, very comprehensive on the things you may do for third and fourth year (check out the table of contents above), it could be a bit overwhelming. By only reading the book, without starting rotations, it was difficult for me to get a full understanding of what rotations are like. Before starting rotations, I have read about rounding with attendings. But reading about rounding is not the same as going through it yourself.

The best way to use the book is to read it while you are on your rotations. Do not read it from beginning to end. Instead, when you are on a specific rotation, read that specific chapter. So when I was on my surgery rotation, I read the chapter on surgery. This way, you will get much more out of the book.

Feel free to read chapters 1, 8 – 23 whenever you can. Those chapters will apply to pretty much all the rotations. There is a lot of common sense, such as “respect all deadlines.” I’m sure this is something you have learned since elementary school. But there are gems which are not so common to the average medical student as well, such as “develop an approach to determine the cause of the abnormal test results.” Just to whet or stimulate your appetite, this is what you should do if you encounter abnormal test results (verbatim from the book):

  • Step 1: Look up and learn the differential diagnosis of every one of your patient’s abnormal test results.
  • Step 2: Determine if the abnormal test result supports any of the conditions in the differential diagnosis of your patient’s complaints.
  • Step 3: If the abnormal test result isn’t supportive of any of the conditions in the differential diagnosis, consider the possibility that it is unrelated to the patient’s current illness.
  • Step 4: If it is unrelated, develop an approach to determining the etiology.

Overall, this book is very good and very detailed. If you can understand everything in the book and are able to apply it, you will be a stellar third-year and fourth-year medical student. Heck, if you apply everything in the book, you will be a stellar intern for your first year of residency.

This book is not required to do well on your rotations, but I would highly recommend it as it will guide you in how to be the best medical student in your class during your clerkship years.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher for me to review. Do keep in mind that it will not influence my opinion of the book. If the book is good, I will write a good review. If the book is not so great, my review will reflect that.

This review is part of The Only Medical School Books You Will Ever Need series. Click on the link if you want to avoid wasting money on useless textbooks.

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