So, a new crop of core clerks (third year clerks) are about to start, or perhaps have started already. And if you’re reading this post, you might be one of those clerks making the exciting and scary transition from classroom to hospital.
So, in that vein, from my jaded perspective of a CC4 (passed all my exams!) here are my 13 Core Clerkship Commandments (take note).
1. P = MD. Still. Don’t sweat that stuff.
2. Thou shall not Whipple more than once (and trust me you’re not missing much if you do it once. You’ll be third assist at best and my calves still hurt a year later).
3. Scrubbing/gowning in more than once happens. They only care you get it right, not how many times you do it.
4. If the resident says “you’re going to want a face shield for this” put the face shield on. No one wants blood in their eyes, no matter how hot that thing is.
5. “I don’t know” is a perfectly reasonable answer. You’re here to learn, they’re here to teach.
6. Don’t ever write AVSS without checking the vitals (same goes for anything, really). If you forgot to check the pre-eclampsia patient for their reflexes say “I forgot and I’ll go do that now.”
7. Dictate with commas, periods and speak clearly. Start with thank you and end with sincerely.
8. Bring snacks. If your resident says “go for lunch” GO FOR LUNCH. If you have five minutes and you haven’t eaten in hours, eat. Don’t be afraid to ask for a few min to eat.
9. Same with sleep. Get some whenever you can. The days are long and everyone is stupid when they are tired.
10. You are a clerk. The hospital will run just fine without you.
11. Thou shalt treat the nurses with respect because they are human beings and because they know WAY more than you. And you will do this or they will RUIN your professional life. That’s a rep you will never grow out of.
12. Know what your level of responsibility is and don’t do anything you don’t feel ready for. It’s not your job as a clerk to tell a person they have cancer. It’s not your responsibility to tell a family their loved one has died.
13. This one is the most important so it’s last (my logic is flawless, don’t question me).
Your self care is the most important medicine you can practice.
Take care of yourself as best as you can.
This is a long year full of stresses you can’t quite even imagine yet. You are going to be surrounded by people who are having some of the worst days of their lives. You may have to help pronounce a death, or put your hands on a dying person for cpr. Sometimes the ambulance that pulls up has a dead child in it. You’re going to be working long hours, not getting enough sleep and you’ll be stressed and always feel like you know nothing (which will in turn stress you out more).
What you need to do is try your best to get enough sleep. If you need that nap, take it. Try to eat some fruits and veggies, and drink water. Find a fitness class – yoga, Pilates, spin, boxing, whatever so long as it is not by yourself but with other people – and do that at least once a week. Keep that date night, or that movie night with friends. Call your family, visit if you can. If you find that you only go to the hospital, grocery store and your home, take a drive to a peaceful place and sit there in the sun for at least an hour and don’t think about studying.
If you find yourself in a dark place, go to your wellness office and get a therapy appointment. It should be covered through your school and mental health isn’t monitored in school the way it will be when you graduate. This is your life and you want to try your best to work to live, not live to work.
And you’ll fail at all of these things I just recommended sometimes. I sure as heck did, and I’ve got the burn out to prove it. But just keep trying, and keep reminding yourself that clerkship isn’t your life; that it isn’t more important than your life.
There will always be another exam. It’s not more important than your wellbeing.
Good luck, fellow clerks!