Clinical Rotations

A program director’s 4 tips for succeeding during away rotations

Brendan Murphy , Senior News Writer

AMA News Wire

A program director’s 4 tips for succeeding during away rotations

May 17, 2024

While medical school away rotations have numerous aims—clinical growth and feeling out a program or a specialty as a medical student are among them—it’s also a chance to make an impression.

As an ob-gyn residency program director, Kelli E. Krase, MD, frequently interacts with visiting medical students during their away rotations. She offered insight on how students can stand out during away rotations during an episode of “Meet Your Match” series of the “AMA Making the Rounds” podcast. Here are some key takeaways for medical students preparing for aways.

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As a resident, teaching medical students is an important part of the job. Showing a willingness and capability to do that as an M4—surrounded by students who are often doing their first shifts in a specialty—can go a long way.

“We have matched several people who have done aways at our institution and, of the things that stood out about those individuals, were how well they jumped in and helped the team,” said Dr. Krase, an AMA member. Such teamwork “That helps us know that that student, when they're a resident, is going to continue to teach medical students.”

There are opportunities to get involved in a residency program that extend beyond a traditional shift, Dr. Krase said. Taking advantage of them can offer the M4 a different view of a program and can also help demonstrate that a medical student is a team player.

Medical students on away rotations are offered “a time that they can take a call shift,” which enables them “to see how our program looks at 3 a.m., which is a little bit different than how it looks at 3 p.m.,” she said.

“It's helpful for the student to kind of get a sense of the culture during that time, but it also goes to show that they're really willing to work as a team, and they're going to be up for a challenge throughout their residency,” said Dr. Krase.

She is an AMA member and directs the ob-gyn residency program at the University of Kansas Medical Center, which is a subscriber to the AMA GME Resource Program that partners with training institutions to maximize support for residents and fellows, GME administrators and faculty while ensuring learners are better prepared for practice. Learn more

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During aways, medical students will likely get a different perspective on how medicine is practiced than what they’ve seen at their home institution. One way is not necessarily better than another. Dr. Krase advised students to be guided by their curiosity.

M4s who come in and say "‘at my institution we do it this way’—that's approaching it as judgment,” Dr. Krase said.

“When you see those differences … if a student can approach that with curiosity and ask questions like, ‘Tell me how you would approach the situation,’ or ‘I've seen this handled differently and I don't really understand when you handle it one way or another. Can you help me understand that?’ That's going to go a long way to getting to a deeper level, and also showing the people who are teaching you that you're interested in understanding.”

During away rotations, M4s should speak with students and residents who are in the program they are visiting, Dr. Krase said. That can give them a better understanding of the culture of the institution and insight on life and leisure in the area should they decide to pursue applying to the residency program.

Even if an away rotation reveals that a program is not for you, Dr. Krase advised students to continue to build on relationships formed during their stint as a visitor.

“No matter if you match [with a program], the people that you meet on your own aways, you will see again. Our specialties are pretty small communities and, within your specialty—if you go to the different specialty conferences—you'll run into these people again,” she said. “You are starting to network and create a community within your specialty as part of your away rotation. Even if you don't end up going there, you never know how that is going to impact you in the future and what may come of your away rotation.”