As we approach the holidays I thought I would take the time to give pre-medical and medical students some advice to what they could potentially be doing during their down time. The holidays are great for a variety of reasons - family, friends, time off from traditional work schedules and usually lighter clinical burdens at the hospital.
With those thoughts in mind taking each section of students:
1. Pre-Med Students
This time of year is great time to shadow physicians in the hospital and out of the hospital. The clinical load is usually lighter which will restrict what you potentially see but it is better in that you will have more time with attendings and get a true sense of what their lives are like and ergo what yours would potentially look like in their shoes. Also depending on the situation one can get involved in smaller research projects like case reports and case series that many physicians have sitting around and need to be written up. :
2. Pre-Clinical Medical Students
No matter in the operating room or on the wards, get your hands into the game. You might need to get permission to place for example a foley in the operating room, regardless, the more you do - the more you see and the more you experience - the more you grow as a doctor. Especially around the holidays, there are several residents/fellows who are not present in the hospital which means you can get closer to the action especially if you are present and especially if you ask to help. The take home is more hands on time for you as a student which equates to improvement of your exposure and education/training. You can also be involved in interesting cases that might serve as a potential case report that you could write up.
3. Clinical Medical Students
Usually most clinical students have an abridged vacation during their clerkship year. Thus time is very valuable especially if you are travelling to get home to see family/friends. That said, because you have had some time and if you had a good clinical rotation in the fall you might want to revisit your previous rotation. It will allow you to see the material for a second time and spend more time with attendings and residents. This will help you potentially make some decisions about your career. If you have an upcoming rotation in the spring and want to get a taste of the clinical environment I would reach out to the clerkship director and seek permission to rotate early for exposure (I would not ask for credit in terms of your official rotation). This will give you a preview of what you have in store when you hit this rotation. It will also potentially put you in contact with students who are currently rotating and maybe give you some hints/pointers about the clerkship and/or shelf exams. Also, heading back to a rotation that you had previously been on will allow you to ask if any case reports and/or research projects are lying around and need to be written up.
4. Fourth Year Medical Students
Usually during this part of the year you are setting up interviews and/or AIs (home and away). It is a good time to preview if you want to do a mini-AI that is off the official books in terms of a grade from the medical school but will give you more exposure and potentially set you apart from others on a dedicated AI for a good letter. Also these additional times on service will go a long way especially if someone is writing you a letter of recommendation.
So there you have it, some quick tips for your vacation time. All of the pointers are good if you want to take on more exposure. That said, resting during this time is also completely acceptable and remember you have the rest of your life to work, and being in medicine you will have your share of holidays that you will have to work. Any feedback you have please forward on to me here at the website.
Hang in there and good luck.