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I’d Like to Do A Little More Than Survive

Colinson72x721Colin Son -- I’ve heard some bad stories of students on Sub-Is. These fourth year medical student rotations here in the United States are so named "sub-internships" because they’re designed for the fourth year student, depending on the school and the service, to take on varying responsibilities as would be expected of an actual intern.

If you’re doing the rotation in a specialty you’re interested in pursuing as a career, there can be some pressure associated with the Sub-I rotation, as you might imagine. If you’re doing the rotation at an away school and using it as an “audition” for the residency program at that school, then the stress can be multiplied a few fold.

I’m heading out for just such an away rotation out in Los Angeles to start this week. Although I ran through my Sub-I back at my school, this is my first away rotation.

Talking to residents, the main thing students seem to do to embarrass themselves is just show a complete lack of social skills. I’m pretty reserved and quiet and I am far from stuck up or a kiss up. I work hard, I’m always looking for more ways to help the team, and I have no problem being at the hospital as long as necessary.

But even if you’re not socially inept and you are a hard worker, there are other ways to make yourself look bad. There are stories, always, about students on clinical rotations and especially fourth year students doing Sub-Is having some... embarrassing moments. Stories of students whose scrub pants fell down in the operating room, who had trouble controlling their bodily functions, who prepped or put stitches in or did something else to the wrong patient down in the emergency room.

On away rotations, the situation is not made easier by learning a new hospital and a new system and new ways of doing things. The idea is to pay attention, learn quickly, and ask questions of hospital ancillary staff so you’re less of a burden to the team.

But I’ll be a little stoic about it. Everyone embarrasses themselves sometimes. Going and working hard and letting little screw ups slide off your back is the best philosophy if you can muster it. Besides, I’m well on my way to having a good rotation.

You see, I’ve made the drive out to Los Angeles many times and often not without it being eventful. One year, I blew out a tire in the middle of nowhere between Tucson and Phoenix at about 3:00 in the morning. The tire tread took off the back bumper of the car and the blow-out nearly caused a roll over. Another year I was in an accident in Fort Stockton, TX. It totaled my car. My family was on a camping trip and I couldn’t get a hold of anyone. Now there isn’t much to do in Fort Stockton, as you might imagine, and so I spent three days in my Motel 6 room watching Shark Week on the Discovery Channel until I got in touch with someone who could come pick me up.

This year, however, I am already safely out in Los Angeles. A good sign. Wish me luck and for more good signs as I run through this away rotation.

September 4, 2008 in Colin Son | Permalink


Good luck Colin! You've made it to LA, so the hard part is over.

Posted by: Jared at The Doctor Job | Sep 4, 2008 1:11:23 PM

What speciality are you rotating in?

Just laugh off the small embarrassments. You'll seem more human and therefore, more likeable. Not that I'm being mean to non humans. But you know.

Argh, it's been a long day.

Posted by: Kirsty | Sep 10, 2008 12:00:13 PM

Don't worry, we ALL have those embarassing moments!! (trust me!) Remember, though, that one day when you're famous and presenting a paper at an international congress, nobody will say "Hey, isn't he the chap whose trousers fell down in theatre in his third year?"
Even at the time, they'll laugh about it in the tearoom for a week, maximum.
Just keep focused on what's important, and good luck for the rotation!!

Posted by: Linda | Sep 11, 2008 6:50:26 AM

I completely understand you, I went through the same some months ago. I´m a med student from mexico city, and I did a sub-I on Internal Medicine on Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in Chicago.
I had to learn a lot of new stuff (electronic files, classes..), but my team was always very supportive. So don´t worry, things will be fine at the end :) or you can always call 911... right?

Posted by: Sol | Sep 11, 2008 4:07:14 PM

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