How To Survive Your First Clinical Posting

Look at me now, I’ve completed about 16+ weeks of clinical posting and I’m feeling like I’m in the perfect place to give advice on this topic. Clinical posting starts in year 4 of medical school in Nigeria and I already spent sometime in explaining it’s modalities in this article.

1. Be prepared to talk to strangers and be overly friendly.

One of the things I didn’t realize on time was how friendly I had to be. Having to smile and greet people I didn’t quite know took some time to get used to, and worst still imagine asking a man old enough to be your father how many women he sleeps with asides his wife or if he has ever had erectile dysfunction. I wish someone had told me these things, so that somehow I would have been mentally prepared. They forget to tell us that as doctors we are actually social workers too and will be required to interact with many many people, sometimes under otherwise awkward circumstances. It helps to keep the perspective that you are trying to help the patient get better.

2. Be prepared to see a lot of nakedness.

I was not ready y’all. I was telling my friend the other day that I have seem too many penises for my own good. I’m not even sure that’s the correct spelling. All I’m saying is arm yourself, be ready. We don’t just expose patient for the sake of exposing them, it is absolute necessary to do so in other to examine them properly. Of course, after some time you will become desensitized and it will mean nothing to you, but for some weeks you will feel scarred and invaded, that’s if you are anything like me though.

3. Be respectful

As you spend time in the hospital, you will notice that most doctors are angry and frustrated people that really don’t give two kobo about you, but that’s talk for some other time. There is hierarchy in medicine. If you’ve been around long enough, you’d have heard someone say this. The seniority thing is a serious something. You must say “Thank you” after every correction. No use of slangs when talking to a senior colleague. You must always addressed them appropriately, with a Sir or Ma. You must be sober, well dressed, well behaved and well mannered. Medicine is all about keeping up appearances so you’d better be super good at that.

4. Know the Basics.

As you spend time at the hospital, you’ll realize some things are basic and those are the things they ask over and over again. Know those things, if you don’t know those things don’t bother moving higher. This is actually of utmost importance. Know how to clerk. Know how to perform your examinations. Vitals. Know the cause of anemia, lymphadenopathy, edema etc. I repeat know the basics.

5. Have a Small Pocket-Sized Journal.

Have a note that can fit in your ward coat. Go to a bookshop and ask them to show you the sizes of all the notebooks they have especially those paperline-hardcover types. Take the one that’s small enough to carry around but also has enough quality to last years. Gems always drop during wardrounds and clinics and tutorials and all that, so you have to always be ready to take stuff in and the good news is the same questions are always recycled and asked again so you can always flip through your notes and be the star of the group. Another thing I should let you know is that medicine is subjective and you will often come in contact with doctors that have different takes on various practices. One doctor might say you should check for lymph node enlargement lying down another might say do it sitting up. You will learn how to navigate through these disparities as time goes by. In the meantime, take good notes of whatever you are told.

6. Try to keep up the momentum.

Clinicals can be tough. You will stand for hours and be quizzed every chance there is. Days will be long and nights will be short, it might get difficult to study but try your best to do your best. Do all you can to study and keep up the momentum. It’s very easy to relax because the excuses are there and they are legitimate but don’t get carried away, you still have exams to ace and lives to save so make sure you’re spending however little time you might have being productive.

My first clinical rotations were somewhat bitter sweet mainly because I didn’t know some if these things but you are in luck, yours will be better. I assure you.

Love & love—O

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