Although my first two months of my internal medicine clerkship were inpatient experiences, I spent one month at our home hospital in Albany and the other in a small town, Cooperstown, about an hour and a half west of school. While Albany Medical Center is an academic hospital, level 1 trauma center, and the largest hospital in the Capital District with 734 beds, Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, New York is a smaller community hospital with 152 beds serving a rural population. Albany Med has housestaff representing 20 residency and 22 fellowship programs and hundreds of medical, physician assistant, and nurse anesthetist students roaming the halls, versus Bassett’s single internal medicine residency program. Besides the demographic differences between the two institutions, Albany Med and Bassett have extremely different feels when walking down the hall.
I’m extremely glad that I had these two distinct experiences while on this rotation. If you’re considering a more rural, smaller inpatient experience, I highly recommend it. Here are some reasons why:
- Smaller student to intern, resident, and attending physician ratios usually translates to a better learning experience. Being one of two students as opposed to one of four students on this rotation, I was able to follow as many patients as I wanted as opposed to just one to three patients in the larger hospital setting, simply due to numbers. There’s never any worrying about not picking up a patient with an interesting story when you have your pick of the whole census.
- You talk directly to the experts. I found the specialists we were consulting to be a lot more approachable in the smaller hospital setting. Rather than reading up on a note the doctor left and perhaps not even speaking with him or her directly, we were more likely to actually discuss cases with the nephrologists, pulmonologists, cardiologists, orthopedic surgeons, and others who were involved in our mutual patient’s care. This was great from a student perspective because I could ask the experts in the fields questions directly.
- There’s more time for informal teaching sessions. The community hospital was not as chaotic as my home hospital, so there was a lot more time to sit down with the residents for teaching sessions in the afternoons.
- You’ll get exposure to a new electronic medical record system. I found the program they used at Bassett to be much more robust than the one that we use at Albany Med (in fact, we’re still half paper charts there!). This may prove useful when it comes time for residency if that hospital uses an EMR I’ve used in the past!
- You might meet students from other schools. While at Bassett, we were there with second-year students from Columbia. It was really fun talking to them about the differences between our schools and curriculum. For example, they start clinical rotations in their second year, which is different from most schools (including mine) that start clinical rotations in third year after taking Step 1.
- You’ll get to experience a new city or town. This, I think, is the most fun! There is so much value in learning about different areas of the state or country, and this is super easy when you’re meeting patients and their families day in and day out. At the same time, I think finding a new favorite pizza spot or running trail is equally important!