I’ll preface this by saying that some of this advice is a bit tongue in cheek, but here it goes! There are a few kernels of truth, I promise.
1. Be a yes man.
If you can’t be enthusiastic on your own (which is the recommended option), you can achieve a reasonable substitute by saying yes to every opportunity that you’re offered. An example would be: It’s 12:15 and you’re starving. Today is hand carved turkey sandwich day in the cafeteria and the line is already out the door. Your attending says, “Would you like to see the next colonoscopy?” Your answer is, “Yeah!! Of course!” Don’t overdo it; be natural. And remember, there will be other turkey sandwich days. Watching a colonoscopy is not the worst way to spend the lunch hour.
2. Ask the right questions.
Asking intelligent questions is a good way to provoke thoughtful discussions with your attending and allow the transfer to wisdom. However, sometimes you just don’t have a great question. Sometimes, even if you have a legitimate question, you know the resulting discussion will leave you chewed up and spit out after a thorough questioning using the Socratic method. An easy question that almost always has good results is, “What made you choose _____ specialty?” Or, “When did you know you wanted to be a _____?” These questions will get your attending talking, hopefully fondly, about the high points of his or her specialty. Making your attending feel happy is usually a smart move. Furthermore, the information you gather through these conversations may end up being more valuable than facts you’ll forget – instead you’ll gain perspective.
- Pay attention to the patients.
As a medical student, you will often spend the most time with a patient. You’ll talk about their chief complaint, but there are usually plenty of digressions along the way. You’ll ask seemingly unnecessary questions that may bring up issues that were previously unknown to your team. Your attendings will (occasionally) thank you for this. And although you’re tired, you’re not totally spent yet. You’ll notice when your residents and attendings overlook things – when they forget to send prescriptions to the patient’s pharmacy or skip an important piece of patient education. And your patients will thank you too – even if it’s just for the chance to vent to someone. There are a lot of things competing for your attention on any given day, from free food in the student lounge to nabbing an on-call room to stealthily check your social media presence with your phone. Giving your patients some honest attention is worth your time.
Do these things with grace and charm and you’ll be well on your way to success on the wards! Good luck!