Boards and Wards

8 Ways to Jump-Start Your Third Year Away Rotations Search

By Ravish Amin

Choosing the right third year rotations is essential for medical students because what you experience on rotations helps you determine which field of medicine to pursue. These experiences also help create portions of the ERAS application for applying to the right programs.

So, what should you focus on?

1. Choose The Right Field of Medicine – Before you begin your search for programs, decide which fields of medicine interest you the most? Ask yourself, “What subjects did I have fun studying during my first and second years of medical school?” or “What physicians are role models or mentors, and how would I practice medicine?” Create a checklist and write down the pros and cons for each field – for instance, why does internal medicine interest you more than psychiatry, etc.

2. Factors for Choosing Core Rotations – Core rotations are required. The material covered (patient scenarios, content of subjects, etc.) is standardized for most courses across medical schools. What students often focus on is location and hospitals. Location is a factor in patient population and typical cases of diseases while also allowing students to experience rotations at well-known specialty hospitals or community hospitals close to home.

3. Electives – Choose electives wisely based on requirements and interest. Most in-demand rotations fill up quickly, so make your decisions swiftly to ensure you can snag a spot. Often, community hospitals offer limited spots for rare specialties such as Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, Orthopaedic Surgery, Ophthalmology, Pathology, Neurosurgery, Plastic Surgery, PMR, Radiation Oncology, and Urology. For candidates interested in these electives, determine your choice based on knowledge, procedures, location, specialty, teaching faculty, and shelf exam difficulty. Check hospital websites or ask a program director about rotation details.

4. Resources from AAMC – The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) provides the Extramural Electives Compendium and AAMC Visiting Student Application Service (VSAS).

5. Board Preparation – Set rotations based on the schedule for the USMLE/COMLEX Step 2 CK and CS exams to ensure as that, as you complete your rotations, you gain knowledge and maintain a flexible schedule for taking the exams at the test center.

6. Ask Questions – Ask medical students, residents, fellows, and physicians which rotations they felt/feel are best in regard to unique teaching styles, access to interesting patient cases, and the best overall learning experience. Find out which offer the best student teacher ratios, free food, time for travel, academic setting, or perks such as library access.

7. Paperwork & Confirmation – Confirm each rotation with your school and rotation site before the start date of each elective. Take books to study. Curriculum Vitae, photo, letters of recommendation from faculty, and completion of rotation paperwork, as well as university, hospital, or physician office applications are often required. It is important to complete and submit your paperwork on time.

8. Explore! – Away rotations provide mixture of learning, travel, and opportunities for residency. Make the most of your rotations by working with team members at hospitals and impress the faculty to get the best grade.


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