Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences
Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences


Getting the most out of clinical clerkship rotations

Clinical clerkships offer opportunities to explore the different medical specialties as well as different residency programs.  However, there is no way that you can be exposed to all the possibilities, so it is important that you use your clerkship time wisely to find out all you can about specialty areas of interest.  Elective time is precious.  Use it wisely!

Essentials of Specialty Selection

  • Keep an open mind as you rotate through the required courses.
  • Be open to the many new possibilities and experiences offered to you.
  • Seek new, interesting career opportunities.
  • Remember what excites you about a medical career.
  • Take every opportunity to interact with residents and physicians.  They can provide you with valuable “insider information.”

Adapted from Iserson’s Getting into a Residency:  a guide for medical students, 7th edition, 2006, p.9.

Making a Good Impression during Rotations

  • Use each rotation to find out as much as you can about that specialty area.
  • Call ahead.  Find out what is expected of you for this rotation.
  • You may want to send a letter of introduction and/or your CV before starting the rotation as a way of introducing yourself.
  • Show up early, stay late, finish the paperwork.
  • Show enthusiasm for learning all you can about this rotation.
  • Be prepared, read up on patients and procedures.
  • Be an active, responsible and reliable team member.
  • Be professional, courteous, respectful of attendings, staff, patients, other student doctors, residents, etc.
  • Complete paperwork on time.
  • Get letters of recommendation as you complete rotations, while you are still fresh in the mind of the preceptor. 

Interview Physicians - Questions to Ask

  • What do you like most about this specialty?
  • What do you like least about this specialty?
  • What are some of the specific challenges for a physician in this field?
  • What abilities and talents do you think are important for someone considering this specialty?
  • What advice would you give to a student considering this specialty?
  • What other electives would be helpful to someone considering this specialty? 

Goals for Choosing Clerkship Electives

  • Explore a new area (either a new medical field of study, a new medical center or a geographi¬≠c area for possible relocation)
  • Broaden their knowledge and skill base; to consolidate or strengthen knowledge in areas not likely to be covered intensively in your planned specialty residency or prepare for residency
  • "Audition" in a program or institution in which they are interested
    • Many specialty societies discourage more than two elective rotations in the specialty area, but many programs won’t interview you unless you rotate with them. 
    • For some surgical subspecialties, students will audition at another institution to acquire a recommendation letter from that program
  • Enhance knowledge and clinical skills in the discipline in which an “audition” elective is scheduled to optimize performance and impression to be made
  • Try out a specific discipline that they are considering as a possible career

Elective Rotations

  • May utilize rotations of your choice
  • May do an elective with any board certified or board eligible D.O. or M.D.
  • Rotations are to be four weeks in length. Students have the option of splitting two electives into consecutive two-week blocks.

Necessary Items for Clerkship Rotations (Student Responsibility)

  • Background check
  • HIPAA certification
  • ACLS and BLS cards
  • Board scores
  • Official transcripts
  • Personal insurance and Malpractice insurance verification
  • Immunization records, include yearly TB skin test
  • Blood tests which would include Measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, Hep B SAg, Hep B Ab, and Heb C Ag
  • Also keep clerkship evaluations and application for elective rotation forms.
  • Passport sized photos 
  • Gowning and Gloving Certificate
  • Drug Screen

Applying for Elective Rotation

  • Contact the person specified by the information source
  • Complete the Application for Elective Rotation to send with student portion of the application
  • Prepare the student portion of the application.  This may involve:
    • Getting a Letter of Good Standing (LoGS) from the Office of Clinical Education, providing immunization records and other records (see above)
    • Getting Signatures from preceptor and GME of hospital
    • Writing a check for application fee, if there is one
    • Send completed packet to Host institution/preceptor for approval and signatures.  Normally, the host will FAX the Application for Elective Rotation back to OSU Clinical Education
    • Student should always follow up to make sure that application has been received by OSU Office of Clinical Education 6 weeks prior to the beginning of the rotation
    • Follow up:  student must complete site evaluation within 7 days of completing the rotation.  Make sure that preceptor completes online student evaluation as well.  Students are responsible for verifying the correct e-mail address for preceptors while on rotations.

How to Find an Elective

OSU-CHS on Facebook OSU-CHS on Twitter OSU-CHS on Foursquare OSU Medicine on YouTube Google+