This has been a topic many of you have requested in the past. Honestly, I’ve always wanted to write about how to survive clinicals, but it was 3 years ago for me…so there were a lot of little details I had forgotten. That was, until I got a student intern myself this past month! If you follow me on Instagram, you might remember that I shared my work was receiving our first ever ultrasound student intern. I reached out to you guys asking for advice, both from a student and a supervising perspective. If you were a student, I wanted to know what you had & loved, what you didn’t like, and what you wished you had more/less of when you were in clincals. And if you were a supervising technologist, I wanted to hear your tips for how to maintain a demanding patient schedule while making sure your student was getting all the exposure & learning he/she needs. While I am still working on navigating how to be a good “instructor” to my student, I can definitely tell you having time with her has made me totally remember SO many things about my clinical rotation. Being with a student has reminded me what is so important to have during this time and that’s why I feel better equipped to share more on that with you today!
Here are my tips for how to succeed in clinicals
- Be Eager to Learn
Trust me, you will earn more respect by asking questions rather than not asking and pretending you know the answers when you don’t. ASK questions when you have them — scanning, pathology, etc. Be eager to learn!
- Get the heck off your phone, your apple watch, whatever!
This should go without saying but we’ll say it anyways: it is unprofessional to scroll through the gram, text, snapchat, etc. while you’re on the job. Stay off your phone. And don’t hide out in the bathroom on it either… that’s a dead giveaway 😉
- Take Notes
I did this in clinicals, and my current student does it now and it is very impressive to techs who are teaching you — CARRY A JOURNAL / small notebook / something to take notes on that you can throw in your pocket. Jot down other tech’ s protocols, their tips & tricks, and patients you scan. In clinicals, I would make notes of the exam I performed, the patient’s symptoms, and any significant findings. I would come in each morning and refer back to my notes from the day prior and go through the patients I scanned (and the ones I just observed on) to see what the report said. Reading the radiologist’s dictations after scanning a patient myself really helped solidify things for me.
- Anticipate the Need
Anticipating the need, when you’re a student intern, typically means to be the extra set of hands whenever they’re needed. Whether that’s wiping down the machine & changing the sheets while your tech writes up the worksheet, writing up the worksheet FOR your tech, offering to take the patient back to the room they came from, helping the patient get dressed, etc. Anticipate what the tech will be doing next and do that for them if you can. Our student, before every one of my patients, sets aside a towel, 2 gloves, and my glasses for me and I can’t tell you how much that small gesture is appreciated.
- Volunteer for the tough scans
Tough scans = patients with morbid obesity, patients on a ventilator, patients in ICU, patients who are bleeding, combative, in a wheelchair, the list goes on. These can be super difficult exams and because of that, your first instinct might be to let another itern take the exam. I would strongly encourage you to do the polar opposite and volunteer to take them instead. These cases will teach you so so much and trust me, you’ll probably remember them for a very long time 😉 But being put in these uncomfortable situations with these difficult patients will truly teach you how to stand on your own two feet. You can always ask for help if you need it!
- Know your Role
While I will always support being eager and ready to learn, you also need to know your role: a student intern. As much as you may feel like you know everything, you don’t. None of us do, but especially as a student, your knowledge on lots of things will definitely be less than the techs teaching you. So … do not say “I already know how to do that” or “I’m good on Carotids, I don’t need any help with them”. If anyone offers you advice or more knowledge about something, you soak it up. You are there to SOAK up everything around you — you are a sponge 😉 Don’t ever ever ever turn your nose up to someone’s helpful words, even if you do already know about what they’re teaching you. You can show you already know it when you scan it perfectly and they see your images. In addition to that, do not give your patient any information unless your tech says to. I have heard students before tell patients what treatment options they have, what it means if they’re having this type of pain, etc. and it is CRINGEWORTHY. You are not a technologist and you definitely are not a doctor, so those things really shouldn’t be something you feel like you can be advising your patient on. Know your role, a student intern. 🙂
- Come early, Leave late
Cannot stress this enough. When you are in clinicals, treat it like an ongoing interview. Would you ever show up to an interview late? Even 5 minutes? No. Would you ever ask to leave early because you need to be somewhere? Nope! Unless it is an emergency, obviously, there should be nothing pulling you away from clinicals. I can’t tell you how many times I stayed hours later than what I was ‘supposed’ to because the orders were piling up and the night shift was where the path was at, and I wanted to see it! The long hours are worth it. You will impress your supervising techs by showing up early, staying late, and stocking up the rooms before you go!
Hope these little tips help you in your time during externship! Got any other ones I should add to the list?! Drop a comment in the box below!