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AOGME Webinar Takeaways: How to Succeed on Clinical Rotations

On February 28, 2022, the Assembly of Osteopathic Graduate Medical Educators’ Residents and Fellows Council (RFC) Executive Board and the Council on Residency Placement (CORP) members hosted a webinar to help medical students prepare for success in their clinical rotations.

Watch a recording of the webinar and read our key takeaways:

General Advice

Planning Away Rotations

  • Aim for at least two-three away rotations. This may vary per specialty, so check your national specialty organization’s recommendations. Doing four or more away rotations can be exhausting because you will need to be “on” the entire time.
  • Plan to do your fourth-year rotations as early in the year as possible. This will allow you more time to submit your letters of recommendation before the ERAS deadline.
  • Aim to do your favorite rotations at your dream or target school second. It’s also helpful to do away rotations at programs or regions where you want to go for residency to demonstrate your interest in the area and its surrounding programs.

Before the Rotation

  • Come prepared! Research the program before you arrive. Learn who the faculty members are, refresh yourself on the residents, list the program’s pros and cons and plan for your basic needs. Make sure you’ve arranged your lodging ahead of time and know where the local supermarkets and restaurants are to help alleviate stress later.
  • Review the syllabus and clinical rotation manual, talk with classmates who have rotated at the location previously and, if it will be a surgery or obstetrics & gynecology rotation, read up on anatomy and procedures you’re likely to encounter.
  • Brush up on your clinical skills before starting clerkships. Review your suturing and instrument tying skills, know how to use your stethoscope—practice hitting the right spots and listening on skin—and know how to conduct a good physical exam.

During the Rotation

  • On day one of your rotation, sit down with your preceptor to define expectations, review the schedule, discuss preferred communication methods and identify who to contact in the event of an unplanned absence.
  • Treat every rotation like a job that your paycheck depends on. Be on time, be prepared, look professional and try to have fun, too. Stay modest and stay honest. You don’t have to know everything, so don’t feel like you have to act like you do. The point of rotations isn’t to answer every question, it’s to help out and be ready to learn. Be friendly, respectful, mentally present and engaged. Remember that medicine is a small world and word travels quickly, so always be on your A game.
  • If you’re feeling lost on a new rotation, remember to lean on those who’ve done the rotation before you. Nursing staff, respiratory therapists and your rotation peers can be great resources.
  • Balance and manage your time while on rotations by making lists and using agendas and calendars. Be willing to adapt to each rotation’s different demands. Set goals and don’t plan to cram at the end of the month. Stick to your routine. If you went to the gym or played video games before your rotation, keep these same hobbies during your rotation.

What If This Isn’t My Top-Choice Rotation?

  • Try to stay interested, even if you aren’t fond of the rotation.
  • Spend the whole month trying to change your own mind. Learn all you can and show your supervisor that you are interested and engaged.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

  • Be the team member who always helps others. Be the one who picks up the trash in the hall and who communicates with everyone.
  • Remember that rotations are about more than being smart and studying—they are about teamwork.

Prioritize Self-Care

  • Don’t forget why you started along this path. Stay connected to your reasons for pursuing medicine.
  • Your third and fourth years may be some of the most stressful in your education. Remember to take care of yourself, ask for help, utilize resources from your university and training facility, reach out to your mentors and find joy in the everyday.
  • For those going into fourth year, take breaks between auditions. This is an exhausting process.

Learn and Connect

  • Everyone practices medicine differently, so try to learn what you can from each rotation and each person you meet. Remember that learning what not to do is important too.
  • Rotations are a great way to build connections. Find networking opportunities in every rotation, airport, cafeteria, etc.

Letters of Recommendation

  • Who to ask: Ask someone who has mentored you or someone you’ve grown close to who knows your work ethic to write your letter of recommendation. Pick the attendings who know you best. If need be, follow up with them by email to remind them of due dates. If you need to remind a preceptor multiple times about writing your letter, reconsider whether they will write you a strong recommendation. Make sure your preceptor’s evaluation of you aligns with what you hope their letter of recommendation will convey. You can refer your preceptor to the AAMC letter writing guide, give them your CV, tell them what you got out of the rotation and share any key points about yourself to make it easier for them to write the letter. You can always offer to draft a letter for them and ask if they will sit down with you to review and finalize it before they submit it through the ERAS system. Fourth-year sub-interns expect to write letters, too, so they may also be helpful to ask.
  • When to ask: Ask for letters of recommendation two weeks into your rotation. Tell the person you are asking what specialty you’re interested in. Remind them about it again near the end of your rotation. Also, third-year letters may not always be helpful. For example, if you’re going into emergency medicine, the third-year letter won’t be the right format.
Thank you to Rebecca Bloodworth Cherry, medical student at Lincoln Memorial University - DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine, for providing her notes from the webinar.

Resources and Upcoming Events


  • RFC Secretary Allison Daniel, DO, PGY-2 Family Medicine, Altry Family Medicine Residency, Grand Forks, ND. Email: Adaniel@altru.org.
  • RFC Chair Dimitri Tito, DO, PGY-2 Internal Medicine, CPT US Army, Western Michigan University MD School of Medicine, Kalamazoo, MI. Email: Emmanuel.tito@med.wmich.edu.