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Making Strong Connections In Medicine

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From what I hear, the 2 most important factors in a residency application are:

-comments/evaluations on your clerkships

-reference letters

And the 2 seem to go hand in hand... A good performance in clerkships = good comments = good reference letters

 

So my question to current med students is, how do you form a good bond with hospital staff in order to get a strong letter of recommendation?

 

I always find interactions with people evaluating me really awkward and I'm kind of introverted when speaking to people older than me... Does anyone have strategies on how to break this barrier and leave a good lasting impression on the hospital staff?

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I too used to be quite shy. Circumstances caused me to get out from under my shell. For example, I was involved in sales and had to approach strangers to offer my assistance. I had to take the initiative. Also, if you work in customer service, with unhappy customers, you have to be kind, understanding, diplomatic, not take their irritation personally.

 

In clerkship, you need to be collaborative, easy to get along with, be enthusiastic, a hard worker and helpful, with some knowledge. You just do your job and are helpful to patients and to your colleagues. You do not think about evaluations per se, you just do the best you can, given this is a learning experience. Those above you will evaluate your performance..You have no control over their evaluation but you do have control over yourself to be the best you can be. I don't know that any of us have ever made a lasting impression upon any of our superiors, so many of us go through their doors, but for sure, those above us will be in a position to honestly evaluate us and to determine whether they would potentially be comfortable with us working beside them for the next several years.

 

By the time I was in medical school, I had developed to the point where I was no longer shy, I was able to take the initiative, to approach people and I was comfortable in almost any setting or situation in which I found myself. 

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From what I hear, the 2 most important factors in a residency application are:

-comments/evaluations on your clerkships

-reference letters

And the 2 seem to go hand in hand... A good performance in clerkships = good comments = good reference letters

 

So my question to current med students is, how do you form a good bond with hospital staff in order to get a strong letter of recommendation?

 

I always find interactions with people evaluating me really awkward and I'm kind of introverted when speaking to people older than me... Does anyone have strategies on how to break this barrier and leave a good lasting impression on the hospital staff?

 

As a fellow introvert, I worried about this a lot too before starting clerkship.  I think it is definitely easier for extroverts to form "bonds" with attendings in a short period of time, but being an introvert will in no way preclude you from getting a good letter of reference.  You will probably find that you won't connect with everyone you work with, but if you are a strong student people will recognize that.  Work hard, be friendly with other students/residents/allied health, push yourself to speak up and answer questions (when directed to you or the group), show up early, etc and people will notice.  You don't need to change who you are to succeed.  I think our society tends to favour extroverts, but introverts can definitely find areas to shine in clerkship.  Even though I may not be buddies with any of my attendings, I also haven't annoyed any of them either (one of the advantages of being quieter).  

I'm not sure what stage of your training you are at, but if you are in pre-clerkship I would push you to try and find mentors now.  I shied away from this and really regret it.  Do a bunch of observerships and find someone who you click with (and you will).  It will also help you learn how to be comfortable with networking, on your own terms.  Feel free to message me if you have any other questions.

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As a fellow introvert, I worried about this a lot too before starting clerkship.  I think it is definitely easier for extroverts to form "bonds" with attendings in a short period of time, but being an introvert will in no way preclude you from getting a good letter of reference.  You will probably find that you won't connect with everyone you work with, but if you are a strong student people will recognize that.  Work hard, be friendly with other students/residents/allied health, push yourself to speak up and answer questions (when directed to you or the group), show up early, etc and people will notice.  You don't need to change who you are to succeed.  I think our society tends to favour extroverts, but introverts can definitely find areas to shine in clerkship.  Even though I may not be buddies with any of my attendings, I also haven't annoyed any of them either (one of the advantages of being quieter).  

I'm not sure what stage of your training you are at, but if you are in pre-clerkship I would push you to try and find mentors now.  I shied away from this and really regret it.  Do a bunch of observerships and find someone who you click with (and you will).  It will also help you learn how to be comfortable with networking, on your own terms.  Feel free to message me if you have any other questions.

 

Great advice.

 

This is something that I have discovered as well and am trying to do more of. There are a lot of physicians out there who will gladly support medical students in any way that they can, but the onus is on us to make those connections first.

 

Like Epona said, do some shadowing in the fields that you may be interested in, attend conferences dealing with topics or areas of medicine you are intrigued by, talk to physicians working in the fields you are interested in, have a genuine interest in them and their work, be a good person and work hard. 

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Simple things you can do that residents and attending will appreciate and notice, doesn't matter if you are introvert or extrovert, prodigy or average intelligence etc (and you'd surprised how many clerks don't do this because they are not interested in the specialty etc):

 

1) show up on time, and be ready to get started. So if you need to print patient list or write down lab work, come early to do that.

 

2) when a resident ask you to help with something, do your best. If you cannot do it, let the resident know, but also say you're willing to learn and try your best shot. 

 

3) treat patients well. if you cannot come up with a ddx or treatment plan, at least say some nice things to the patient. Especially if you are on call with a resident, and the resident is buried with pages. The last thing the resident needs is a page for hand-holding at 2am.

 

4) treat other people well, like nurses, receptionists, even porters, cleaners etc. When people on the floor like you, residents notice.

 

5) if attending/resident ask you a question and you know the answer, seize the opportunity. If you don't know the answer, be honest, and let them know you are making an educated guess.

 

6) if a resident (especially senior resident) don't know the answer, you DON'T blurt out the answer. Never try to out-smart residents on your team.

 

7) if the team/attending/resident is having a bad day, don't play smarty pants.

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