Clinical

A Day in the Life of a Clinical Student

Kareem El-Khodary
Nov 21, 2019

A medical student discusses their experiences while on clinical rotations compared to their basic science courses, and how he is successfully navigating this part of his medical educational journey. 

As a basic science student, I had always speculated and dreamed of what it would be like to be a clinical student. You read stories online of attendings and residents intimidatingly testing students in front of their peers and tasking them with the grunt work. Every student will have a different clinical experience, so take everything with a grain of salt. 

I have been rotating since September, and my day-to-day life has changed depending on what rotation I’m on. So far, I have completed my Psychiatry and Family Medicine rotations. Currently, I’m on my Surgery rotation, which is divided up into General Surgery, Trauma, Surgical ICU, and specialties like Urology, Orthopedics, Anesthesiology, Plastic Surgery, and Neurosurgery. 

Let me dig deeper into what a clinical student does at my hospital for surgery.



For surgery, it is a long day. We have early mornings and late evenings. I wake up at 4:00 AM and get ready to conquer my day at the hospital with some coffee and breakfast. I arrive at the hospital around 5:30 AM and pre-round on my patients. Meaning, I check all the labs and patient notes written overnight and see how my patients are doing. At 6:00 AM, the medical students and residents on the specific surgery service round on all the patients under their care. We talk to the patients and address any concerns. We continue and/or change the plan for the patient based on vitals, physical exams, labs, imaging, and the patient’s status overnight. After we round on all our patients, we have the opportunity to scrub in on surgery cases assigned to our service. I was recently on Urology, so I scrubbed in on some of those cases.

In the operating room (OR), the students have the opportunity to do as much as the attending and resident allow. Most of the time, they ask the students to assist in setting up the patient on the OR table and sometimes suture the patient up before we leave the OR. We make sure the patients are comfortable after the surgery considering all the anesthesia they were put under. The rest of the day we spend time seeing patients on the floors or certain days, we go to our outpatient clinic to see patients. Throughout the day, students check on their patients, draw blood and arterial blood gases (ABGs), and change wound dressings. If a patient hasn’t been moving after surgery, students are asked to assist the patient in their breathing exercises and mobility to help prevent atelectasis and pneumonia. The day finally ends around 6:00 PM.

It would be great if after a long day at the hospital, there was nothing left to do but relax and prepare for the next day. Unfortunately, that is not the case. As medical students, we have one standardized exam after each rotation run by the National Board of Medical Examiners® (NBME®). It is 120 questions over 3 hours. After our long shifts, students prepare for this exam using a variety of resources, including Osmosis

Being a clinical student is a much better experience than being a basic sciences student. There is so much that can be learned as a clinical student and information sticks better because you can connect it to a patient you’ve seen on rounds. I hope I encouraged you to get through basic sciences successfully, so you can live the life of a clinical student.

About Kareem

Kareem is a 4th year medical student at the American University of the Caribbean. He plans to specialize in Internal Medicine. When Kareem isn’t studying, he is playing basketball. 

Being on clinical rotations is both an exciting and busy time in a medical student’s career. The Osmosis team has been working hard on developing content specifically to help you shine during your rotations and pass your exams. Sign up for a free trial today to check out the Osmosis Clinical Reasoning series and more.