What Does It Mean to "Be A Rockstar"? (A Student's Perspective on the Wards)

Natalie Hibshman
Published on Sep 11, 2020. Updated on Sep 15, 2020.

During your clerkships, impressing your attendings is incredibly important—but at the end of the day, it's about doing right by your patients and providing the best care possible. Today on the Osmosis blog, a medical student discusses what it really means to "be a rockstar" and shine during your clinical clerkships.

The wards are daunting. I definitely didn’t know what to expect and had no idea what I was doing. All in all, you find your footing; it will all happen naturally. Your upperclassmen are an excellent resource for this kind of thing, but don’t forget that there is no one size fits all experience! Hindsight is 20/20 but I’ll give you a glimpse of what I learned going in and coming out of my clerkship year. 

“Be a rockstar”

“Be a Rockstar!” became a well-worn phrase that I tired of quickly. 

Hearing about this shiny title, I knew I wanted to strive for it, but the more I learned, the less I wanted to perform all year long. At my school, you cycle teams every two weeks with electives here and there. So, it is only natural that being a rockstar meant that you put on a great two-week show and come out in the end with a stellar review. 

As a concept, it sounded great! Work for the patient, help the team, engage in your task, complete it well, and learn all the things in the meantime. But in practice, it became disingenuous for me when I started focusing more on trying to look great to my team. 

Don’t get me wrong: getting answers right and helping your team is part of what you're expected to do as a student... But it challenged my intentions. Was I printing consents to be the hero or was I trying to save my resident time with no praise in return? My head was full of “Your resident will love you if…” and “Your attending will praise you if…” statements, but none of that helped me learn to provide good care. 

It clicked for me very early on during an elective. My resident asked me four questions and I got them all right. I was the Rockstar. But then he said, “You know, I don’t care if you know the answers. I'm never going to think about them again. I just don’t want you to be bored, but you seem engaged and happy, so keep that up.” Caveat: I have definitely had upper levels who cared a lot, but the point was that he helped me realize that I should know those questions not to impress him, but because I needed to know them for the case, for the patient, and as a natural part of my education. 

From that point forward, I never did a thing to impress my upper levels, but rather, I did them to be helpful to others.

Osmosis illustration of a medical student in conversation with an attending.

Good intentions

Now when I think about being a Rockstar, I think about the patient and the team. 

You will often feel useless and maybe even a little like your time is wasted as a student, but the moment you embrace the idea that everything your team does is to provide care, then you have the chance to unlock something really special on the wards. 

Having good intentions takes you farther than performing your set because people forget your name, forget your answers, and forget the time you faxed medical records. But you will remember everything. What made you feel good or bad. What you learned and how you felt when you didn’t. You will use this in the remaining years of your education to thrive and push yourself to be a better learner and a better future resident. 

Osmosis illustration of a medical student who's only looking out for herself.

Take it From Me

Clerkship year is challenging. It will tax you but honestly, it’s so much fun! You have so many opportunities to make a legitimate difference for patients. You’ll hear buckets of advice as you prep for this part of your journey, but I’ll offer mine anyways:

NEVER make a fellow student look bad

  • Don’t throw anyone under the bus; that makes you seem like the bad guy, not them

  • Don’t answer for a peer; if the upper level wants your answer, they will ask you

  • Keep it professional; sometimes it’s hard with your friends around not to goof around, but remember you're in a hospital

  • Don’t badmouth peers, residents, or anyone remotely close to your team


  • Your team can spot it when you aren’t 

  • It’s okay to admit that you are wrong or that you don’t know how to do something

Allow yourself to be coached

  • It doesn’t matter if you’ve tied 20 knots, your resident has tied 2,000 and your attending 2 million; let them teach you and ask questions if you have them

Don’t beat yourself up over the small stuff

  • If you knew all the answers then you wouldn’t need this year long experience

  • Truly, your upper lever may never think about it again, even if you do daily for the next week and a half

Know the information

  • For your patient, and for yourself

Osmosis illustration learning neurosurgery with an attending.

There are a thousand little tips I could pay forward, but you will do great and slide up that learning curve. And whether or not you feel like a “Rockstar” on the wards, what you learn and your ultimate contribution to patient care will make you an excellent future physician. 

About Natalie

Natalie Hibshman is a fourth-year medical student at Vanderbilt School of Medicine. She’s originally from Mishawaka, Indianapolis. Natalie is interested in specializing in neurosurgery. When she’s not studying, you can find her painting, writing, singing, playing video games, cooking, baking, playing basketball, or laying in her hammock reading. 

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