Starting Your Clinical Rotations Right
The beginning of clinical rotations is one of the most exciting yet terrifying encounter you will experience as a student. The hospitals and/or surgery centers you are assigned to go to will all vary in multiple ways. Your preceptors will teach you in unique ways and have different expectations. You will see multiple cases within different specialties and will probably feel overwhelmed. Have no fear: with these tips you will whiz through your rotations feeling confident and up for the challenge.
To begin, make sure you have shoes that are comfortable and broken in. Wear them around the house for hours a day for at least 2 weeks prior to your clinical rotations. You will be standing for long periods of time and it can take a little while to adjust. Back, leg, joint, and foot pain can become a problem if your feet are not properly supported. Check out my favorite OR shoes here for some great options to keep your feet happy. Remember: you get what you pay for. Good shoes are costly but so worth the investment.
The day before you enter the OR, try to find out what cases you will be doing. Study up on those specific cases the night before. Make sure you know the anatomy, the instrumentation, and the basic steps of the case. Each surgeon will do things differently so don’t stress about the little stuff, although in the beginning, there is no such thing as little stuff! The key is to be prepared, in general, for each surgery you will be scrubbing for. Make sure to get plenty of rest the night before. I cannot stress how important that is!
Time To Scrub In
The morning of your first day of clinical rotations and every day you scrub thereafter, be sure to eat a good breakfast. This will help prevent dizziness during surgeries and it will keep your energy levels up. Don’t forget your “brain”. Bring a little notebook with you because you will need it to jot down tidbits of information you learn about throughout the day. This is very important!
Give yourself plenty of time to get there. DON’T be late! Once you get to your designated OR, introduce yourself to every team member in the room. Write your full name on the board so the nurse doesn’t have to ask you multiple times throughout the day. Talk with your preceptor. Tell them your goals, expectations, and what you want to work on. Ask what you can do and how you can help.
BE HUMBLE. This will help you earn trust and, in some cases, these people can turn into coworkers and friends. This is important when it comes time to find a job. Network as much as possible because getting a job is as much about who you know as it is about what you know. Consider your clinical rotations as a working interview because, rest assured, the facility will. A lot of surgical techs will receive a job offer after they have proven themselves during clinical rotations.
Don’t be passive. Jump in to help anyway you can and, most definitely, DO NOT be lazy. Ask if you can help open and set up. Know your sterile technique, and don’t contaminate. The set up may be different from what you have learned in lab. This does not mean it is wrong, it is just different (this goes for most things in the OR). Watch how others set up. Pick the parts you like and make it part of your own set up. Do what works best for you. Always set up the same way each and every time. This will help with your set up speed and you will always know where to collect whatever you need when you need it.
The Operating Room can be a high stress environment which can lead to an intimidating environment. You MUST have thick skin to work in the OR. Don’t take anything personally. Understand and accept constructive criticism as this is how you learn. Be open to new ideas and remember that just because it is different doesn’t necessarily mean it is not the right way to do things. Never say, “I know”, or “he/she does it this way”. Instead, say things like “Thank you”, and “I like the way you set up”. Preceptors hate to hear negative or “know it all” responses because you, as a student, still have a lot to learn.
During the case, even if you are not scrubbed in, pay attention and show interest. Ask questions but make sure they are related to the case and the timing of the question is appropriate. Do not chit chat or gossip because there is never a good time for that in the OR. Only speak if it is relevant to the case. Take notes. Those handy spin cards from your gown are great to jot down information which you can later transfer to “your brain”. Your notebook is one of your best resources just as long as you put resourceful material in it. There is a lot to take in and absorb in a short amount of time but don’t get overwhelmed. No one expects you to know it all, so learn as much as you can and enjoy the ride!
Just a quick note: while you are scrubbed in, if you ever feel dizzy, light headed, nauseous, or extremely hot/sweaty, tell someone! No one wants you passing out onto the sterile field. It is very common for this to happen when you are new to surgery. Don’t be embarrassed. Speak up. Clinical rotations are the best hands-on experience you will get during school. Pay attention, take notes, and do your best. Not only will you survive, you will gain knowledge, confidence and maybe even a job offer. For more tips on making a good impression in the OR, check out How To Stand Out In The OR.