General Surgery. The two words have the ability to send medical students into a tailspin. You’ve heard the horror stories – the hours are long, you’re on your feet all day, and anatomy pimping is at an all time high. Every medical student will have to complete a surgery rotation before they get their MD, even if they aren’t remotely interested in surgery. Fortunately for you folks, general surgery was my first clerkship rotation and I’ve got all the tips to help you come out the other side.

1. Meal prep 

Meal prepping is the key to surviving this rotation. I was waking up between 5:30am and 6am most days. If you’re anything like me, 5:30 am is not your friend. Sunday night was my typical prep day. I tried to make two different meals so I could alternate. I try to always make a big batch of rice or quinoa so that I can mix and match it with different proteins/veggies throughout the week. Try to pick something that is quick to eat too – sometimes you’ve only got 5 minutes to eat before moving on to another case or having to go do a consult. Also… SNACKS ARE KEY. I always tucked a granola bar and a baggie of dried fruit/nuts in my scrub pocket so I could sneak a but during super hectic times.

2. Case Files 

I personally find case files a great way to cover material at a basic level. My favourite resource for cases was the case files series from McGraw Hill. Each case is only a few pages long. Each case has some quiz questions at the end to reinforce knowledge. I read 2-3 cases a day and was able to go through all 60 cases by the end of my six week rotation.

3. Anatomy 

I go to a school where anatomy class is not mandatory – unorthodox, I know. Obviously, anatomy is important in surgery. The inguinal canal, the abdominal wall layers, and the biliary tree, are three high yield areas that will make life a million times easier.

4. Multimedia Learning 

Personally, I learn really well with videos. Osmosis is my favourite for high yield, easy to understand videos. They have a ton of topics available free on their youtube channel.

That said, the real hero for me on this rotation was Surgery101, an incredible series of podcasts created out of the University of Alberta. You can either listen on their website, or via an app you listen to podcasts on. They also have native app that can be purchased for low cost and you can purchase their notes for <$5.

5. Shoes 

Comfy shoes are a must. The $40 I invested in my crocs is easily one of the best decisions I have made in clerkship. Other favourites on the wards are Dansko’s and Birkenstocks. Crocs are by far the most cost friendly option.

6. Habits 

Good habits are going to be key to surviving any rotation. For me that meant committing to things that I know keep my healthy. I tried to start everyday with a glass of water, committed to making it to the gym twice a week, and seeing friends at least once a week. You have to take care of yourself to make it through the marathon.

I hope these tips help you survive what is known to be one of the most challenging medical school rotations. If you have any specific questions feel free to drop a comment below or reach out via my Instagram.

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