Clerkship 101

For most senior medical students in the Philippines, tomorrow is the peak of your studentship. April 1 is the start of medical clerkship –one full year of hospital duties where you experience a taste of life as a “doctor-in-training.”

So for those who are a bit anxious already, here are ten principles I used to guide me when I was a clerk.

Be ready.

Meaning, review in advance. I use the word “review,” because you will just be re-reading or re-studying things that you should’ve mastered already when you were in the classrooms.

Do NOT be absent.

Unless you’re so sick that you think you’ll die when you go to work; or when you have a very important event that you simply can’t miss -like your own wedding.

Have “just the right stuff” with you all the time.

“Just the right stuff” means you place in your bag just the things that you definitely need in your current rotation. Don’t bring too much, or else you’ll tire easily. Believe me, your bag becomes heavier every hour that passes by when you’re on duty.

Grab EVERY OPPORTUNITY to learn… and relearn.

Clerkship is the best time to learn a lot and make mistakes (without getting your ask kicked). It’s my favorite part of medical training because for the first time, you’ll be able to integrate what you’ve learned in the past 3 years in med school. And you get to have your “own” patients too.

Do things as soon as possible. Do not whine.

You may say I’m a little bit old-fashioned, but I still believe in the hierarchy of medicine. So if a resident tells you to do something, be happy to do it because it means that the resident trusts you well enough to delegate the task to you. If it becomes too difficult, just do what you can and confront your senior that the task on hand is just too much for you to handle. Never whine, unless you want to be tagged as a “scum” –which is a bit of a big deal in the medical circle.

Allow your patients to teach you.

I always hear medical students complain that there’s so much to study in Medicine. Yes, I agree. That’s why I highly advise you to study your patients. Medicine as a discipline covers a lot. Your patients will help you remember what you read in the books.


They can either make your life in the hospital heaven or hell. How’d you want to be treated is entirely up to you. This goes out to interns, residents, fellows, and consultants as well.

Respond to referrals immediately.

When informed about a new patient at the ER or received a referral of “fever” at the wards, see the patient ASAP. You never know what’s ahead of you if you didn’t see and assess the patient in the first place.

Do not be afraid to ask questions.

I have always admired people who ask RELEVANT questions. Make you sure you know the rationale behind every management you give or procedure you do to your patients. Gone are the days when we do things because “it has always been done for years by our seniors.” We are already in the age of evidence-based medicine. We do everything for a purpose, and that purpose is always for the benefit of our patients. Feel free to ask your interns, residents, fellows, or consultants. They are more than willing to teach you. If they’re not, then they probably don’t know the answer to your query as well -hit the books then!


You only get through clerkship once. So enjoy every minute of it, and always be hungry for learning!

Hope these tips serve you well. Clerkship will never be easy, but it will always be worth it.

And oh, never ever think that you don’t contribute anything. Your interns, residents, fellows, and consultants rely on you. You may not feel it, but we do appreciate all your efforts. The care and hardwork that you provide to our patients are priceless.


To my favorite clerk, good luck on your big day tomorrow! I’m so proud of you =)

Kat, wearing her clerkship uniform for the first time. =)
Kat, wearing her clerkship uniform for the first time. =)

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