Above and Beyond – How to stand out among “studs”
So, you're interested in matching into Orthopedic Surgery. First off, great choice – believe us! Secondly, good luck! We all know this is not an easy task. In fact, this may be the toughest task you have ever undertaken. We all know the basics of matching into such a competitive specialty – good grades, good board scores, being well prepared, etc… But let’s also be honest, most people who are applying for orthopedics have good grades and good board scores. So, how do you stand out among the “studs” applying? Here is a quick review of things that you can do which will give you some extra points. Every little thing helps.
- Be prepared – even though this isn’t really a “simple” thing to do, we cannot emphasize enough how important this is! Think about it for a minute. If you have two applicants with similar GPAs and board scores, but one is rattling off classifications, indications, anatomy, and speaks intelligently about orthopedics, it’s a no brainer – that applicant is way ahead of the other. Why wouldn’t the program pick that candidate? Not only did they demonstrate they are smart, they also showed that they are continuing to learn and dedicated to orthopedics. Use the resources available to make sure you are prepared. Of course, we recommend Pocket Pimped Orthopedic Surgery as this was specifically written to help you “out-stud” the competition.
- Keep notes – being on call with a resident is sometimes overwhelming, for both of you. So many pages and things to do. Try being as helpful as you can during your time with the resident. If they get a page about having to do a dressing change on the floor, write it down. Then, if time goes by and it looks as though they forgot to do it, you can remind them. They will be thankful for the reminder and you both can “knock it out” together. Continue to do this – write down the ED room number for a new consult, the pending images they need to follow up on, the script that needs to be completed before the patient can be discharged, etc… These are easy points. If you make their life easier, they will be grateful for your help! Moreover, it demonstrates your ability to stay organized.
- Help move the patient – helping to move the patient from the hospital bed to the operating room table, and vice versa, is one of the easiest ways to earn extra points. The OR staff will be grateful as well – and do NOT underestimate the influence that staff may have on your chances of matching. A negative comment about a medical student regarding attitude or laziness is something the residents and attendings consider. Always be respectful of staff! Additionally, if the resident can go to the computer and do orders while you help move the patient, they are going to be appreciative. Its so easy, so just offer to help every time!
- Grab supplies – No resident will expect you to know where supplies are at first. However, if you go with the resident to reduce an ankle, take note of the supplies they grab. At the next consult, offer to go grab the supplies for them while they talk to the patient. This is one less thing the resident must do. Fill the bucket with water, and then roll out the plaster for them (the resident will likely tell you how long to make the splint). A student who has the bucket filled with water, webril available, the plaster rolled out 10-12 thick, with an ACE bandage ready to go is one step ahead of his appearing “lazier” applicant who is just “shadowing.”
- Be a good assistant – this is specifically referring to helping in the ED beyond just grabbing supplies. Pay attention to what the resident wants. They will show you how to help hold the arm or leg during the reduction or while splinting. A moving limb or the inability to do what is asked is annoying for the resident. You don’t want to be associated with annoying! This is commonly a frustration that residents have when asking non-orthopedic staff to help. However, you are NOT non-orthopedic staff! You are a medical student who wants to be an orthopedic resident!!! Therefore, if you are there, you must be more helpful than staff. Again, easy points – just pay attention!
These little tips and tricks should help you on your rotations. Remember that most people who are applying have similar (maybe better) credentials on paper. Your ability to shine while on service means a lot! It shows work ethic and drive. A common mistake is the student who is very helpful but not prepared. Know your stuff! Being prepared and extremely helpful is the strongest combination and ensures that there is nothing else you could have done in trying to accomplish your goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon! Good luck and we wish all the best in your pursuit.