From the classroom to the clinic

On July 5, Jennifer Goetz will begin the second half of her journey through medical school, moving from the classroom into the clinic.

“I’m excited and nervous,” she said. “I feel ready as I can be for the unknown.”

Goetz is one of about 138 incoming third-year University of Florida College of Medicine students who will be able to put on their new white coats and start their clerkships in July.

After spending the last two years studying and taking exams, they will be working with real patients and senior medical staff, while doing rotations in Gainesville and Jacksonville in everything from surgery to obstetrics.

On June 30, the students attended the college’s clerkships orientation, which included touring Shands at UF medical center, lectures by various deans and tips from fourth-year medical students and a second-year resident on what to expect and how to succeed.

The third-year medical students will be thrown into a new routine with longer work hours and earlier start times, said Beverly L. Vidaurreta, Ph.D., program director of the College of Medicine’s student counseling and development office. Doing clinical rotations means working as a team with new people, having less control over their schedules and being split up from their peers more often.

“Be prepared for change,” she said. “Be ready for it, go with it and try to embrace it.”

Fourth-year medical student Jennifer Rodney told the younger students to be prepared to feel like the lowest person on the totem pole, but to also take this time to learn as much as they could about medicine and their patients.

“You’ll get something out of every experience,” she said. “Every patient has something to teach you.”

Justin Hewlett, another fourth-year student, said the learning curve is steep, but it’s expected that third-year students will be wrong sometimes since all of this is new to them.

“Just try to be the best you can when you’re there,” he said. “It’s not going to be how much you know — it’s how much you know about your patient.”

And gone are the days of rolling out of bed and heading to class – medical students are expected to look and act professional on rotations, Rodney and Hewlett said.

“Just think Dr. Duff — if Dr. Duff wouldn’t do it — don’t do it,” said Hewlett, alluding to Patrick Duff, M.D., the college’s associate dean for student affairs.

Second-year radiation oncology resident Emily Tanzler, who is a 2009 UF COM graduate, recalled her time as a third-year medical student and said although it’s scary at times, the students will do fine.

“The University of Florida medical school is outstanding,” she said. “So you just need to have some confidence that you are prepared to do what you are going to start doing Tuesday.”