Didactic year (as we know) can be grueling, and everyone looks forward to the next step: clinical rotations.
Programs usually have a few elective rotations for you to choose from. This may be an easy decision for some, but not for all.
There are a lot of things to take into consideration when making this choice.
Where do you even begin?
Let's look at these different scenarios so you can choose the right PA school clinical rotation for your situation.
How to Choose the Right Elective PA School Rotation
Do you know what specialty you want to work in?
If you know you want to work in a specific specialty, this is an excellent opportunity for you to get 4-8 weeks of job shadowing/training!
This will give you a genuine insight into the day to day of that specialty. Also, it is a wonderful way to meet potential employers or leverage preceptor connections.
You can ask your preceptor for job advice as well. Of course, it looks good on a resume to have experience in the area of medicine you want to go into.
Lets' say you want to pursue dermatology in California, and you have the financial means and flexibility to do so. Choosing a dermatology elective in California can help you get connections out of state and in the city you want to live in!
What if you are unsure of the specialty you want to go into?
Electives are a fantastic way to explore a specialty you are still investigating.
A rotation is easier to commit to than a job. It is a short-term commitment, so there is no harm if you find out you do not like working in that specialty. The experience will help provide clarity, and who knows, you could even find your new passion!
Maybe you are thinking, “I think I know what I want to do, but maybe I should get more expertise somewhere else?”
Many areas of medicine have a lot of overlap. You might refer patients out to a different specialty, so it would not hurt to spend some time learning about an area that could complement your desired field.
For example, if you think you want to pursue a career in internal medicine, any specialty will help you in the long run. Derm, ortho, and endocrine can help you when you see these patients come into the office. Or, if you know you want to do ER medicine, having a dermatology rotation can help you with rashes that commonly present in the emergency department.
I have no idea what to pick- I just need to study for my PANCE exam!
There are a few ways to approach this scenario.
One option is to choose a family practice or internal medicine elective rotation. Both options offer a wide variety of topics that will help you as you prepare for the PANCE exam.
Alternatively, you can choose a rotation that is more laid back and less time-consuming. This will give you more time to study.
For example, emergency medicine typically has a set number of shifts, which you could try to get out of the way early. Or you can also pick another specialty with shorter work hours, so you can have your weeknights and weekends to study.
A third option is to pick an area that you are not as proficient in. For example, if you are anxious about cardiology or pulmonology, you could choose to do a rotation in that specialty because it represents a sizable portion of your boards.
You will have to step out of your comfort zone, but it will help you become more comfortable for the PANCE exam and make you a better PA!
We have discussed a few different strategies you can choose from while deciding among elective PA school rotations.
There is no right or wrong answer. You can choose multiple strategies as well.
For example, if you have two elective rotations to choose from, you can select one with the intention of gaining more experience and another which optimizes time studying for your boards.
Popular specialties such as orthopedics and dermatology fill up fast, so do not be disappointed if you cannot get what you originally hoped for.
It's not the end of the world. Each rotation will surprise you, and you will always learn something regardless of the specialty.
It's often these "surprise" experiences that prove to be the most rewarding.
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