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Top tips for scheduling your elective clinical rotations

Finding—and setting up—an elective rotation can be a daunting process. Farrah Fong, OMS IV, offers these tips to make it easier.


Most osteopathic medical schools offer students at least one elective clinical rotation, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. Elective clinical rotations allow students to get more experience in work environments or subspecialties they are interested in, and at some schools, students arrange their own elective rotations.

Finding—and setting up—an elective rotation can be a daunting process. Here are my tips on locating and evaluating potential rotation sites based on my own experience with elective rotations. If you’re from a school that has a different process for rotations and want to add a tip for your classmates, please provide it in the comments.

Finding clinical rotation sites

Some potentially helpful places to begin your search include:

Google: Most places will have a website with contact information for setting up rotations, and many of them have affiliated residency programs, so if you have an idea of what you want to do, this is the perfect opportunity to explore those options.

Visiting Student Application Service (VSAS): This is an optional service that allows you to search for rotation sites by state, specialty, and keyword. Each institution has a different set of requirements, and some have separate application fees, so make sure you read everything carefully to avoid any delays in getting the rotation set up!

Osteopathic Internship & Residency Search: While this is geared toward osteopathic internships and residency programs, it’s a great resource for searching for programs by specialty and state.

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Medical conferences: Your school’s clubs can provide you with more information on annual conferences for different specialties. These conferences often have residency fairs where you can talk with program directors and learn more about different programs in your field of interest.

This year at OMED, students can meet with representatives from nine osteopathic specialty colleges during morning mentoring sessions on Sunday, October 18. Representatives may be able to offer insights on different programs in their specialties.

Evaluating clinical rotation sites

The following are, in my opinion, the most important factors to consider when assessing a rotation site.

Hospital size: At a smaller hospital, you are more likely to be first-assist on surgical cases and to have more one-on-one learning opportunities with your preceptor. However, if you want to see more extreme cases, greater patient volume or gain more exposure in a subspecialty, a smaller hospital may not be able to give you that.

Subspecialty exposure: If you’re interested in a certain subspecialty, make sure the site actually has it!

Affiliated residency program: Depending on your goals, this could work with or against you. If the clinical rotation site has an affiliated residency program that you’re interested in, you can take this chance to learn more about the program. On the other hand, in a rotation site with residents, you may not get as much autonomy or hands-on experience.

Housing/food/parking: When you’re living on student loans, every bit that you can save helps, and having a rough estimate of how much you will need to spend on the rotation will help you with budgeting.

Some rotation sites offer student housing, free meals and free parking for students. Others don’t. If you’re traveling for the rotation and free student housing isn’t available, can you stay with relatives or friends? If not, you can ask the program where past students have stayed. Other options include AirBnB and RotatingRoom, a fourth-year sublet site for students on away rotations.

While financial considerations are definitely important, money should not be your primary deciding factor. Remember that you are investing in your future!

Does the program align with your interests and career goals? This is especially important if you are looking to complete an audition rotation, which is essentially a two- to four-week-long residency program interview. An audition rotation allows you to find out more about a program and show its physicians what you know while they get a chance to get to know you.


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