Packing for away rotations: Here’s what is essential

Stephanie Lee, OMS IV, shares a packing list of items that helped her feel ready to perform at her highest potential. 


This spring, many third-year osteopathic medical students looking to complete away rotations at a desired residency program are submitting their applications to line up audition rotations, aka Sub-Is, for this summer and fall. Fourth-year medical students on Sub-Is can also be called “acting interns” or “AI” for short.

The first week of an away rotation usually involves adjusting to a different workflow, specialty unit, Electronic Health Record (EHR) and new colleagues. If you have traveled to a new locale, it also includes getting acquainted with a new living situation and/or area.

To be well-positioned to navigate these “expected surprises,” it’s helpful to have a cache of essential items on hand so you can focus on learning and avoid scrambling to get necessary items at the last minute. Below are the items I recommend packing for away rotations; I found having these items on hand helped me feel ready to perform at my highest potential. 

Essential items to pack for away rotations

  • One pair of tennis shoes and two pairs of work shoes: If you have these, you’ll be ready for work, workouts and casual outings.
  • Thank-you cards: These will be for your preceptors, residents or anyone whom you feel has made a positive impact on your journey. Saying thank you truly goes a long way.
  • Power bars: These keep your stomach full during those intense, long hospital hours.
  • Large water canteen: In one of my rotations, the hospital did not have any water and I was there for nine-plus hours a day. Having a large water canteen helped keep me hydrated throughout the week.
  • OnlineMedEd (OME) Intern Guide Book and Quicktables book: I would highly recommend these as they come with a table of symptoms, tips on how to diagnose and treatment options. They were recommended to me by a PGY-1, as they helped her in her family medicine wards.
  • One pair each of dark and light pants.
  • One set of casual clothes for dinner.
  • Four different dress shirts.
  • Three sets of workout clothes: These can double up as casual clothes, especially if you are planning to work out after running errands. Otherwise, I would add a few extra sets of casual clothes.
  • One week’s worth of socks and undergarments: This is truly dependent on how often you do laundry. If you do laundry once a week, this amount is good. If you do laundry more frequently, you may be OK to bring three to four sets of socks and undergarments.
  • Two sets of pajamas
  • One stethoscope.
  • White coat (ask if this is needed).
  • Three black/blue pens.
  • Small notepad for clinical pearls.
  • Blazer: You never know when you’ll have a virtual interview during an away rotation. And you’ll be prepared if another professional event comes up.
  • Steamer: You can use this to remove wrinkles in your clothes from travel or after washing.
  • Sleeping bag, pillow and air mattress: Some places you rent out for a month may not come furnished, so be prepared to adapt to your sleeping situation. (FYI: Rotating Room is a great resource to find housing near your away rotation).
  • Two sets of Tupperware for lunch/dinner and food storage.
  • Toiletries: I’m talking about toothbrush, toothpaste, Vaseline lip balm (eczema breakouts happen frequently during travel), facial lotion, feminine products, etc.

Last but not least, your wonderful self. You have made it this far! Congratulations! Enjoy this journey of meeting new people, acclimating to a new environment and the simultaneously treacherous and gratifying experience of learning an EHR at a new institution. See if you can truly envision yourself living and working here for the next three-plus years.

Even if you can’t pack all of these things, CVS, Walgreens or other grocery stores will likely be available nearby. Public transportation will be your friend if you don’t bring a car. Spend a weekend getting to know the bus routes. You are more capable than you know.

Good luck!

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

Related reading:

Three keys to crushing audition rotations: Notes from inside ‘the room where it happens’

Why I chose a rural hospital for my clinical rotations—and why you should too

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