How to Succeed on Away Rotations

Matthew Varacallo, MD | Amiethab Aiyer, MD

August 1, 2022

Whether you are rotating at a program down the street from your home program or traveling across the country, the same concepts apply regarding completing a successful away rotation.  Let’s dive right in with some high yield tips on how to succeed during your aways.

1Set Up a Solid “Home Base”, and Do it Far in Advance

This may seem like common sense.   However, we all know of or remember students throughout the rotation process who never really had a solid plan for a living situation for the month.  There is nothing like having the chaos of a foundation when you are trying to go through a challenging away rotation and you need to be on your “A GAME” throughout the entire month.  The dovetail from this is make sure that you are getting solid sleep (when you can). 

2Availability, Availability, Availability

Always try to make yourself available.  Trust me, the residents will remember who ducks out early and who is always “ghosting” when the time comes to step up and help out the team.  A key element to you standing out is to try and best integrate yourself into the team and help the resident facilitate great patient care!  How can you help?  Some of the best students do the following in any given situation:

  • Help transport the patient
  • Hold the leg (during reductions, dressing applications etc.)
  • Always have trauma shears
  • Get the dressings, splints, plaster etc ready at all times, especially in the ER

3Be Proactive and Dive In

Residents, fellows, and attendings do not expect you to know everything.  But I can promise they will remember who works the hardest and is willing to be proactive instead of sitting around waiting what to be told.  This is your chance to figure out every little nuance about the hospital, program, and overall experience.  Fortune favors the proactive!

4Learn From Your Encounters as You Move Along

Gather your experiences, take notes, and try to learn many new things each day.  Residents recognize who is taking notes and building on an evolving knowledge base day in and day out.  Again, perfection is not expected, but people will notice if you improve day after day. 

5Treat Everyone with Respect

This goes for the janitor mopping the floor to the nursing staff assisting in the clinic or operating room.  I am not recommending that you be disingenuous.  Be yourself.  Be professional.  Be respectful.  Treat others how you would want to be treated.  This concept should be carried with you throughout your careers no matter your level or status. 

6Have Fun!

While it may seem daunting and sometimes a little bit mentally and physically taxing, this is your chance to figure out if the program is a “fit” for you.  Remember, the program needs to find out the elements of a fit just as much as you do!  This is also your opportunity and a great time to see if the field is the right one for you — whether it be managing issues in the ER or working on a given polytrauma patient in the operating room.  This is a great opportunity to really identify if orthopedics is the right field for you! 


DISCLOSURES: Dr. Aiyer American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society: Board or committee member, Delee & Drez Orthopaedic Sports Medicine (Elsevier): Publishing royalties, financial or material support, Medline: Paid consultant, Medshape: Paid consultant, Miller’s Review of Orthopaedics (Elsevier): Publishing royalties, financial or material support Dr. Varacallo This individual reported nothing to disclose.

Read the AAOS Code of Conduct for Discussion Group Terms, Conditions and Disclaimers HERE.

Copyright© 2022 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s