Having been in clinic almost a year now, I have learned a thing or two (and continue to each time I see a patient!). Here is a thing or two that has gotten me through the past year and allowed to keep getting smarter and more proficient! Feel free to apply this to whatever career field you are in, many of them are easily transferrable out of the medical field!
Listen to how your attendings and older clinicians talk and explain things to patients. One of the most awkward things by far is learning how to communicate with the patients you see. Some want to have each and every thing explained, some want to just chit chat about their day, and others are more comfortable to sit and be quiet. Paying attention to how others interact will be such a help in you learning to gauge people.
Always, always, always have snacks on hand! Okay, if I am honest I knew this before I started in clinic (I always have snacks), however; nothing drives this point home like a last minute walk-in patient that pushes you right through lunch or dinner. My classmates would tell you my snacks of choice are Larabars and baby carrots :)
To piggyback on the last one, what you eat is everything to keeping your day running smoothly! I know, this is so hard sometimes, but I can absolutely tell the difference when I throw together a sandwich last minute (or when I eat the pizza provided by whatever club is meeting that day), compared to when I have a mix of healthy fats, carbs and (most importantly) protein to keep blood sugar stable through long mornings and afternoons of clinic.
Be comfortable. We are so lucky to be able to wear scrubs in about half our clinics. A comfy pair of tennies and some Pajama-like scrubs is literally the greatest thing (one of my personal favorites here). Unfortunately we also have to wear professional attire half the time so my typical plan is to have a couple pair of pants and a bunch of shirts that can be worn either as professional attire or be cute-casually. To top it off you HAVE to have comfortable shoes. Flats or low wedges that don’t give you blisters will make your day so much better, promise. Jellypop has always been a go to for me for good wear-all-day flats.
Actually listen to what your patients have to say. Often we get into the swing of things and you start to predict how your exam will go, but you have to remember to still listen to what they are telling you. I have had multiple patients come through our clinic say that love the attention they get here, compared to private practices where they only get a few minutes with the doc. It is really important to figure out how to comprehensively listen to what your patients are telling you, while also working efficiently through the exam. You have to find a balance of making sure the patient knows they are heard, but also not being there all day!
It gets better with time. SO much better. We are lucky at our school to start seeing patients halfway through second year, but still, first and second year is largely didactic, in the classroom. Once third year starts though there is a shift to being in clinic more than you are in the classroom and it is so nice. Helping patients is what makes all the studying worth it and give you the push to get through the ever-lurking Boards (bleck, there has to be a downside to third year I guess).
There will be clinic rotations you like better than others. Similar to medical school, we go through rotations in different types of clinics - primary care, contact lens, vision therapy, specialty care & surgery clinic to name a few. However, I made it a goal for myself to remain open to liking any of them until I had been in clinic enough to honestly draw my own opinion (even though I obviously went in with a few preconceived notions!). I think it is important to not listen to others who may say one clinic sucks or one is awesome, because whatever you love and are good at is where you should be, without outside opinion persuasion.