This series of posts is a collection of concrete, actionable tips based on my experiences as a third year student at UNMSOM. Please read my introductory post for background and disclaimer information, as well as links to each part in the series. Additionally, here are links to the previous and next posts in this series. The “next” one obviously won’t work until I publish it.
Previous: Third Year at UNMSOM Part One: Use a Tasklist
Next: __Third Year at UNMSOM Part Three: Checklists and @Simplenoteapp

Tip #2: Don’t even look like you’re texting.

In the last post, I made a case for using a tasklist, and I mentioned that I use an app called OmniFocus. I also mentioned a big drawback to using an app: you should probably assume that everything thinks you’re texting or playing Angry Birds every time you pull out your phone. For this reason, if I want to look something up on Dynamed or Micromedex, I’ll do two things:

  • hold my phone away from my body a bit to make sure I don’t look like I’m trying to be sneaky or anything, and everyone can see my screen
  • hold the phone with one hand and navigate the screen with the other to avoid the “two thumb texting” appearance

I know it sounds silly, but keep in mind that 50% of your grade on each rotation is pretty subjective. It would be a shame to lose a few valuable professionalism points because your team thought you were texting when you were really looking up the interaction between quetiapine and linezolid.

Tip #3: Buy a bunch of these mini comp books.

This tip goes and and hand with the above. Sometimes whipping out the phone-based tasklist to jot down an important tidbit or to-do is just plain inefficient. Good old fashioned pen and paper is what you need. I have been using these little notepads for years, because they’re small enough to fit in your pockets, sturdy enough to use for weeks or months at a time, and cheap enough to not worry about if they get trashed. The size I use (4.5” x 3.25”) fits perfectly into my breast pocket on my white coat, both UNMH and VA scrubs, and the button-up shirts I use on clinic days. Don’t forget to put your name and a contact number on the cover in case you lose it.

As with yesterday’s post, the overarching theme here is to never forget anything. During the day, I have a notepad in my pocket that I can whip out to jot down to-dos that cross my mind at the oddest times, which I indicate with an “A” with a circle around it (for “Action”). As soon as that task is either accomplished or transferred into OmniFocus alongside all my other tasks, I cross off the A. For useful factoids that I pick up from my team, I put a circled “N” (for “Note”), and only cross these off when I’ve imported them into my note-taking app (or made a task to do so). When I get home at the end of each day, I pull the sheets with pending notes / tasks off (they tear out easily, another bonus for these particular notepads) and set the sheet on my computer. This ensures that the first thing I do when I get on my computer is put those tasks and notes somewhere that I absolutely will not forget them – my trust tasklist.

My only other suggestion here is that you buy these things in bulk. They’re super cheap, and they’re always out of stock when I need a new one. Buy 10 or 15 the first chance you get. This is pretty much the kind I get, the “Marble Memo” kind have the easy tear-out pages. I encourage you to import to your main tasklist daily and then rip out pages as you go, so you’ll never waste time shuffling, looking for a particular note or a new blank page. One idea I never implemented was to use one notepad per rotation and include useful phone numbers on the inside cover (my residents’ numbers, the team pager, the number for surg path, etc.).

Tip #4: Get an Amazon Prime student membership

Amazon sells just about everything you can think of, from clothing to hardware to electronics to foodstuffs. For $79 per year, they have a premium membership called Prime that offers:

  • free 2-day shipping on a bunch of stuff
  • video streaming Netflix-style (but no iOS apps and poor selection)
  • Kindle owners can check out a book per month for free from a large library

As a student, you can get a free trail for 6 months (used to be a year), and afterwards I got around a 50% discount on a year membership. Here is the Amazon Student signup link. I don’t think the student membership gets the video streaming or Kindle benefits, but the free 2-day shipping is the important part – at the very least, it’s worth giving the free trial a shot.

I can’t tell you how many times Prime has saved my bacon when I was too tired or busy to {get a wedding gift, buy a new belt, run to Smith’s for some protein bars}. I’m not really talking about big, expensive stuff – it’s the small stuff that make the Prime membership worthwhile. Instead of spending an hour to drive to Walmart, park, hunt down the $0.50 binder clip you need, wait in line, check out, and drive home… you spend 30 seconds to find one eligible for Prime chipping and click a button. I think we don’t usually consider this as an option, since we’d be paying a buck or two in shipping for a $0.50 item (and then waiting a week to get it). But when the shipping is free and it will be at your door in 2 days… Worth it.

The shipping has been reliable and made good on its 2-day promise. There have been several times when I could have had something shipped to my doorstep with a few clicks (the 1-click purchase button is awesome) long before I could have made a trip to the store to get one in person; a great way to save time, effort, and frequently money. If you haven’t already used your Prime free trial, I strongly recommend you sign up for it now.

An additional bonus I’ve gotten out of my Prime membership is that I have a sort of cognitive barrier to buying small trinkets and gifts for family and friends, since the shipping costs for some small “thinking of you” type gifts almost equals the cost of the gift itself (most of my family lives in VA and Utah). Not to mention waiting in line at the Post Office… (not like you’ll often be free during their business hours anyway). So when I know I can get fast, free shipping on stuff, I find myself more frequently sending small tokens of appreciation to my loved ones. That’s a good feeling.

Okay, bed time.

Next: Third Year at UNMSOM Part Three: Checklists and @Simplenoteapp