Tips for Surviving your Obstetrics and Gynecology Rotation

To complement the recent release of our book recommendation for Ob/Gyn clerkship and Step 2 review, we offer the below experiences in hopes that rising medical students can learn from past mistakes and successes. Obstetrics and gynecology is usually perceived as one of the more labile rotations you will face in medical school.  While there are clear differences between hospitals across the nation, and even great variability between teams within the same hospital, this tends to generally be the case with respect to other rotations.

In distinction to many other clerkships, most medical schools rotate students through a number of different ob/gyn sites and settings, usually highlighting outpatient gynecologic exams, inpatient or surgical gynecology, outpatient obstetrics, and labor and delivery. This generally prohibits cohesive or longitudinal teamwork, and leaves residents and attendings with very little exposure time from which they must draw their evaluations. As such, the first piece of advice is to pre-read before starting obstetrics and gynecology.  This is in distinction to other stable rotations where reading can be done along the way. You will get pimped on day 1, and have few days past that to redeem yourself. Come in knowing your basic terminology and abbreviations.

Outpatient Clinics

Outpatient ob/gyn clinics are usually mixed.  Some will probably be shadowing, while others are primary care based, where focus should be on prevention and good planning.  For gynecology, you should know your in-office STD and vaginosis screenings, what to look for on microscopy, and how to treat each. Every exam should have a complete history on sexual partners, obstetrics (G’s and P’s), contraception, pap smears, STDs, vaccinations. If you’re uncomfortable talking about these topics, now is the time to get over it. Be sure to bring your stethoscope.

For obstetrical checkups, you should go in knowing your screening tests, timeline, and the most common reason for first and third trimester bleeding.  Presentations should always start with something sounding like “28 year old G3P1011”.  G (gravity) stands for the number of total pregnancies. P (parity) has four numbers which correspond to full term pregnancies, pre-term pregnancies, abortions/miscarriages, and live children, in that order. You will be commonly treating bacterial vaginosis and trichamonas with flagyl (metronidazole). You should remember this medication has a disulfiram effect, so it should not be taken with alcohol.  Some patients will actually forego treatment until the weekend is over because of this unwanted reaction.  Yes, really.

Gynecology Surgery

Experiences are usually divided between benign and gynecology-oncology. You should have a pair of gloves and lube packets in your back pocket at all times. Each surgery will start with a pelvic exam on your unconscious unconsenting patient. When the resident lubes up, extend your pointer and middle fingers towards them like a handshake for a “high two” to share their lube. This is how Ob/Gyns bond in the wild, along with matching surgeon caps, black zip-up tops, and playing their favorite game: “find then avoid the ureter.” The pre-op exam is a great opportunity to get your pelvic exam down, so don’t pass it up.

You will most likely need to be able to gown up yourself. If you haven’t had surgery, ask an intern or fellow med student to teach you on the first day of your rotation, regardless of whether you’re starting on something surgical. You should also come into this rotation knowing basic knot tying techniques, regardless of whether you’re going into anything surgical. It’s just a good basic skill to have throughout medical school.  If you aren’t familiar with knot tying, a quick search on youtube and spare string or sutures will be helpful.  If you have these basic skills down, you will be allowed to do a few things aside from retract. Remember, if you are down below, it is considered “dirty” even though you are in sterile garb. Never move from pelvis to abdomen without changing gloves. Crazy pimp question: most med students are taught in anatomy that nothing runs with the round ligament, so naturally many attendings love asking about it. The correct answer is the Sampson artery.

Labor and Delivery

obgyn clerkship fetal ultrasoundIf you are interested in catching babies, try to take shifts when there are minimal residents, such as nights. If your hospital has private attendings who allow medical students with them, jump at those opportunities. They’re the ones who will let you actually deliver, whereas many of the interns (especially new interns around July) will soak up the opportunities with staff attendings. A lot of labor and delivery is just going into rooms and asking “is there anything I can get you?” and then fetching ginger ale. However you should push into the action when it starts.

The best way to learn how to deliver a baby is to find someone who will let you put your hands on top of theirs for a few deliveries so you get an idea of just how much pressure and movement is needed. Next step up is having your hands under theirs. Once you have a good feel for that, you’re good to deliver with observation. This technique isn’t necessarily offered or known to many residents, so be sure to ask, but it really works well. Be careful when you put on gloves in the room, because it is not uncommon to get surprise-lubed by one of the nurses, whether you wanted it or not (although you almost always want it). If you have the opportunity, try to spend a little time on triage (be sure you know the signs of labor!).

If you have tips or suggestions you would like added to this article, please add them in the comments.

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