If there’s one thing I’ve learned in medical school, it’s how to avoid doing work without looking like a total slacker. On my current rotation we do very little work, and yet we still have made it our goal to leave the hospital before 3pm every day and to never be present for 100% of interdisciplinary rounds, which take for-freakin-ever.
Here are some tips for avoiding work without looking like a slacker:
1. Know your opponent. Some attendings are nice, even to the point of looking for an opportunity to let you go (we’ll call them Type I). Others will NEVER let you off easy, and can see through veiled attempts to slack off (Type II). You should know the difference. If your attending is of the latter type, just suck it up and do your work.
2. This is not about getting out of all work. This is about not being a gunner and getting out of gratuitous work. If you want to get out of all work, don’t go to medical school.
3. Embrace the concept of delayed gratification. Do a little extra now with the hopes of getting a break later. Again, this generally only works with the type I attendings. The Type IIs will just commend you for being driven and hard working. For example, volunteer to go to that one extra procedure or lecture or boring thing, because then they feel a bit sorry for you and let you leave early for putting up with this “torture”. Be careful, though. You don’t want to say yes to the extra thing and get stuck for hours on end. It’s a delicate balance.
4. If you have a partner, get them in on the plan. I volunteered to stay later Monday because my partner needed to go pick up his son, and yesterday he stayed later so I could leave early. It’s a win-win.
5. Take any chance you get to separate yourself from the person in charge of you. Out of sight, out of mind. It’s pretty easy for them to forget to call you for stuff or make you do stupid grunt work if you’re not around. If they let you leave their presence, stay away until called. Don’t go looking for work!
6. Say it’s after lunch and it’s been a slow day. Rather than hide out in your student lounge until 5 o’clock, do the “check in”. Page your resident or attending and say, “hey, haven’t heard from you in a while and I just wanted to check in.” This is a gamble. If anything is going on, congrats, you just reminded them that you exist and now you have to go do work. But if nothing is going on, you might get to go home. The “check in” has always treated me well.
I think anyone who has been through their third year of medical school knows this stuff, but if you’re in the beginning of your third year, you may not have all the techniques down yet, so enjoy.