Med Students: How to Win Over an OB/GYN Resident

Every resident knows it: some students double your workload while others reduce it significantly.

As a student, why should you care? Because the faster you help your residents get their work done, the more time they will have to teach you. The residents know what’s on your shelf exam, and Step 2. Help them out and they may just help you by teaching you the stuff you really need to know to pass your test.

Getting through the boring stuff quickly means I have time to teach you the cool stuff. If you help me get through rounding quickly, I may have the time to walk you through how to do a bedside ultrasound instead of just doing it myself.

Third year isn’t about being spoon-fed anymore. Your residents aren’t actually obligated to teach you. All they really have to do is let you be there. If you’re good, we will teach you. If you’re not, we will try to keep you from getting in the way, and you won’t learn anywhere near as much.

Be there. Very rarely will I have time to come get you before doing a delivery – if you aren’t there when I get the call to go to a room for delivery, you’re going to miss it. On most L&D rotations, the expectation is that you will be the intern’s “shadow” and will go EVERYWHERE we go. I expect to have to tell you if I am just going to the bathroom and don’t want you to follow me. 

A significant amount of the teaching that happens on L&D, at least at my institution, happens when we are walking – walking from the workroom to a patient’s room, or from L&D down to postpartum. If you aren’t with me, that teaching just doesn’t happen. When I’m sitting at a computer in the workroom, I’m probably working. That’s not the time to ask questions. Either wait until I’m done with what I’m doing (which may never happen, if it’s a busy day, because I’ll have to jump right into something else), or ask while we’re walking somewhere.

Read on your own and practice your hands-on skills. Ask your residents – I bet they can find you some expired suture to practice with. You can suture a banana. For the truly dedicated, go to the grocery store and get chicken with the skin on, or pork belly (it comes in a big flat slab with the skin on). Pig feet are another favorite. Practice makes perfect, and if you want to get good at suturing, you need to practice. One of my attendings likes to say that the OR is not the place to practice basic skills, and that is very true – practice your suturing at home if you want to get to do it in the OR!

Learn about how to describe fetal tracings. Memorize the basics of describing the fetal heart rate baseline, variability, accelerations, and decelerations. If you master this early, the residents will be able to teach you other things (see the Resources section for some free online teaching tools for fetal heart tracings.)

Be realistic about your skills and knowledge. As a student, you aren’t going to do a vacuum-assisted vaginal delivery. Try to be realistic about where you stand and where you need to improve. Overconfidence makes you hard to teach. When a delivery is getting tricky and the resident tries to step in, LET THEM.

Ask to do things. We get into our flow – I don’t always have a student, and sometimes I start just doing things myself, not because you couldn’t do it, just because I’m not thinking about it. When it’s appropriate, when it’s not too busy, when it’s a procedure that’s appropriate for a student, go ahead and ask.

Think before you ask a question. If you ask a question that you should know the answer to, it makes you look bad. If you ask me a question while I’m trying to do 10 different things, you’re going to get a short and un-focused answer. Here’s a handy guide:

Good times to ask questions:

  • While I’m closing the skin in a surgery
  • While we are walking from one place to another
  • When I’m caught up on my work and making small talk with nurses or other residents

Bad times to ask questions:

  • When someone is bleeding profusely (in the OR, in a room, etc)
  • When a baby’s heart rate is down
  • Any time there are more than 3 people in a room watching a strip

In other words, common sense, communication and professionalism make all the difference. Most importantly, have fun!


Up in a few weeks: How to annoy an OB/GYN resident – the “Don’ts” of being a student on Labor and Delivery.


Residents, what makes a student helpful and pleasant to work with?

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