What Is a Surgery Clerkship?

L.K. Blackburn
L.K. Blackburn

Current medical knowledge and technology helps doctors to specialize in a variety of fields and provide the best patient care possible. Aspiring doctors generally choose the field they want to focus on while attending medical school. In many countries, the first two years of medical school are usually classroom based learning while the last two years are filled with practical clerkship rotations that allow a student to be exposed to the intricacies of many different types of medicine. A surgery clerkship is a learning rotation undertaken by medical students where they work directly with surgeons daily and are shown a variety of surgical procedures.

During a surgery clerkship, medical students are able to watch and sometimes participate in surgical procedures.
During a surgery clerkship, medical students are able to watch and sometimes participate in surgical procedures.

The licensing process to become a doctor varies based on regional standards. A surgery clerkship is a specific type of training program offered by medical schools in the United States, though there may be similar internship programs in other countries offered throughout the medical teaching process. Medical school is generally completed in four years after a student earns an undergraduate degree.

While students may have a good idea of the type of medicine they want to practice before going into medical school, they may change their minds after witnessing the practice of different types of medicine firsthand. A clerkship is the opportunity for a student to watch different doctors in action in many different operating environments. Medical schools typically offer core clerkships that students must complete to earn a medical degree, and elective clerkships that allow students additional training time in fields of their choosing.

A surgery clerkship is generally required by most medical schools and is part of the core curriculum. Other core clerkships can include internal medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, and radiology, though there are other types as well. On average, one clerkship rotation can last four to eight weeks. During the clerkship, students are assigned to and managed by doctors and residents working at a teaching hospital that is affiliated with the medical school. Students are allowed to perform basic procedures under the strict guidance of a licensed doctor, and are encouraged to learn and observe the doctor's daily routine.

During a surgery clerkship, a medical student will be allowed to scrub-in and watch experienced surgeons at work within an operating room. The surgery clerkship usually begins early in the morning with surgical rounds, where the doctors visit with patients who will be receiving surgery that day. At the beginning of the surgery clerkship, medical students will mostly be watching and learning; while at the end of the clerkship surgeons may allow medical students to assist during the operation.

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    • During a surgery clerkship, medical students are able to watch and sometimes participate in surgical procedures.
      During a surgery clerkship, medical students are able to watch and sometimes participate in surgical procedures.