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4th Year Away Rotations: Mega Road Trip Style



About us:


Hi there, I’m Lisa Bradshaw! My husband is Justin and we have an almost 2 year old daughter named Clara Grace. We are also expecting another baby girl in January 2024! We are 4th years this year and excited for the upcoming adventures of graduation and residency. We are currently experiencing a crazy (but also fun!) 4th year and the MSP Presidency thought it would be helpful for us to share our journey with you.


My husband is aspiring to become an ophthalmologist (and the first step is learning how to spell that word haha!) This specialty is very competitive and unfortunately, even more so for a student doctor with the letters “DO” behind their name. Because of this, we always knew it would be an uphill battle. He knew that he would likely be scheduling a large amount of 4th year audition rotations because this is one of the best ways DOs can increase their chances of matching into a competitive specialty. He was encouraged by a mentor to do 6-8 audition rotations and so we began reaching out to programs. We landed 8 sub-internships.


**FYI- “Audition rotation” and “sub-internship” (aka-“sub-i”) both mean the same thing: a clinical rotation at a program where your student could potentially match for residency, usually about 2-4 weeks long. More generally, an “away rotation” or “clerkship” means a rotation away from your home school. It is for clinical rotation credit but not necessarily connected to a residency program.


We are currently at audition rotation #4 out of 8! Here is a list of our rotations if you’re interested in seeing how crazy our schedule is haha:

  1. Augusta, Georgia (Medical College of GA) - 4 weeks long

  2. Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Larkin Community) - 2 weeks long

  3. West Palm Beach, Florida (Bascom Palmer) - 2 weeks long

  4. Dayton, Ohio (Kettering Health) - 2 weeks long

  5. Detroit, Michigan (Beaumont Health) - 2 weeks long

  6. Detroit, Michigan (Ascension) - 2 weeks long

  7. Cincinnati, Ohio (University of Cincinnati) - 4 weeks long

  8. St. Louis, Missouri (Saint Louis University) - 4 weeks long

** These rotations span from June 5 - Dec. 23, with a few weeks in between rotations. I know–it is crazy!!!


4th Year is Different for Everyone:


Now, before I give you false expectations, I should let you know that everyone’s 4th year is going to look very different. Our road map is definitely not the norm! So while I share my experience with you, just keep in mind to not expect your circumstances to be the same.


For instance, chances are, if your student is doing a less competitive specialty, such as family medicine, they will likely apply for around 2-4 audition rotations, not 8. They will still need to get the same amount of clinical credits, however, but they will likely not apply for as many sub-i’s as a student going into a more competitive specialty.


In any case, I will share our journey so you can consider it for yourselves…


Mega Road Trip?!


That’s right. We decided to pack up our little Toyota Corolla (filled to the brim!) and head across the country as a family. I was only working part-time on Mondays at Utah Tech University as a dental hygiene clinical instructor and Clara is not in school yet, so we decided to go with my husband rather than be apart.


I had always heard that being apart from your student for a big chunk of 4th year was just what had to happen and had never considered going with my husband. Then one day, I talked to my cousin about how hard it was for her to be apart from her husband during their 4th year of med school and she gave me the idea to try to just go with him if I could! My husband and I talked about it and decided to give it a shot.


While I understand this is not a possibility for everyone, (such as if you have kids in school or a local job you don’t want to leave), it was a great choice for us for many reasons. Here is a list of pros and cons of a family road trip style 4th year.


Pros:

  • You don’t have to be apart from your student for months at a time!!! And they won’t be as lonely either! BEST PART! (If going with your student to all rotations is not a possibility, you could try to go with them for a couple or even just one, if possible)

    • * If you do stay put, consider making a game plan of how to stay connected and support your student from afar. (i.e. - Facetime calls, texting, occasionally visiting each other)

  • You will have a better idea of how to help order your student’s rank list because you have been able to explore each area they rotated in! ○ *If you do stay put, consider flying out for a weekend to see the area or going with your student when they interview at these programs. Or do your research online about cost of living, safety, etc. of each area and this will also help with the rank list.

  • You won’t have 2 housing bills! (Your traveling student's and yours)

    • * If you do stay put, many spouses consider temporarily moving back in with parents or in-laws to save on rent, which would eliminate one bill.

  • You won’t have 2 food bills! (Your traveling student's and yours). It’s always cheaper to eat together. :)

  • Your student will likely be healthier with you around to help with meal planning, shopping, and meal prepping.

    • * If you do stay put, you could do grocery pick up orders for them if they are too busy to meal plan and shop! Then all they need to do is go pick it up and cook.

  • If you do the road trip, you will save a LOT of money due to not needing to get a new rental car in each rotation area. (We just talked to another rotating med student who said she spent $1000 for a rental car for 2 weeks! So much money, ahhh!)

    • * If you stay put, consider encouraging your student to road trip instead of fly and get a rental car, if possible.

  • You will save a ton on airfare by driving!

    • * If it’s not a possibility for your student to drive to rotations because flying is what makes the most sense, consider getting a credit card for miles. I have heard of other students having success with this.

  • You can pack whatever you are able to fit in your car! No need to worry about what can fit in a carry-on or checked bag.

  • It is fun to travel the country and see new places and meet new people. You are (kind of) on vacation! Haha

Cons:

  • It may just not be a realistic option for you due to life circumstances, such as having kids in school (as mentioned above)

  • It takes some extra planning and may be difficult to get rotations lined up cohesively for a road trip

    • * See the next section below for tips on how to schedule it out

  • Comfortable arrangements for you and your student (and possible kiddos) may be more expensive than your student could find on their own (i.e.- Renting just a private room for your student is cheaper than an entire unit for your family).

  • You will need to give up a lot of routine - you will be living out of a suitcase, moving to a new city often, sleeping in a new bed, etc.

  • You will need to sacrifice some luxuries of staying put - such as possibly being near family (if you have family in UT), having friends nearby, MSP activities, going to your favorite gym, perhaps giving up a local job you enjoy.

  • Road trips can be looooooooong- and especially hard with kids. (See tips below for help with this!)

  • May be difficult for you or your kiddos to adjust to all the changes so often…

    • * I have been happily surprised to see that my daughter has been pretty adaptable to all the changes, though! It seems like she handles it better than me most of the time haha!

Overall, the pros outweighed the cons for us and we are glad we did it this way! While I was anxious and scared before coming out here because of all the unknowns, we have actually really enjoyed it so far. That being said, we did have to do some extensive planning to make it all work out.


How we Prepared Schedule-Wise:

Due to the road trip nature of our journey, we tried to apply to programs that were somewhat geographically close to each other in a chronological order. For instance, we didn’t want our schedule to require us to be in New York first, then in California, then back across the country to Florida, because that wouldn’t make sense for a road trip. So we had to pay more attention to rotation dates and how close previous and subsequent rotations were geographically. This is why we ended up with our schedule being basically south to north along the east coast/midwest–starting down in Georgia/Florida areas and then moving up north and then back down again towards the end. That being said, I believe even if you had a crazy 20 hour drive from rotation to rotation you would still save money on not getting a rental car instead!


Another huge lifesaver for us along our journey was having a landing pad on the other side of the country. My brother lives in Mississippi and so we have stayed with him during gap weeks between rotations, which has been a big help financially and convenience-wise. If you don’t have somewhere to crash between rotations, try to limit gaps in your schedule if at all possible. Flying back home (if you can find good airfare) may also be a good option and staying with parents and in-laws so you don’t need to pay for hotels/Airbnbs during gap periods. And you get to spend time with family. (*If you do this option, just a heads up that you will need to find parking for your car at the airport or elsewhere, which can be a little expensive).


In summary, to create an ideal schedule for a road trip:

  • Try to (somewhat) line up rotations geographically in a chronological order to create a more ideal road trip

  • Try to limit gaps or discuss with your s/o what you plan to do during gap periods between rotations, whether it be flying home or having a landing pad on the other side of the country or booking a hotel/Airbnb/etc.

How To Find Lodging:

** Something my husband and I do when finding housing through any of these means listed below is look up a crime map to make sure you aren't getting a rental in a very sketchy part of town. Some crime maps say very different things than others, so maybe look at a few to compare and contrast. :)


Here are some helpful tools to find lodging:

  • Rotatingroom.com - Short-term housing for medical students and professionals

    • Often found near the hospital

    • Usually cheaper than Airbnbs or hotels!

    • Certain areas didn’t have a ton of options but some had plenty ○ We have found that it is usually ideal for just the medical student (a lot of “private rooms in a house”, not entire units).

    • Not as much available for the whole family, at least in the areas we have looked.

  • Furnishedfinder.com - Short-term housing for traveling nurses and other medical professionals

    • Similar to rotatingroom.com - see bullet points above

  • Airbnb app or airbnb.com

    • Always plenty of options

    • Has a kitchen unlike most hotels so you can eat healthier :) ○ If you search, you can find pretty good deals!

    • We appreciate that a lot of listings have many reviews so you really know what you are getting yourself into :)

    • This is where we have booked most of our stays because we have found it is the most ideal for a family situation

  • Vrbo app or vrbo.com

    • Similar to Airbnb but, in our experience, not as many options and deals usually aren’t quite as good

  • Hotels or Extended-Stay Hotels

    • Big downside of the hotels for me is the lack of a kitchen and full-size fridge. However, some extended-stay hotels do have kitchens or kitchenettes so that is something to look into!

    • You will most likely have access to a gym, possible free breakfast and possible pool or hot tub, which is nice!

    • You would likely just get one room, which means you are room-sharing with any kiddos you may have. Airbnbs often at least have a separate living room with a couch or laundry room to stick a pack & play in.

    • Usually similarly priced to Airbnbs

  • Facebook med student housing sublet page

    • Name of the Facebook group: Medical Sublets (requires approval to join - they just have you type in your medical school)

    • There are probably other pages but this is the one I know of!

  • Hospital-recommended housing

    • I have heard of students staying at housing that the hospital has recommended, sometimes even for free. So it doesn’t hurt to reach out and ask!

  • Family, friends or church members

    • Reach out on social media and see if anyone knows anyone in that city that you could stay with!

    • I reached out to the local Bishop of my church (I’m LDS) in Georgia and he connected me with a member of our church out there that had a casita that we were able to stay in for the month. They just had us pay $80 in utilities, which was so nice!

    • If you do reach out, however, I would absolutely make certain that the living situation is ideal for your family and needs. I have heard of a medical student’s family staying at a family friend’s place for a rotation that ended up being extremely not ideal and they ultimately had to move out because it was not a good situation.

    • House-sharing can be particularly hard for families with kids (trust me, I would know! Haha) due to being worried about the kids crying loudly or breaking things. Also sharing a kitchen with a stranger can be awkward, so these are all things to consider! :)

Things to Do While Your Student is Rotating:

  • Explore the area! Be a tourist (within your med school budget haha). You may never be in that area of the country again! Check out local sites such as food markets, downtown areas, restaurants, beaches, rivers, lakes, etc. When in Rome!

  • Mom ideas:

    • Story-time at the local library (always free and a great place to meet other moms!)

    • Parks, feeding ducks and turtles

    • Swimming and splash pads

    • Museums

    • Zoos, aquariums or Petsmart (if you are cheap & want a free zoo!) ○ Hiking or walking paths

  • Try to get to know the people wherever you go (at the grocery store, for instance!) This will give you an idea of how friendly people are, the culture of the area, etc.

  • Ask locals about the area! They will often give good recommendations about things to do, tell you how safe the area is for kids, where to avoid, etc. Ask them about things that concern you - such as the local school system if you will have kids in school during residency.

  • Remember to record your impressions of the area, what you liked and didn’t like, pros and cons, etc. This will be helpful to look back on when you and your student make your rank list.

    • I would also encourage your student to do this about the program they are rotating with - how they liked the culture and preceptors, how much driving was required, etc. to help with ranking.

Travel Tips for Road Trips:

  • Bring a cooler so you don’t have to start fresh with groceries at each new area! You can just pack up whatever is in the fridge and bring it to the next rotation.

  • We also brought our Instant Pot and Crock pot, which I have enjoyed because most Airbnbs don’t have those. I would also recommend bringing a can opener because some places didn’t have one or it was very dull haha. And we brought some spices (just packed them inside our Instant Pot) because we didn’t want to have to buy spices on the road.

  • Get invested in some good audio books or podcasts for the road trips - they definitely help pass the time! 2 of our recent favorite books have been “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Atomic Habits.”

  • If you are bringing kiddos, some ideas for the car:

    • Music

    • Books

    • Lots of snacks

    • What do you see outside?

    • Coloring books and crayons/reusable water coloring books

    • MOVIES & SHOWS - NO, you are not a bad mom if they are watching a screen in the car! Road trips are hard and other activities will honestly only keep them occupied for so long! They are bored, just like you. So, in my opinion, Frozen 2 on repeat is a lot less annoying than screaming kids. Haha!

Now that I have talked about our experience and (hopefully) given at least some helpful advice for planning for your 4th year, I will try to address some basic 4th year info. I thought it might be helpful to share information about some things I didn't know about beforehand.

Things I Didn’t (Used to) Know About 4th Year:


  • 4th Year is very front-loaded for most!

    • While the first half of 4th year sounds like a lot, the second half seems to chill out for most students.

    • Your student can set it up however they want, but most try to get audition rotations and other clinical rotation requirements done first. There are some vacation weeks, possible research rotations, and other things to fill your time with as well, which often falls more towards the end of 4th year. But again - your schedule is totally up to you!

  • Students apply for the residency programs they are interested in around September and it’s expensive…

    • This is something to factor into your budget because we ended up spending somewhere between $2000-$3000 just on applications. We applied to about 80 programs, which is pretty average for ophthalmology. It may be a bit less than that if you don’t apply for as many programs, though.

  • Students will then start hearing back from programs and be given interview invites.

    • These invites are usually given between the months of October and January of your student’s 4th year.

    • They may or may not be in-person, meaning your student may need to fly back out to the program to interview. Luckily for us, ophthalmology interviews have been announced as all online this year so hopefully it moves this way! Because getting on Zoom is a lot cheaper than getting on an airplane!! Haha

  • Match Day is about 2 months before graduation

    • Match day for most specialties is usually around mid-March - March 15, 2024 for our year (For ophthalmology and urology, it is in early February - Feb. 6, 2024 for us).

    • Because of this, you will know where you are going ahead of time and will have some time to find housing and prepare to move!

  • If you don’t match, there is something called the SOAP (aka- the scramble) where you can apply for and enter positions that were not filled with the initial “Match” algorithm. All hope is not lost!

  • 4th year is hard for everyone in different ways. It can be hard to be away from your student. It can be hard to travel with your student. It can be difficult to set up audition rotations. It can be difficult to set up normal clinical rotations with the school (being that they don’t have as many resources/connections as a more established school). It can be difficult to have a lack of consistency. It can be stressful to not know where you are going to match (or IF you are going to match haha). All the unknowns can be terrifying. BUT, that being said…

  • 4th year is fun! It sounds stressful but most people I've talked to actually really enjoy it (especially the chill second half of it, haha). So get excited! :) Pretty soon, your medical school journey will be in the rearview and you will be experiencing the ups and downs of residency…and then the rest of life! Enjoy the (crazy) ride!

Well, I hope this was helpful and feel free to reach out if you have any questions about anything else! I would be more than happy to talk with you. Just message me on Facebook (Lisa Grace Bradshaw) and we can chat on there!


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