After our first year of medical school, where our brains were buried in lectures, thinking about seeing real patients was exciting but also terrifying. We had so many questions about what it means to be a “clinical student”. What is rounding? What shoes do I wear in the OR? What is the electronic medical record and how do I use it? Am I supposed to bring lunch? Are there fridges? What do you mean we get “feedback”? What do our grades mean? Am I supposed to read about all my clinic patients beforehand?
This next phase of medical school can sometimes feel like a large, looming mountain. This is why the Near Peer Program was created, to help establish mentorship early on and prepare students to feel ready to climb to the top. This program starts during Transitions to Clerkships, and continues through the academic year.
What is Transitions to Clerkships (TTC)?
Here at the University of Michigan Medical School, our preclinical education on the basic science necessary to become a doctor is condensed into one year before we dive into the meat of medical school with the clerkship year (check out a full overview of our curriculum)!
Before we can enter the hospital wards as effective health care team members, we need an orientation to the clinical space, and this is a month-long program called the Transitions to Clerkships (TTC). Using small group case-based discussions, clinical skills sessions and various orientation sessions, this program provides rising M2s with the experience necessary to hit the ground running in the core clerkships. These sessions range from training with the electronic health record to basic life support training. Despite this comprehensive training, the initiation to the hospital remains a difficult transition for students. Knowing this, upperclass students (M3s & M4s) started the Near Peer Program to provide the recent context of their experiences with new M2s.
What is the M-HOME Near Peer Program?
The Near Peer Program is a mentorship program linking upperclass students who have completed their clinical year with students entering their clinical year. It is under the umbrella of M-Home, which is a longitudinal learning community established to help students feel part of a “home” here at Michigan. See the blog post: Fostering Community Through my M-Home Experience.
Before the Near Peer Program ever becomes relevant and before you even start your clinical year, you are placed on a “track” via a lottery system. Your track, in the simplest terms, is the order in which you complete your full year of core rotations. For example, this could look like OB/GYN to Pediatrics to Surgery to Family Medicine to Psychiatry to Neurology to Internal Medicine. You are with the students in your track from September to September as the year progresses, and these are the people you see the most when you have lectures for your rotations or other mandatory clinical duties as a group. It becomes like another little family of students, and a great community to bond over all your clinical experiences with since you’re going through it together!
Your track group also becomes your Near Peer Mentorship group. Mentors for each group typically completed their clinical year on the same track as you, or one that was very similar, so they can provide the best advice for the specific order in which you complete your rotations. The goal of the Near Peer Program is to help guide students through their clinical year. Our mentors help provide study tips and tools, are sources for what to wear on your first day, where to show up, and how to prepare, and serve as a listening ear when a patient encounter or a day with an attending may not go according to plan.
One of the most helpful aspects of the Near Peer Program is the session on Pre-Rounding and SOAP (Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan)-style presentations during TTC. This session is designed to have our senior students walk through what the heck “pre-rounding” is (checking on what happened to your patients over the past 24 hours and overnight, and gathering information to present on rounds) and how to dig through the charts to find all the information you need to give to the team when you round on your patients. It is also always scheduled the week before you start in the clinical space, in order to provide space for students to ask any logistical questions they have about their first day or just get general advice about clinical year.
Throughout the year, there are a few sessions offered with the Near Peer Mentors as check-ins and opportunities to reconnect with the senior students and regroup as the year progresses. Some questions our mentors always get as clinical year continues are study strategies for each shelf exam, how to manage difficult situations on teams, and how to maintain wellness through long hours at the hospital and studying.
Impact of Near Peer on the Clinical Year
One of the perks of having the Near Peer Program as an integrated part of the clinical year experience is that as an M2 student, you don’t have to put in any effort to sign up or find a senior medical student mentor. We provide all the contact information for the multiple Near Peer Mentors assigned to each track and make the study tips and clerkship-related resources easily available and accessible. This means that as a student trying to figure out what is happening on every rotation, you at least do not need to worry about who you can turn to for help, for reassurance or for concerns. There is always someone ready to support you!
We hope the Near Peer Program provides students with a rich community and useful advice as they tackle the next stage of medical school. We are so excited to continue to make sure all our students feel adequately supported and prepared!
Kayla Meyer is a third-year medical student at University of Michigan Medical School. She is involved in Galens Tag Days leadership, Student Council and loves mentoring students. She recently finished her first half marathon and is hoping to apply into urology later this year!
Cameron Pawlik is a third-year medical student at University of Michigan Medical School. When he isn’t trying to get through another flashcard review, he is usually enjoying a board game with roommates or battling other U-M students in an intramural sport. You can also find him dancing for Biorhythms, acting in the Smoker or working on Student Council!