The third year students have been busy choosing their rotations, and I’ve received some calls and emails from a few of them looking for advice about which rotations I’ve liked the best. I count myself lucky because I was able to lock in my first choice for six of my rotations and my second choice for two of them. When I ranked my rotation sites, I followed a few simple rules I thought helped me maximize my chances of getting the rotations I really wanted. I don’t have any particular knowledge of the computer system that creates the rotation assignments, so take these rules for what they are worth. And if you follow them, let me know how it goes.
#1 Don’t make 14 selections unless there are eight rotations in addition to the first six that are appealing. If you will be disappointed receiving a site, don’t put it on the list. One of my classmates was astonished to be assigned to a site he ranked 12th on his list. When asked why he selected 12, he said he thought the larger number of selections would give the most flexibility and somehow result in better assignments. In reality it may have had the opposite effect. It would make sense that the computer program has been designed to find matches for as many sites as possible. If only a few students rank a site, every one of those students may be assigned to that site in order to spread students out, thin the number of students who have chosen more popular sites, and give less popular sites their fair share.
#2 Think twice about the block you request off. Blocks 9 and 7 will likely be the most popular because a block 9 break means you are “done early,” and block 7 is when a lot of students are preparing for residency interviews. Blocks 6 and 1 are likely the next most popular because they coincide with winter break and the beginning of summer. If you choose these as your preferred blocks, expect that others will be doing the same. The result may be stiffer competition for rotation sites in blocks 2,3,4,5, and 8.
#3 There are certain sites that are known to have challenging rotations. Choose them. And rank them high. There may be less competition for those sites because of the reputation.
#4 Place as few geographical constraints on your selections as possible. It isn’t possible for some students. For many, it isn’t preferable. Use that to your advantage. St. Cloud has some great rotations. So does Brainerd and Grand Rapids. If you are a Duluth student, try to open yourself up to rotations in the Twin Cities. I have four rotations in Duluth, one in Brainerd, two in the Twin Cities, and one in Tanzania.
#5 The final suggestion is less about optimizing your rankings and more about optimizing your job or residency placement. If you know where you want to practice, or you have a particular residency in mind, try to choose rotations that will put you in contact with people who can make a difference for you.
Good luck to all of the PD3 students with their rotation selections. I have one more piece of advice for you as you approach your fourth year. Treat the entire year like one big job interview. As we have all been warned many times, pharmacy is a small world. If you are a star, word gets around. If you are a slacker, word also gets around. Students who take every opportunity to get out of rotation duty, even if it is with the permission of the preceptor, are at best forgettable, and at worst, memorable for the wrong reasons. Instead, take control of your learning and see that fourth year can be the one in which you make the greatest strides in your knowledge. Fourth year allows you to explore as far as you are willing to roam. It’s your chance to sit in the captain’s seat and still have the captain there to back you up. It can be the best year of your education, but that will be up to you. Don’t waste it.