Introvert’s Dilemma

What is the most important thing to residency selection committees? M3 clinical grades. What percentage of the clinical grade is subjective? Up to 80%.

Unlike other professions, we transition from students to professionals a full two years before graduation. With that comes the expectation of mastering the art of communication in a complex social setting. This is a dilemma for those who might be more comfortable with books than with people. If you can’t translate your academic knowledge into a compelling performance while on rotations, you’ll get dinged on the final evaluations.

As someone who struggles with “small-talk”, I’ve worried about this myself. It can be detrimental to arrive at the clinical years unprepared for the transition from library-dwelling recluse to scrub-wearing professional. On rounds, if you don’t speak up frequently and assertively, you will be viewed as non-participatory, unknowledgeable, or worse yet, disinterested. If you happen to be Asian-American or a woman, you’ll face the added challenge of fulfilling people’s ethnic/gender stereotypes.

The good news is that you should never try to change who you are. All anyone has to do to break out of the introverted mold is to improve our communication skills. It is imperative to prepare for the transition to M3 by accumulating clinical experience now while there is less at stake. If you are reserved because of a lack of confidence, try writing up questions/comments in advance and artfully working them in at appropriate times. If you already have the confidence, but are just a natural observer, then it is time to learn to act. This might sound extreme, but treating the clinic like a stage can be a good way to break out of your typical reserved pattern. Your thoughts are valuable, and it is a disservice to your team (and patients!) for you not to share them.

If you have ever been called quiet, make a point of adding comments and questions during rounds. If you feel like you are talking too much, you are probably speaking up just enough.

One response to “Introvert’s Dilemma

  1. I can’t help but say that this is very misinformed. M3 grades are not the most important factor for many specialties.. your standardized test scores are. Additionally, M3 is certainly not 80% subjective at UW. We have shelf exams, written assignments, and other busy work. Finally, it’s not about being an introvert or an extrovert.. it’s about showing up and being on time, showing that you’re thinking about the patient at hand, and trying your hardest.

    You gotta chill out, you haven’t even started M2 yet. The best thing you can do now is enjoy your summer!


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