OK, now that I'm nearly a year out from becoming a doctor, I've gotten a chance to be on the other end of medical school for long enough to try to give some advice to those going through medical school now. I've worked with several medical students and have picked up a few things about what makes a medical student a successful member of the team.
1. Get to know your patients. You have more time than everyone else on the team. So, get to know your few patients as well as you can. First, it's an interesting experience and you'll build a great relationship with the patient. You'll gain the patient's trust and may be able to get more information from the patient than any resident or attending will. With this, you'll add to the patient's care more than any resident will. I've seen patients specifically asking to see the med student rather than the resident or attending because of the close relationship they've built.
2. Think for yourself. Come up with a plan of what you want to do right after you see the patient and before you talk it over with a resident or attending. Don't worry about being wrong. It will quickly help you figure out how different conditions are tested and treated.
3. Do your work. Don't copy the work of others. I know that med student notes are usually ignored by everyone, but it's something you need to learn to do on your own since you'll be using it for the rest of your life. I've seen several med students directly copy notes from residents... not cool and not unnoticed.
4. Don't make your teammates look bad. This includes pimping your residents, showing off about what you know or have learned or volunteering for more than what is expected of you. A medical student I worked with volunteered to give a presentation during our medicine rotation. No one asked anyone to give a presentation, but he thought he'd look eager and interested if he volunteered out of his own initiative. It backfired terribly. Even if the talk had gone well, it upset the residents because it took time out of the day and it made the other medical students look bad and feel that they need to do the same thing. Kissing ass can get you far in med school, but it can also terribly backfire, so better to not do it.
5. Ask questions. There are no stupid questions. Lots of what you have questions about, other, more senior team members probably also have questions about.
6. Don't pretend you're going into the field of whoever you're talking to. They'll see right through you.
7. There are some things you should not emulate. Interns will complain. They will bitch. They will make fun of attendings, patients, each other. They will slack off. You cannot do that. Despite all the complaining and slacking, they will get their work done. You just started, you have a lot of studying to do and can't afford to waste time like they do.
8. Don't lie. If you forgot to look something up or didn't get a chance to see a patient, don't make up numbers or a physical exam. There was a medical student who forgot to pre-round on one of his patients and just made of the physical exam (it was a surgery rotation, so he was actually pretty close to being right). He got caught when he went to the patients room and didn't realize that the patient had moved to a different part of the hospital the night before.
9. Don't be scared, upset or angry about criticisms you hear from others. Think about it. If it's justified, learn from it. Don't take it personally. Don't think it'll ruin your grade.
I'm sure there is more, but these are the ones that jumped at me with the med students I worked with in the last year.