Background: In clerkships, students are expected to self-regulate their learning. How clinical departments and their routine approach on clerkships influences students’ self-regulated learning (SRL) is unknown. Aim: This study explores how characteristic routines of clinical departments influence medical students’ SRL. Methods: Six focus groups including 39 purposively sampled participants from one Dutch university were organized to study how characteristic routines of clinical departments influenced medical students’ SRL from a constructivist paradigm, using grounded theory methodology. The focus groups were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and were analyzed iteratively using constant comparison and open, axial and interpretive coding. Results: Students described that clinical departments influenced their SRL through routines which affected the professional relationships they could engage in and affected their perception of a department’s invested effort in them. Students’ SRL in a clerkship can be supported by enabling them to engage others in their SRL and by having them feel that effort is invested in their learning. Conclusions: Our study gives a practical insight in how clinical departments influenced students’ SRL. Clinical departments can affect students’ motivation to engage in SRL, influence the variety of SRL strategies that students can use and how meaningful students perceive their SRL experiences to be.