You may not become the best doctor in the world, or this country, this state or city. Hell, you may not even be the best doctor on your street, at your hospital or clinic, or the best doctor on a hospital floor or in a room at a given time.
But when a patient comes to you, scared the headaches, the chest pains, whatever they’ve been having for months might be something worse, at that moment, YOU are their best chance for survival. You are that patient’s best hope, and proving yourself worthy of that responsibility is the only title you should ever care about winning.
A practicing physician for 40 years, and one who still hasn’t lost sight of what truly matters in this profession: the patients.
I knew this was coming, but its still hard to adjust to not being a top student. It’s inevitable, after all: you take the top students from high school, and you put them into college, and then you take the top students from college, and you put them in professional school. Everyone around me was at the top of their class twice. (I am using top of their class loosely here. But the point stands. I’m surrounded by really smart people.)
So I knew, logically, that I couldn’t expect myself to be top of this class. I knew that average is actually a pretty good place to be. And below average, so long as its above passing, is alright too. They set a high bar in medical school, and if you’re getting over that bar, it doesn’t really matter if there are other people getting over with more clearance.
But goodness, it is hard to look at the averages and see that I’m on the lower side of the bell curve.
Where there are suddenly so many opportunities to do amazing things, and so little time to do them.
Seriously! How do you guys handle time management? I know I’m in a pass/fail curriculum and shouldn’t be stressing too much, but there are just SO many opportunities outside lecture that I’d love to get involved in. I can’t figure out how to balance my life right now. Thoughts??
Why didn’t I know about the danger zone on my face???
Like why didn’t anybody tell me what could happen if I pop a zit and get it infected when it’s in the danger zone???
Why am I just learning about this in medical school???
Like adults always say “Don’t pop zits it’s bad” but like they never give a specific reason.
Let me educate you if you do not know (because I had no clue) on what I have gathered so far (by no means am I an expert).
The danger zone is the triangle from the bridge of your nose down to the corners of your mouth. If you pop a zit there and it gets infected/abscesses, you could potentially end up with cavernous sinus thrombosis, meningitis or a brain abscess!!
Just thank your cavernous sinus and the veins that run through it for making it able to spread easily. Also a bunch of the cranial nerves run through it which can also be messed up by an infection (cranial nerves III, IV, and VI and V1 and V2 of cranial nerve V).
Know the difference between a wish list and to do list. Prioritize
to help you to tell the difference because you will run out of time.
There is no “secret” method or gimmick to study. Do what works for you. Breadth and understanding is as important as depth.
What study methods worked for you in undergrad will not work in
medical school without adjustment. There is much less time to spend on
Expect to never again feel prepared for an exam. Assume you will/have passed every exam until you learn otherwise.
Changing expectations is not the same as lowering your standards. You will learn what I mean by this.
Everyone knows/understands some things that you don’t. You
know/understand some things that other people don’t. Some people will
try to find comfort in sharing every obscure fact that they already
know. Don’t get freaked out.
You will pass and become an M.D.
Many people cope with stress by complaining. Some people complain as a hobby. Don’t do either and avoid those who do.
Take care of yourself. Set a quitting time each night and before each exam. That quitting time should never be 3 A.M.
Things I learned during my first year of medical school
I cannot believe I’ve finished my first year of medical school already! Wow!
Warning: long Parks and Rec gif-filled post ahead (90% of these are cheesy but I am pizza levels of cheesy when I’m reflecting):
1. Do your thing
The first semester of med school was a weird time of looking and seeing what other people were doing to study and wondering if I needed to do that too.
I wondered, should I get a bunch of colored highlighters? Make a million flashcards? Am I behind because I haven’t studied that lecture yet? Should I stream instead of go to class because that’s what other people are doing?
My advice? Try new things out but once you figure out what works for you, don’t be afraid to stick to it. Some people found out that they study best in groups. I found out I study best by myself. I don’t like highlighting but I do like writing down things I need to know in a spiral so I can review/remember them better. I also like doing as many practice questions as I can get my hands on. I like going to class and taking notes on my computer.
I didn’t know any of that until I got here. And that’s okay. But don’t stress about what other people are doing - you’ll find what works for you.
2. Don’t try to study 24/7
Seriously. Don’t. It’s not worth it. You’ll burn out and realize you could have been more relaxed and focused if you took a break. I try to take a couple minutes of break every hour and a bigger break every few hours whenever I’m studying. I also try to take at least one day off per weekend and do something fun (even if it’s small). I also know I study best during the day so I usually take the evenings off as well unless it’s like crunch time.
3. Investing in dress clothes is a good idea
Inevitably, you’ll forget that you have yet another clinical skills class that requires white coat attire (aka business casual) and only remember last minute, without time to do laundry. It’s way less stressful if you have a few possible outfits. Even easier? If you wear dresses, get some nice professional dresses. Nothing better than only picking a single thing out of your closet to wear! Also, along with that, make sure you have dress shoes that fit and are comfortable. I learned that I need to break in new flats sometimes before I wear them or I will get really bad blisters.
4. Laughter is the best medicine
As cliche as it sounds, I could not have gotten through this year without laughing. Laughing with new friends, laughing at ridiculous situations, laughing at silly gifs posted in our med school’s FB group specifically created for that purpose (it’s the best, highly recommend. Our class has 3 facebook groups - one for class announcements/club things, one for study materials, and one for laughing. The silly one was started by an MS2 (now MS3 I suppose!)). Laughing is seriously therapeutic for stress. Also some of my classmates just happen to be hysterically funny. Also A+ to tumblr for keeping me giggling. Also, Broad City (put it on your list of shows to watch!)
5. The days are long but the weeks/months are short
I still cannot believe it is May and I’m already done. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to reflect on my experiences on my tumblr so I can remember them (because sometimes it feels like my memories are getting squeezed out to make room for new knowledge). Journaling here allowed me to process this year in a way that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I would highly recommend it to anyone about to start school (of any kind!).
6. Make new friends but keep the old
Yes, I am quoting a Girl Scouts song. Because it’s true. I am so very thankful for the technology that has allowed me to (try to) keep up with my college friends. Life is busy for all of us but it’s always nice to chat with old friends (and hang out, location permitting!) Also my med school class is filled with the most amazing people and it’s been so fun getting to know them :) I love my girls so much, they truly are my ride or dies. Med school is quite a bonding experience.
7. You’ll do things you never imagined you could
For me, that was anatomy and clinical skills. I was a bit nervous about dissecting and the whole experience but I was pleasantly surprised. It was not as weird as I thought it would be. In clinical skills, I was terrifyingly nervous about standardized patients and being filmed and getting feedback and learning how to do all the exams. We all got through it and now I feel much more comfortable. There are still hard days (like a couple of weeks ago) but I am not as nervous. I also learned how to do the male GU exam and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.
I also can’t believe that I went from knowing nothing to taking a history and doing a physical on a real patient all by myself AND presenting them to my preceptor. I still have a ton to learn and say stupid stuff sometimes but it feels like I’m on the right track.
8. While sometimes first year feels like this:
You’ll have moments where you feel like
And one last bonus lesson:
Can that be the medblr motto? Also shoutout to medblr for being such an amazing and supportive community. Could not have gotten through this year without y’all!!!!
Congratulations to all the other first years who are finishing up school or already done :) And welcome medblr class of 2020!!! So excited for y’all.
Any advice for new med students? I need all of them, please!!
- take a deep breath
- it’s a marathon not a sprint
- figure out the best way for you to learn: be it taking hand notes, listening to lectures/watching videos, reading, flashcards, drawing things, mnemonics, mental diagrams or typing notes or whatever else. Your system may change.
- don’t get too into the caffeine, you’ll need room to increase your dose in residency
- try to eat some plants every day
- it’s ok to ask for help
- it’s ok to cry
- find that pure little nugget of hope and joy in your heart PROTECT IT AT ALL COSTS
- believe it or not you have loads of free time right now go live your life and do fun stuff I BEG U