Almost all students feel under pressure for their studies, regardless of their field or major. While every area of study presents challenges few would argue that many have it harder than medical student given their workloads. The notoriety of both pre-med studies and medical school unfortunately can scare away many aspiring physicians. While it’s crucial to acknowledge challenges, they are not insurmountable for most students and its tragic to hear of people that might not turn to profession they would otherwise excel at because of them. Given these concerns, here are 7 important things to always keep in mind whether you’re still trying to pick your major or you’ve already applied to medical school.
1. Strengthen Your Resolve
In your opinion, what does it take for a runner to be able to complete a marathon? Is it limited to their level of physical fitness? If you’ve ever run a marathon, you’ll know that people do power themselves to the finish line because they are bigger or stronger. Clearly a far bigger role comes from their mental strength. Or to put it more simply, their resolve. The same concept can be applied to studying medicine - how smart you are certainly helps, but without a solid resolve to remember why you’re studying medicine, you’re more likely to lose your way.
2. You’ll Face a lot of Challenges
With a solid resolve in mind, buckle up! You may be in for a long and bumpy ride. The challenges along the way also come with joys and, as importantly, they will strengthen you as a person and as a future physician. Your journey through medical school will be one of personal and professional transformation. Knowing challenges are coming, you can position yourself to meet them head on and without fear. Doing your research before school and learning in advance what a medical student can expect to face will ease the hardships. This may only be on a psychological level, but given that the majority of challenges are mental, this may be all you need. The first year in particular is bound to be the most difficult as you’ll soon come to learn. Although the curriculum will get harder over the years, the first year remains the key challenge for most students as one become more accustomed to study techniques and school demands.
3. You’ll Absolutely Need a Study Plan
The days (and to be honest long nights) of cramming last minute to study right before an exam are over. You may not be able to survive one semester if you hold onto that mindset and will instead need to plan and pace your studies. Expect to be well read and prepared to be quizzed on your knowledge at any time as well. Beyond formal tests, that might be with in a lecture hall, later during surgical rounds, or even in a simple class assignment. To keep track of this overwhelming amount of information, you’ll need to establish a solid study routine as early as possible. Figure out a routine that works for you. If you keep to your schedule, it will help keep your will power strong. Always tackle your study load as soon as possible.
4. Everyone Has Their Own Way of Studying
Keep in mind that everyone has their own way of studying. What works for you may not work for your peers, and vice versa. So, even though your friends like to study in groups, you shouldn’t feel pressured to join them if that doesn’t work for you. You don’t have to attend lectures if you prefer watching online courses or listening to records, though for most people your recall and retention is far better from attending in person. You may come across those who don’t appear to study at all and yet, miraculously, get amazing grades. Don’t waste your energy and time comparing yourself to others, just figure out what works for you and do it. Your only competition is yourself.
5. There’s a Big Difference Between Studying and Practicing Medicine
After studying thousands of chapters, it’s understandable how you might assume you’ve become a master. However, even if you have a photographic memory, studying and practicing medicine are two completely separate matters. In fact, practicing medicine is almost never clear-cut - you’ll need to see the bigger picture rather than follow a strict scientific discipline. Diagnosing what ails a patient is as much art as science. Some patients may have more than one underlying condition. Medical school is just building the library of information you can draw on while, residency and practice allow you to effectively learn how to draw on and apply that knowledge. That’s exactly why you should try to log in practical hours as early as possible. You didn’t study medicine because you wanted to stay in school, it was because you wanted to become a doctor and you will start to see those rewards soon enough.
6. Take Your Time in Figuring out Your Career Path
You shouldn’t enter medical school or go into hospital rounds looking at just one specialty and disregarding the rest. Give yourself the chance to get to know the unique challenges of different specialties while you build a sturdy foundation in general medicine. Once you have enough exposure to different branches of medicine, which usually happens after a couple of years, you can then start specializing in your field of choice.
7. Don’t Forget to Take Care of Your Health
Last but not the least, don’t forget your own health. You may be young and full of vigor, but you’re bound to get burned out if you don’t learn how to balance medical school and your own personal time. Remember to take a break, rejuvenate, and play hard every now and then. Many of the most successful students and doctors will tell you that they always find a little bit of time to exercise each day to maintain focus and energy. Balance is key.
Medical school can be tough. Without a solid resolve, planning and effective studying strategies, you can easily feel overwhelmed. Fear and uncertainty about what the school has in store for is unnecessary and counterproductive. The key is to learn what to expect, tackle the challenges with an open mind, and find tools and strategies to effectively balance school and personal life.