Fresh outta first year, I thought I would share some tips & tricks for my friends who are embarking upon this crazy, wild ride. Medical school is tough. There’s no getting around that. As your mind races and you are challenged further than you have been before, take heart that it is doable! So many people have survived this stressful stage alive and well. There are plenty of doctors who can attest that though the road is rough, it is iron that sharpens iron. Hopefully, these few nuggets might help you along your way.
1. Find a fairy God-mother.
Having an upperclassmen friend to tell me when to start looking for research, how to ask for stipends, and what resources to use to study was incredibly clutch. My fairy God-father was so helpful in proof-reading emails so that they sounded the right kind of #profesh. He guided me that SketchyMicro was the way to go, and he showed me his STEP study plan so I can get a picture of what it would look like when I enter that phase of the med school grind. Upperclassmen friends know which faculty to buddy up depending on what specialty you’re interested in, who gives the best recommendation letters, and study tips for each subject you’re in. Make an upperclassmen friend and be sure to say “thank you” in the form of baked goods and hugs!
2. Find your study rhythm and stick to it!
I love coffee shop studying. I love the people watching over a good cup of java to keep me energized. A lot of my friends don’t understand how I can study in such a noisy environment, but I enjoy the clanking of cups and thrills of the espresso machine over light chatter. I also love that I can people watch with no commitment to actually start up a conversation with any of these individuals. I need distraction. Our brains can only concentrate for so long, so when I have hours of studying ahead of me, I crave little distractions to take me away for a few seconds. If I’m studying alone in quiet, I am guaranteed to fall deep into the Facebook rabbit hole. Whereas, if I study in a coffee shop, I can take a quick peek as someone else and return to my study without much time passed. But tbh, coffee shop studying gets expensive, so I study at school way more than I’d like to admit.
3. Make time for the things that make you “you”.
Medical school will take a LOT out of you. Don’t give it your all. Give it 100% of your effort, but don’t give it 100% of you. At some point along the way, you’ll probably hear someone say “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” This is so true. If you’ve signed up to become a physician, you have signed up for the long haul. But when you signed up, when you filled out that application into medical school, that acceptance committee selected you for who you are. If playing the cello is really important to you, make sure you schedule some cello time for you to express yourself in that way. If bar-tending is something that brings you joy, pick up some side jobs every once in a while. If you have your heart set on becoming Miss Texas, DO IT! You’ll have a bunch of medical students cheering you on in the crowds. Whatever it is that fulfills you and brings you joy, keep that close.
4. Work towards your “why”.
If medicine is your passion, find out why! Why is medicine the field you want to pursue? What motivates you to study tirelessly and challenge yourself beyond measure? What/ who are you doing this for? Find out the innermost reason that you are pursuing this specialty and keep that in the forefront of every opportunity you take and every hour your spend studying. Write down your “why”. Put it on your bathroom mirror. Tattoo it in a non-visible area on your skin. Write it on your mind and on your heart to remember what brought you here in the first place and what is going to keep you going. Whether it’s to end healthcare disparities or provide safe births for all babies, let your why be something that empowers you to push through the sharpening and the struggle. Always remember your “why”.
5. Enjoy this season!
You have no idea what is in store for your life. Enjoy each gift that each season brings. Enjoy the friends you make your first year. Soon, you will be split off into rotations, so you won’t share time with everyone like you do now. Enjoy getting to know people of diverse backgrounds and asking their passions and pursuits. Enjoy the freedom of your schedule and being able to set your own course for how each day will shape out. Enjoy studying in a park or on the beach sometime. Enjoy the park or the beach! Enjoy yourself each day so that you look back on this time with not a moment gone by in haste. Enjoy medical school.
Hope this helps!