As a recent graduate I can now officially say “I survived Medical School!”.
Looking back I feel a mixture of relief and sadness that that part of my life is over, it doesn’t feel like I have been away at University for the past 5 years but that’s what’s written on my Degree so it must be true…
So over the past few days I have been trying to think of a few helpful hints about how to get through Medical School (mostly) unscathed. This is more focused on the clinical years as pre-clinical is such a long time ago I can’t really remember anything about it.
1- Medical School Guilt
This is a real and terrible thing! What I am talking about is that feeling of guilt you get when you haven’t completed a perceived amount of work. This would range anywhere from I hadn’t actually done any work in a day to having worked a full day on the ward, gone home and done an hour+ of work but hadn’t completed everything on my days ‘to do’ list and feeling like a terrible person who didn’t deserve to be there. Writing it out like this makes it sound insane and thats what it is…. I have spent many hours trying to figure out how to stop this happening and to be honest I have no idea how to stop this feeling! All I can say is it will happen and you are not alone in feeling this way. I think acknowledgment is the first step- I found once I was aware of the guilt it did become slightly easier to ignore.
2- Preparing for new blocks
At my medical school we had 7 week blocks on the main subjects: General medicine, Surgery, Paediatrics etc. This usually involved an “introduction week” then 6 weeks on the wards/clinics/community work.
Initially I tried to read ahead before the lectures- I learnt very quickly this did not work for me… I found I didn’t understand most of the language (especially if it was a completely new topic) and actually I was just wasting time. I found writing rough notes during the lectures to be a useful way of retaining the information being given, especially as it was an active process which forced me to keep paying attention throughout the whole lecture.
The most useful thing I found was to write a list of everything I had to get done during the block. I would start by looking through the workbook (our medical school gave us subject specific work books) and writing a list of all the topics I needed to cover. I would then write out a timetable for the block that included all the timetabled teaching, booked clinics and ward rounds. The spare time around this I would allocate to the different topics to learn, general ward work and rest time.
I did all of these things at the start of every block and I found it gave me a clear view of what I had to get done and when. It meant by the end of the block things were starting to make sense and I went into all my end of block exams with confidence- this showed as I did pass every exam whilst at medical school.
3- Exam stress
Stress is a common thing- especially in Medical School. The way I found to help cope with this (not completely remove stress as that’s not going to happen) was to plan ahead. To begin with I would write a list of everything I had to cover during my revision. I would then split the number of days I had to revise into a morning, afternoon and evening session. I would fill in each session with one of the topics to cover, making sure to give myself lots of breaks- my mum loved to take me out onto lots of walks. This would at least help me to visualise how much work I had to get done and in what time frame which helped to remove some of the stress around exams.
4- Life outside Medicine
This is sooo important! I don’t know how I would have coped through Medical School without having some friends outside of Medicine and something to do to take my mind of work once in a while. I found Ultimate Frisbee to be a great way to unwind. It allowed me to get some exercise in, I made some amazing friends and I had lots of weekends away at tournaments that I found helped me work harder and more efficiently throughout the week knowing I would then have the whole weekend free.
Whatever you do at University there has to be more than just Medical School. If not you will burn out… it may not happen until you start actually working but at some point it will happen!
I managed to make it through Medical School and you can too! It may feel like hell at the time but trust me it will get better and suddenly you will be about to start your first job as a real Doctor!!!!