Sunday, August 28, 2011

Things I learned in my first year of med school

Tomorrow classes will start again and I will be a second year medical student. My first year of medical school was really difficult. During that time, I feel that I learned a little about myself.

The most productive place to study is a desk in a silent place. 
It's not the most pleasant place. I'm depressed and angry when I'm studying here but I actually get studying done. I still sometimes study at coffee shops but I'm ultimately doing a disservice to myself because I'm less efficient when the environment is noisy so I end up spending more time studying.

I enjoy seeing patients even when I can barely remember questions to ask or the components of a physical exam. 
Most of my patient interactions have come from volunteering at a weekend clinic for uninsured and underinsured people. Medical students are responsible for taking vitals, interviewing patients to find out the reason why they're in the clinic, their health history, and conduct a physical exam.

I can learn an enormous amount of material when I have to.
I listened to an NPR segment about children competing in a Koran memorization competition. I'm impressed by their abilities but more so by their dedication. I don't believe it requires a prodigy to memorize the Koran or to be a doctor. It requires a lot of work and time. I could memorize Robbins and Cotran's The Pathologic Basis of Disease by heart if I needed to.

I can make sacrifices for medical school.
I don't find it enjoyable to study on Friday and Saturday night but I do because that is the only way I will pass my exams. I look back on my old blog entries on my undergraduate days and at my flickr photos from when I traveled throughout Europe. That seems like a different life.

I can make time to spend time with the people who are important to me.
One of my greatest fears about medical school is that I would not have any friendships or relationships with non-medical students because I had to study all the time. This was proven by the fact that during my first semester I spent almost every night studying until about 11pm or midnight and I still found exams difficult and the material overwhelming. I didn't spend time with friends I had made during undergrad who were still in the area even though I missed their company.

But second semester showed me that it is possible to sustain meaningful relationships with people outside med school! I felt less isolated and more hopeful that I wouldn't be stuck in the medical world forever. I sometimes quit studying at 9pm so that I could spend time a couple hours with my boyfriend. That was a big decision for me even though it doesn't seem like much. I thought I was so close to failing exams during first semester that the only option was to study more during second semester.

But somehow during the second semester I had more exams -- one almost every Monday -- but spent more time with and got better grades than I did first semester. It's was very strange. I still can't figure out why but I hope that I can do that again.

Medical school is really hard but not impossible. 


marci_b said...

The whole idea of balance is very important to me. I know my courses aren't as rigorous as yours, but when I do sit down to study I think its important to be healthy, emotionally fulfilled, etc.

Also, burn out is really sucky. I got burned out end of last semester, just didn't want to do any work until classes were over. There wasn't an easy way to prevent it, since it was just too much work. But having a good support system helped me get through it! So I think building and maintaining friendships are really important, not just for having a personal life, but to help you maintain a sustainable life/work-style.

marci_b said...

Sorry that was like the cheesiest comment ever and I said "important" 3 times.