It has now been three months since I walked across the stage and received my medical school diploma. I recall feeling an overwhelming sense of elation and relief. It was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and I was finally free from the pressures and demands of medical school.
As any medical student can attest, the journey toward becoming a doctor is one of the most grueling undertakings for a student. There are numerous reasons for this, but the most prominent ones are the sheer depth and breadth of knowledge that one is expected to acquire, the limited amount of time available to learn and memorize that information, and the countless distractions that inevitably arise.
Throughout my medical school experience, I often felt like a walking, talking computer, constantly processing information and regurgitating it for exams, deadlines, and classes. It was a constant struggle to keep up with the fast pace of the curriculum and stay focused amidst the myriad distractions that surrounded me. Despite these challenges, I persevered and emerged on the other side with a sense of accomplishment that is hard to put into words. While the road ahead as a physician will undoubtedly be challenging, I am grateful for the knowledge and experience I gained in medical school and am eager to put it to use in my future practice.
To give you an example of what I went through, on the first day of class, a Professor will show up for a lecture of let’s say 2 hours, 45 minutes each with 15-minute breaks. The professor will plan on teaching a chapter on a subject, anatomy in this case. He/she will bring a PowerPoint presentation of 120 slides, give or take. The professor will likely spend only 1 hour teaching and the other half hour answering our questions, and will leave at the end of the class with only covering 60 to 70 percent of the slide content, and when we ask about the rest, he/she would smile and say read it on your own and bring any questions you have in my office, an obscure office no one knows about. When he/she turns up for the next class, he/she will spend 5 to 10 minutes answering our questions and proceed to teach another 60/70 percent. Now multiply those uncovered contents, 18 times a week for 31 weeks a year for 5 years, and now you have a picture of the content you need to learn on your own, without factoring in what the professor has taught you, whether you understood it or not.
For the distractions and the things that are fighting for your attention, to name but a few. Sleep, self-care, food, exercise, hobbies, friends, family, football, TV, movies, books, and youtube. Every day, you have to decide which is more important to you, your studies or these so-called distractions. Most students choose their studies and neglect their mental and health being, and those who focus on their well-being and social life end up paying the ultimate price and fail to graduate on time or worse drop out from the university. Surely this is not what you signed up for. You may think I’m exaggerating but this was my experience in medical school. Sometimes, I fail to explain how I graduated. I know I wasn’t the most hardworking, the smartest or the perfect student, but I think I got a few things right and I’m writing this post to explain how I went about it.
As a medical student, there are many areas in your life that demand attention and focus. Your studies should always be your top priority. You must allocate enough time and effort to learning the complex topics and memorizing the vast amounts of information in your curriculum. Focus on creating a study plan that will allow you to balance your workload while also taking care of other aspects of your life. While your studies take a top priority, it is also important to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Hobbies and extracurricular activities can be a great way to relax and unwind after a long day of studying. Limit your involvement in these activities to avoid overloading your schedule and impacting your academic performance. Maintaining healthy habits such as getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly can help you perform better in your studies. Choosing your battles wisely will help you excel in your studies, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and achieve your long-term goals.
As a medical student, setting a study plan and career goals can be daunting. It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure to excel and achieve greatness, but it’s important to remember to practice moderation to avoid overextending yourself and setting goals that are too challenging or complicated. To begin, start by taking an honest assessment of your current workload and time commitments. Next, prioritize your goals based on what is most important to you. This may include academic achievements, building clinical skills, participating in research, or maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Be sure to set realistic goals that are achievable within your available time frame. Break down large goals into smaller, more manageable tasks that you can tackle one at a time. It’s also important to remember to take breaks and allow yourself time to recharge. Burnout is a real concern these days. As you progress through your studies, be open to adjusting your goals and study plan as needed. Life is unpredictable, and circumstances may change that need you to shift your focus. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you need to make adjustments – the key is to stay flexible and adaptable.
Discomfort is an essential part of the learning process for medical students. It can help simulate real-life situations you are likely to encounter in your clinical practise, serve as a valuable learning tool by forcing you to confront your limitations and weaknesses. This can lead to greater self-awareness and a willingness to learn and improve, develop resilience and perseverance, and foster empathy and compassion.