Making the Most Out of Medical School: 4 Things to Know
No one will tell you that life as a medical student is easy. In fact, getting through medical school may be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. The good news? Not only will studying medicine help you reach your life-changing goal of becoming a doctor, but medical school can actually be fun, fascinating and rewarding, too. Here are five things every medical student needs to know to make the most of the med school experience.
1. What you learn in medical school will last your entire life.
At one point or another during their studies every student asks, “When am I ever going to use this physics/mathematics/biochemistry/pharmacology again?” For medical students, this question has a resounding answer: throughout your entire career. While the material taught in medical may be extremely rigorous and even downright useless at times, everything you learn can actually be applied to diagnosing, understanding and treating disease.
Rather than studying for exams just to get through them, embrace everything you learn as part of the “big picture.” This not only helps you state motivated, but can also help you retain information while building a solid foundation of knowledge to draw upon throughout your career.
2. It’s not just about medical skills.
Getting through medical and becoming a doctor are ultimately about so much more than medicine. While studying may be your top priority, don’t neglect other critical areas of development which will help you become more well-rounded. While “hard” skills may be the first things that come to mind when you think about medical studies, “soft” EQ skills like communication, listening, teamwork, leadership and critical thinking are all equally important. Why? Because they foster better patient and family engagement, experiences and outcomes.
While medical schools do integrate the teaching and learning of these skills into their curricula, there’s no better way to develop and hone them than in the real world while interacting with others. Consider joining a club, volunteering at a local organization, or taking a music or art class. All of these offer unique value for personal and professional development.
3. You won’t regret making an investment in getting organized.
Medical school covers a vast amount of information. Going in prepared for the challenge ahead can help you get off to an optimal start and continue to keep pace along the way.
Understanding your own study habits is a vital part of the process. Perhaps you function better in the early morning hours but can’t process information well at night? Or maybe it’s the opposite? Before structuring your schedule, take time to consider your individual preferences and needs.
4. You have plenty of time to decide on a specialty.
The first question asked of most medical students? “What kind of doctor are you studying to be?” All of this curiosity may lead to the mistaken impression that the decision has to be made early on in medical school. But the truth is that you not only have plenty of time to choose a specialty, but it’s well worth your while to take the time to truly consider all of your options.
You may have dreamed of being a neuroscientist or trauma surgeon your entire life, but those dreams were not likely knowledge-based. Your first and second year of medical school, along with your third-year clinical rotations, offer invaluable insight into what’s really involved with the many different types of medical specialties. Read up on your options, talk to professionals in the field, and look into shadowing opportunities. The more research you do in the time you have, the better prepared you’ll be to make an informed decision when the time comes.
One final word of advice on choosing a specialty? Don’t be afraid to change your mind. Even if you’ve been talking about being a pediatrician since you were young enough to visit one yourself, another field of medicine may better suit your present interests, talents and lifestyle preferences.
5. Opportunities for learning never end.
While graduating from medical school is a huge accomplishment, it’s actually a fledgling step on your journey as a medical professional. Indeed, there’s more formal training ahead, including your internship, residency and possible fellowships. But we’re not just talking about that.
As both science and technology continue to advance, there are endless ways to take your knowledge and skills to the next level. Along the way, there are also lessons which can’t be taught but must be learned, such as trusting your own judgment and the surprising ambiguity of applying textbook solutions in a real-world setting.