Basic Things A Medical Student Should Know

Last Updated on August 9, 2022

Top 10 Things You Need in Medical School - BoardVitals Blog

A medical student is the most important individual of the health care team. Medical students are typically given more responsibilities than any other medical professional. A great deal of trust is placed on them because they are considered future leaders of the field. Maintaining a certain level of knowledge and skills takes dedication, not to mention perseverance and practice. If you are a medical student it is important to be aware of some basic things that you should already know.

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How Long Is Medical School and What Is it Like? | Top Medical Schools | US  News

There are over 130 U.S. medical schools that award the MD to graduates. These schools train students in allopathic medicine. (A smaller number of schools train students in osteopathic medicine and award the DO to graduates). Allopathic schools train tomorrow’s MDs with a common (and rigorous!) core curriculum. But beyond that core, no two schools are exactly alike. Each offers its own unique academic focus, teaching methods and research opportunities.

How long is medical school?

Medical school takes 4 years to complete, but to become a doctor you’ll also spend 3–7 years in residency.

The First Two Years

The first two years of medical school are a mixture of classroom and lab time. Students take classes in basic sciences, such as anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology and pharmacology. They also learn the basics of interviewing and examining a patient.

Traditionally, students take four or five courses in various disciplines at the same time. However, some schools focus on a single subject for a shorter block of time—say, three or four weeks—then move on to another. Other schools take an interdisciplinary approach to pre-clinical coursework, in which each class focuses on a single organ, examining all the anatomy, pharmacology, pathology and behavior relevant to that system. At the end of the second year, you’ll take USMLE Step 1.

The Clinical Experience: Years 3 and 4

Third and fourth year medical students do rotations at hospitals and clinics affiliated with their school, culminating with taking (and passing) USMLE Step 2. Students doing rotations assist residents in a particular specialty such as surgery, pediatrics, internal medicine or psychiatry. During this time, you’ll probably feel like a cross between a mindless grunt and a skilled apprentice. You’ll interact with patients and perform basic medical procedures along with any tasks the resident doesn’t want to do.

While some rotations, such as Internal Medicine, are required at all programs, others have more unique clerkship requirements. The length of time you spend in a rotation depends on the hospital’s focus or strength. At some schools, the surgery rotation is three weeks long; at others, it is three months. The character of the hospital will also color your experience. If the setting is urban, you can expect increased experience with trauma, emergency medicine, or infectious disease, as well as exposure to a diverse patient population.

Clinical rotations will not give you enough expertise to practice in any specialty (that’s what a residency is for). They will give you a breadth of knowledge and help you consider potential career paths.

Patient Care vs. ResearchMedicine: Things you should know as a medical student

You can train to be a primary care doctor at any medical school. But programs that emphasize primary care tend to include more patient contact, coursework in patient handling, and longer clinical rotations in general fields. Many are actively involved in the surrounding communities, offering volunteer opportunities in the clinical care of indigent populations.

If you’re looking to pursue a career in academic medicine or biomedical research, you should look for schools with strong research programs. You will not have the same opportunities, facilities, mentors or funding at a school focused on training primary care physicians.

Combined Degrees

If you want to complement your MD with advanced coursework in another discipline, some schools—especially those affiliated with a larger university—allow students to register for classes in other departments. Many also offer combined degree programs.

After Med School

Med students who make it through all four years (and don’t worry, most do) will be the proud owner of an MD. But your education doesn’t end there. You still need to pass the board exam and spend between three and seven years as a resident in a teaching hospital.

10 Things Every Student Should Know Before Medical School

I just finished the last final of my first year of medical school earlier today. Surreal to say the least, but needless to say, I am so excited for the upcoming summer break. And it is a much deserved break! I came home and decided to write this post while all of the feelings are still new.

The past year of medical school has been more hectic and fast-paced than I could ever have imagined. I’ve grown so much as a student, as a person, as a partner (to my loving boyfriend!), and of course as a future doctor. In addition to learning how to take a proper cardiology exam or how to use a stethoscope, I’ve learned  about myself both as a person and student.

If you are currently applying to medical school, thinking about medicine, starting your first year, or are curious what a year of frenzy looks like, keep reading. The following list encompasses things I learned while embarking on this journey of medicine, and subsequently, what I think any entering student needs to know!!

An established study habit

It’s okay to not have a study plan at first. When I started my first semester it took me 3 months before I finally got the hang of things. Med school is completely different from undergrad in that you learn new content daily, rather than 2-3x/week, and you’ll either learn topics by subject (i.e. pathology, microbiology) or systems (i.e. cardiology, renal). Gone are the days where you’re learning genetics and organic chemistry. Now, you’re knee deep in anatomy and pathology (to name a FEW), subjects which require a new set of study skills.

The important thing is to try new things and know when it’s time to scrap the study plans that aren’t working out for you. And trust me, you’ll find out quickly whether or not it’s working for you as soon as midterms roll around #yikes. Check out my blog post if you want more practical tips on how to study and pass your classes!

A few good resources

By the end of first week of med school, you will be bombarded with textbooks, flashcards, apps, and resources that students “swear by”. Do not feel like you need to utilize every resource that has been mentioned or handed your way. You will be completely overwhelmed by the amount of resources that, at the end of the day, will all teach you the same thing.

One thing I recommend doing is spending the first week gathering all the resources you can find (my cohort had a circulating flashdrive of them) and skim it. Eventually you will find 1-2 (maximum) resources for each subject that work for you and that you will stick to. I made the mistake of trying to use 4-5 resources per subject to only find myself stressed that I didn’t have enough time to review them all.

Find a community

I moved to a new country to start medical school, but I made sure to establish a community. It makes all the difference to know you have support and friends to count on. I joined a local triathlon team, garden with a gardening group, and am part of a tutoring group here on campus that links us up with upperclassmen as mentors. Since I can’t have my family and friends with me wherever I go, I make sure to create my own little community so that I can feel like I am a part of something bigger than just school and studying.

Know your non-negotiables

Your life doesn’t revolve around studying; studying revolves around your life. So you need to plan accordingly. What are your non-negotiable activities? Do you need a Sunday off to hang out with friends? Do you feel healthier if you meal prep 2 days out of the week instead of eating out? Do you have to get 1 hour of exercise every morning? Figure out what needs to happen every day and every week for you to function at your best, pencil it in, and block off those areas from your schedule. Seriously. It’s non-negotiable.

Give yourself a little Headspace

I am in no way sponsored by this company, I just love what they do. Headspace is a meditation app that gave me access to over 1000 hours of guided meditation. I pay $90/year but it is completely worth it if you need to meditate in order to keep your anxiety in check. My favorite packs include Commuting, Anxiety, Productivity, Balance, Focus, and End of Day.

Youtube is a wonderful resource for studying

So you’re telling me that my education will come mostly from a FREE video streaming website while paying $60k/year for school?

Yes. Lectures in med school will teach you everything. And while that’s great and all, it will leave you frazzled. Youtube is a great resource for learning what really needs to be studied and also learning how to memorize things through mnemonics, tables, or even guides that people put out.

Youtube is where I watch my Osmosis videos, Dr. Najeeb lectures, and even lectures from other universities! My 2 favorite videos to date? A nursing student teaching me the cheat method for figuring out ABGs (arterial blood gas problems such as respiratory/metabolic alkalosis/acidosis) and someone teaching me the Hooper’s trick for interpreting ECGs.

Know you can do it

When I first started med school, I thought it would be the hardest endeveaour I would ever undertake (then I joined a triathlon team – haha!). While on many levels that was and still is true, I realized that that’s not the healthiest mindset to have. Even before starting school, I’d hear that medicine was the “time to get serious” and “there’s no room for error”. This was it. “This is what you waited you whole life to do”. Although it’s important to be realistic about things, I feel that this often hinders people before they’ve even embarked on the journey. Once I realized that this was hindering me from even starting to study, I came to the conclusion that I had to change some things around.

This was around the time I started believing in myself. It’s in this time I also realized that this was the key to getting things done. If you start believing that you can do whatever task it is you’ve set out for yourself, you’re almost halfway there to completing it. I’ll share a quick story so I can show you an example of how this helped me overcome anatomy…

I entered medical school with zero anatomy experience. I never handled a cadaver, nor did I ever take a class on anatomical structures (simply because UC San Diego, my alma mater, did not offer these classes). So, imagine my discomfort when the first class of med school was a dissecting lab. Weeks flew by and I hadn’t properly opened a textbook to start memorizing structures. I just couldn’t do it. Every class had a 40 page practical in front of it and it was to be memorized. I couldn’t bring myself to start reading the practical. But, obviously, I had to start somewhere because exams were approaching. I started with telling myself that I can do this. I HAVE to do this. The uncomfortable shift that needs to happen within my brain as I start memorizing structures will happen before finals because it needs to happen – otherwise I will fail out, and that is not an option. I believed that I could do it. So I started learning the forearm muscles. And I found out that the muscle that pronates the arm is called a pronator quadratus. Then I found out that the muscle that extends the pinky finger is called the extensor digiti minimi. My mouth dropped when I found out how straightforward the material is. And anatomy has not been a problem ever since.

You will also face a similar subject or challenge and not know where to begin. Always start with convincing yourself that you can do it.

Previous clinical experience is a plus

This is in no way necessary, but I do believe it’s important. Before you start med school, you need to have some sort of idea of what you’re getting yourself into and clinical experience is a great way to get that exposure and see what a day in the life of a doctor is.

Develop healthy habits

Nutrition, physical activity, and a good sleep are necessary in succeeding in something like medical school. Everyone agrees that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. So you need to prepare for succeeding in the long run. Taking care of your body and mind will take you so far on this journey and it’s important that when school starts and everything is pulling at you because it’s so important, that you don’t start sacrificing your health.

I’ve seen classmates run on all-nighters for a while, just to cram during the middle of the night. Others simply started ignoring their bodies and mental health because school was more important. I’ve seen classmates drop out, turn into zombies, or even fail. I, myself, stopped doing the necessary things for my chronic health condition, only to have a huge flare-up the week before finals. Guess who missed her finals and had to defer? You see, it’s detrimental to sacrifice your health and nothing is worth it. Not even grades.

Become a scheduling pro

Some smart schedule hacks:

1. If you are trying to fit too many things in your day (which will happen all the time in med school), don’t add more to your list. Simply delete things that weren’t as important in the first place in order to make space.

2. As soon as a new task arises, schedule a time to handle it.

3. The Pomodoro technique works – study for 50 minutes, then rest for 10 to avoid burnout.

4. In your planner, write down the three most important tasks for that day that need to get done (to prevent falling behind, or to do the necessary preparation for tomorrow’s work, or to finally check something off your list that’s been sitting there for a month and driving you crazy, or to complete a time sensitive task, etc etc.).

5. Set specific times to checking your e-mail. It’s one of those things that we’ve conditioned ourselves into thinking is a productive task. But you can easily check your email 30 times in an hour when you’re trying to procrastinate.

6. Your first task of the day should always be the most important and most urgent (studying for tomorrow’s test), then followed by important and not urgent (working out), then not important and urgent (phone calls), and lastly, not important and not urgent (surfing the web).

What to Expect in Medical School

What will I learn in medical school?

Many medical schools organize their training into two parts: pre-clinical and clinical. In a traditional four-year curriculum, the pre-clinical phase includes two years of science training when you learn about basic medical concepts, the structure and functions of the body, diseases, diagnoses, and treatment concepts. You’ll also learn the basics of doctoring, such as taking medical histories and other essential competencies. The clinical portion of the training, traditionally the last two years of medical school, involves clinical rotations, during which time you will receive basic instruction and hands-on experience with patients in the major medical specialties. The curriculum varies for each medical school, and some medical schools have a more integrated, multidisciplinary program and begin clinical training and patient interaction during the first week. You can review each medical school’s “About the Curriculum” section in the Medical School Admission Requirements.

Will I be graded?

How students are graded varies from school to school. Some medical schools use a pass/fail system or an honors/pass/fail system, and others use a letter-grading system. There are even some that use a combination of a pass/fail system for the first year or two then switch to another system for the final two years. There are a small number of schools using a competency-based evaluation system that measures student progression in learning a certain set of competencies throughout the course of medical school. To see individual medical school policies on grading, see the Education section of the Medical School Admission Requirements. Regardless of which approach your school uses, it’s important to keep grades in perspective. Grades do matter in certain instances, but they are only one criteria by which you are evaluated during medical school.

How will I interact with patients?

Traditionally, medical students haven’t had many experiences with patients until their third year, but this is changing. Some schools introduce patient interactions early on (some in the first week!) or may have incoming students receive EMS or EMT certification before the beginning of classes.

Typically, you do clinical rotations, also called clerkships, during the third and fourth year of medical school. Rotations give you firsthand experience working with patients in various specialties under direct supervision of a faculty member, fellow, or resident. The types, number, and length of rotations vary from school to school, but training usually includes clerkships in internal medicine, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery. Your school may have different requirements. However, in your final year of medical school, you will be given the opportunity to take electives in different specialties and at different institutions according to your interests. The Medical School Admission Requirements website features information in the Education section about when students begin patient interaction and how clinical rotations work at each medical school.

When do I choose a specialty and apply for residency training?

Exploring your future career as a physician begins early in med school, with an ongoing examination of your interests and goals in the practice of medicine along with an exploration of the many specialty options available. Your third-year rotations will give you an opportunity to experience a number of specialties and determine how your interests, values, and skills fit with those specialties. There are also extracurricular opportunities for exploring specialties, such as specialty interest groups and student sections of medical specialty societies.

By the end of the third year, most students have chosen a specialty area (e.g. primary care, surgical care) or patient population (i.e., adults, children, or both) and begin preparing to apply for residency training to support that career direction. If you’re not confident in a career direction, you may choose to take time to complete research, complete a dual degree (e.g., MD-MPH), gain further clinical experience, or otherwise spend time exploring your career options prior to choosing your specialty and applying for residency.

Choosing your specialty and applying for residency are not solitary activities. Work actively with career advisors at your medical school and find mentors to help guide you. Also, once you’re in medical school, you’ll likely have access to AAMC’s Careers in Medicine website for more information and a detailed timeline (sign-in required).

How do I get licensed to practice medicine?

You’ll start the licensure process during the second year of medical school with the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 exam. Step 1 covers the sciences fundamental to the practice of medicine. The Step 2 exam, which measures clinical knowledge and skills, is usually completed during the third or fourth year of medical school. The final exam for initial licensure, Step 3, occurs during the first or second year of residency training, after you have completed medical school and received your medical degree.

Will my experience be the same at any medical school?

All medical schools share the goal of preparing their students for residency training and practicing medicine, and are required to adhere to national accreditation standards. However, each school has its own specific mission, curriculum, course format, and academic schedule. Before you apply to a school, research that school’s mission statement to see how it aligns with your own goals. Also review the graduation requirements, such as community service, research experience, and specific coursework.

Who can I ask for help if I get overwhelmed?

It’s okay to admit you need help managing the stress that comes with being a med student. In fact, it’s completely normal to reach out to a faculty member, dean, mentor, counselor, or spiritual advisor when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Many medical students often cite the famous analogy that learning in medical school is like trying to drink from a fire hose. It sounds intense, but these same students also speak about learning new study techniques along the way that help them manage time better, integrate new knowledge, and excel as med students. Admitting that something is difficult, but doable, can really improve your outlook.

Rest assured that, yes, as a medical school student you are entering a demanding process, but every successful doctor was in your place at some point. Those anxious feelings are normal, temporary, and manageable.

Top 7 Things You Should Know as a Medical Student

  1. Medical school is a whole new level of smart.

  • Don’t be discouraged. You can’t be the best at everything.
  • You need to do well, but you don’t have to be the best in medical school.
  • Don’t be intimidated by being surrounded by a lot of smart people.
  • Don’t compare yourself with others. Your only competition is you.
  1. Try different study habits until you find what works for you best.

  • Know yourself and how you study best. Be willing to adjust as necessary.
  • Try different study habits, and ask around to see what other people are doing.
  • Your old study habits may no longer serve you in medical school.
  • Find a study buddy or a study group to keep you motivated.
  • Medicine is like drinking from a fire hose or eating 5 pancakes a day.
  1. Expose yourself early to your school’s residency program.

  • If your school has a residency program where you’re doing clinical rotations, introduce yourself early to the program director, and get to know the residents while you’re a med student.
  • Start asking about research opportunities as a med student. Many residencies will expect research experience in a particular area, so be on the lookout early on.
  1. Take care of yourself.

  • Diet, exercise, and sleep all have profound effects on your cognition and memory as a med student.
  • There’s an old expression in medical school: “Eat when you can, sleep when you can, and don’t f#$% with the pancreas.”
  • Find a way to relax your mind and vent out your fears, anxiety, and frustrations.
  • Build a support structure around you.
  1. Learn from your patients.

  • When you start your clinical years, you’ll have so many books to read, but you can’t read them cover to cover and expect to learn them all.
  • The best strategy is “just in time” learning, where you learn from your patients.
  • As you encounter a patient, go learn about the disease your patient is being treated for to help you learn more.
  • Read about the topic as you’re admitting the patient.
  • If you’ve been reading about your patients’ conditions, you’ll have a better chance of answering questions when being pimped. (PIMP is an acronym for “Put In My Place.” It happens during rounds when the attending or resident calls you out and expects you to know things.)
  • Plus you will remember your patients years later!
  1. The Boards

  • USMLE Step 1 for MD schools. Listen to an episode all about the USMLE Step 1.
  • COMLEX for DO schools
  • These tests are the biggest factors on your residency applications, so you have to do well in them.
  • Do well in your classwork and learn during your first two years.

Important things to consider:

  • Geography makes things competitive.
  • More medical students are graduating today, and residency spots are limited.
  • Doing well with your coursework is a big factor.
  1. Residency Application Timing

  • Apply early to residency.
  • When you start getting interview invites, remember the same invites are being sent out to many people, so you need to race to get your spot.
  • First come, first serve basis.

How Long Is Medical School and What Is it Like? | Top Medical Schools | US  News

Life as a Medical Student: 12 Things You Really Have to Know

Being a medical student will involve working harder than you’ve ever worked in your life – but chances are, it’ll also involve having more fun than you’ve ever had before. There are plenty of off-putting myths about being a medical student, but in reality it’s enjoyable, interesting and highly rewarding, especially in light of what you’re working towards. In this article I will describe 12 things about being a medical student that I hope will reassure and excite you about the prospect of studying medicine.

1. You will be able to use what you learn for the rest of your life

This might seem like a fairly trivial point, but it should not be overlooked. The truth for many courses is that you are only really studying in order to pass your exams and once you have managed this the information which you have tried so hard to learn is largely useless to you. This is very much not the case in medicine, with areas of study including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology and pathology all being directly applicable in diagnosing, understanding and treating a disease. Not only is this a great incentive to learn the core course material well, in order that you will be a competent doctor, it is also an incentive to go beyond the basic lecture material and satisfy your curiosity about what you have been taught. As a medic this extra detail could one day be put into practice in a clinical situation and could make a crucial difference to a patient. When you are studying medicine you are not just studying for the next exam but taking the first steps on a course of lifelong learning, building your basis of professional knowledge throughout your medical career.

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Difficult at university, and no easier when you actually start working- but with a huge positive impact on lives.

2. Sometimes it’s hard work

Studying medicine comes with a certain expectation to work harder on average than most other students. There are generally more contact hours than other subjects (this year I have a 9-5 day every Friday) with practicals and lectures taking up a great deal of time. Of course it’s not just the contact hours when you are working: lecture notes need to be read over, essays have to be written, practicals should be prepared for and keeping on top of it all can be a challenge. This is especially the case as your work load will vary from week to week, sometimes being set a great deal of work and sometimes having a whole week with very little to do. Therefore it’s important to be flexible with how you work and appreciate that sometimes you will have to put in a long stint of work in order to have the time off when you need it.

There’s also a reasonable amount of pressure on to pass exams. In most subjects other than medicine what you are really studying and aiming for is the best grade possible. Obviously this is true to an extent in medicine, but there is an additional challenge, which is the very high pass marks for the “2nd MB” exams, the ones you have to pass in order to become a doctor. By being passed in these you are essentially being certified as competent enough in a subject area to continue towards a professional medical career. Passing these exams can often require cramming a great deal of knowledge in a small space of time and this can be stressful, but the reward after exams is a long summer to enjoy. Medicine can be challenging, but…

3. It’s not all hard work!

Don’t panic, medicine can be challenging but you’ll still have plenty of time to enjoy being an undergraduate, an experience that many people say is the best time of their life. The level of work in the course is such that you will have time to make the most out of other activities at university, such as sports, music and the huge range of other societies that are on offer at university. All that you need to do in order to manage these other activities is be efficient with the time you spend working; don’t spend a whole afternoon watching YouTube videos if you know you have a music rehearsal that evening. University is about a lot more than simply gaining a degree, you will learn a lot about yourself and other people and hopefully build yourself into someone who is capable of being a good doctor.

4. Being a medical student isn’t all about studying medicine

All these activities that you can do in your spare time aren’t just about having fun, however. While the main reason you do them is to enjoy yourself and take your mind off work they are actually very important in your “personal development”. This is, as mentioned above, working on skills that are outside the scope of academic study but are still vital to being an effective doctor. For example, by taking part in music or theatre you will become accustomed to performing in front of a large crowd of people and as a consequence if you ever have to present at a conference or even to a team of your colleagues, you will be able to stand up with confidence and say what you need to.

Equally, playing in a sports team will help you function with other people, some of whom you may have a personality clash with or strongly differ in opinions. You become used to a position of responsibility, with other people relying on you to perform your role, sometimes under pressure. Sports and societies also provide an opportunity to take a leadership and organisational role, which once again will become very important in a clinical context, whether it is organising ward staff or running a practice as a GP. Medicine is a career in which it is vital to emerge from university as a functional person who is capable of interacting well with others. This will not be achieved by sitting in your room every evening and studying the lecture notes: there is an important balance to be struck between working and having a life.

5. Studying anatomy involves more than looking at pictures

Anatomy can be rather full-on, especially at traditional institutions such as Cambridge, where throughout the course of your first year you dissect a “subject” who has decided to donate their body to training medical students. This means getting involved with a scalpel yourself and doing what can occasionally be a rather unpleasant task. Some people might be really excited by the idea of getting stuck in and having a really practical course in anatomy, but for those who don’t you shouldn’t panic. Most other universities use only pre-prepared dissections (prosections), which you will still have to learn the structures of and examine, but without necessarily getting your hands dirty.

Five Things All Medical Students Need to Know

6. You will make some of your closest friends studying medicine

Make sure you take the time to make the most of the people you’re at university with. They don’t necessarily have to be medics; many people become very close with people in their sports team or society, but medics do seem to end up hanging around together. Unfortunately this can sometimes lead to slightly geeky “medic chat” where before you know what’s happening you end up discussing what happened in the morning’s lectures, or how you found last week’s practical. This can be a good way to remind yourself what happened in the lecture earlier (no one can concentrate all the way through a full one hour lecture), but sometimes it’s just light-hearted discussion about which lecturer makes it very hard to stay awake!

7. Studying medicine brings you up to date with the latest medical research

For those of you who are really interested in the biological sciences, studying medicine is a great opportunity to be brought very close to the frontier of current scientific knowledge, beyond what you will find in textbooks. Your lecturers are all actively involved in their field of interest and as such it is part of their job to stay up to date with all the latest advances and studies that are going on in that area. Therefore they can teach things well before they are published in textbooks and make you aware of very up-to-date and relevant research papers. Be it the latest cell reproduction pathways associated with tumours or the most recently discovered ion channels in the heart, you will be brought up to the current level of understanding.

8. Medicine is a long course

Studying medicine is very much a marathon, not a sprint. It is a 5 or 6 year course, where in your final few years holidays become a lot shorter and you are studying almost all year round (instead of having three months off a year). The reason the course is so long is because of the volume of material that needs to be learned; both the basic scientific principles and the clinical skills needed to apply them must be taught.

While this may seem like a fairly monumental task the truth is that while at university time seems to pass incredibly rapidly, probably because the average student is so busy they don’t have time to notice each term flying past. While this is nice as it feels as if you’re making rapid progress through your studies it also means it’s very easy to get behind on work and not catch up until the holidays come around. Fortunately the holidays come around so quickly due to the short length of the terms you can usually get away with this and the holidays are often a valuable opportunity to make sure you understand the past term’s work before the chaos of term time starts again. Some academic staff even go as far as to say…

9. You have a vacation, not a holiday

What they mean by this is that the Christmas and Easter breaks are simply the times when you vacate your accommodation and not a complete holiday from work. Of course, this does not necessarily have to be true. If you’ve managed your work very well during term time and stayed on top of everything there is no reason why you can’t enjoy a well earned rest for a few weeks. If, however, you prefer to do as many activities as you can while in residence the vacations can be an important opportunity to pay back the time you borrowed during the term. Most importantly, it’s about finding a balance. You don’t want to start the term feeling fatigued from working too hard over the holidays, but equally you don’t want to start the term not having a clue what’s going on.

10. Organisation is key

Studying at university is a real contrast to being a student at school and one of the real challenges is organising your work and activities. You can no longer rely on your parents to keep a calendar of everything that’s going on and instead you must sort things for yourself. Add to this the fact that a significant proportion of time at university will be spent feeling tired, due to excessive studying or partying, and there is a recipe for potential disaster. Tutorials may clash with rehearsals, practicals may coincide with sports matches or a MedSoc event might be happening when you’re meant to be seeing your family. The most important thing is to have some kind of system, whether it is a paper diary you keep with you or a calendar on your phone. Make sure you’re not the one who is always nearly missing things or running round at the last minute trying to work out where you’re supposed to be.

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As a medical student, a stethoscope is a tool with which you become well-acquainted very soon.

11. If you pass your exams you’ll become a doctor

Bar any kind of disaster, if you pass all your exams while studying medicine you will go on to become a doctor. This may well seem like stating the obvious, but it’s worth taking a step back and thinking about this. By passing you in an exam a university is certifying that you are competent enough in that subject area to continue on the path to becoming a doctor. What does this mean for you? First of all it means that it can be quite difficult to pass your exams. In other subjects you are certified as competent by scoring a decent grade (usually a 2:1), however in medicine if you pass you will be guaranteed to continue down the path of clinical school and continue on to a professional medical career.

While there is the drawback of having an especially tough time passing exams this is also a very exciting prospect. If you manage to continue at a reasonable level, putting enough work in, you will qualify as a doctor. Compare this with a subject such as law, where if you pass your law degree with a 2:1 you are not guaranteed to become a lawyer; you are not even guaranteed a job. This is also the case with engineering, while you may become a certified engineer it does not mean you have any kind of reassurance that you will go on to have a job in engineering. If things get tough and you think you might struggle to pass just remember that by passing you are taking one step more towards being a doctor.

12. Most of your peers will be very intelligent

Medical students represent an extremely limited selection of people your age and they will tend to be both very capable and hard working. This can sometimes result in you feeling rather demoralised when comparing yourself to other medics, especially as you will tend to notice the ones working harder than you more than the rest. Remember, the people you are comparing yourself to represent the very top fraction of students in the country and as such you should not be disheartened if some of them are better than you. In fact there will be plenty of other medical students at the same level as you who are making the most out of university to develop themselves as a person, not just as a student.

Being a medical student puts you in a very privileged position, among the very top students across the country. It generally seems to be the case that medics follow the mantra “work hard, play hard”. Most importantly, remember that being a student is not only a means to an end, but an end in itself. Make sure you make the most of being an undergraduate!

How to Apply to an MBBS Medical Degree in 2021 - MastersPortal.com

9 essential tips for new medical students

Our first day of class, one of the professors got up in front of the class, spent a minute or so giving every student a  stare with the “eyeball” for which he was famous, then gave us this brief warning before launching into a discussion about the Krebs Cycle (which has absolutely no practical application to clinical medicine whatsoever).

“If you want to graduate from this medical school, there are two rules: Don’t fall behind and don’t fall in love.”

 
 

Most of us sat there pondering his statement while comments about fumarate and oxaloacetate went in one ear and out the other. By the way, I still remember the mnemonic for the Krebs Cycle after all these years: “Attention Oll Comanche Indians — Killing Season Starts Friday Morning Officially.”

 
 

In the end, everyone fell behind, and a lot of us fell in love. Medical school is where I met Mrs. WhiteCoat. We all still managed to graduate.

Here are some of the things that will help you in your studies:

1. Cramming is bad. Everyone does it, but it doesn’t help you learn. To me, learning was understanding the concepts, not memorizing the words. Even anatomy and pharmacology were about memorizing relationships. They still are. I learn directions by seeing where things are on a map and by relating those things to the place I am going. I learned medicine in the same way.
I also used to try to read ahead in the books so that when a professor addressed a subject and I didn’t understand it, I could ask questions in class about it. Didn’t always work out that I could read ahead, but when I did, it seemed to help my understanding and retention.

 
 

2. Avoid study groups. There were always people in our class who studied together. They always used to interrupt each other’s studying with unrelated questions or with discussions about the latest TV show. When crunch time came for tests, they knew what was happening on “Friends” but didn’t always have a grasp of the concepts for the tests. That wasn’t for me. I would just bring my book to a secluded spot in a little known building on campus, plug my headphones into my CD player, and listen to instrumental music (George Winston – you’re the man) while I studied. Scary that MP3s weren’t even around when I was in medical school.

3. Focus, dammit. Turn off your internet connection. Shut down your computer. Don’t even take it with you. Stop checking your e-mail messages on your phone. Don’t take it with you, either. Or take it and pull the battery out of it. Take your book, some ear plugs, an MP3 player, some paper, a pen, and take notes on what you’re trying to learn. Writing things out helps you remember concepts. All the other distractions make it harder for you to concentrate on learning.

We didn’t have “smart phones” when I was in medical school, so I didn’t have to worry about that distraction. Think about it now, though. Does it really matter whether you get your BFF’s text message immediately or a few hours from now? Do you really need to check your e-mail that often? Does it matter that you won’t get to read my latest post for a few hours after I hit the “pubish” button? If there’s something that important pending, then deal with it before you go to study. When you study, focus on studying.

 
 

4. Get copies of old tests. This is very important! Most professors are not industrious enough to create new questions for each exam. And there are only so many questions you can ask about the same topic. Therefore, many questions are repeated. Some may have wording changes, but most questions have the same concepts. By learning and understanding what concepts appeared on previous tests and are therefore important to the professor, you’re well on your way to learning the concepts — and passing the tests. Back before we had all these fancy computers and scanners, the students used to have a copy service where we paid extra so that we could get paper copies of previous test questions.

5. Don’t get down on yourself. You’re going to do poorly on tests. I did. Almost everyone did. Don’t you just feel like bopping the guy in the head who aces every test and then sits there with his smug grin bragging about it in the study lounge? You may be smart, but you’re a tool, pal.

You know what they call the person who graduates lowest in his medical school class? Doctor.

You don’t need great grades in every subject to be a decent doctor. Trust me. I’m living proof.

Study hard, do your best, keep plugging along, and don’t get discouraged. If you put in the effort, you will graduate.

6. Learn what medicine is all about. Don’t just stick to the textbooks. Read journal articles or medical blogs about topics that interest you. Yeah, it’s more reading, but those articles are only a few pages, will hopefully be more enjoyable, and will help bring together all of the facts that you are learning to show you how to apply them. There’s a big difference between “book sense” and “common sense.” You need both to succeed.

7. You’re not a doctor. Don’t act like one. We had one guy in medical school that used to wear scrubs and a white coat while he was in the grocery store. He drove a nice car and used to pick up on a few women that way. Total fool. Most of the people in school rolled their eyes when he walked by – even when he was dressed normally.

Even I wasn’t immune to the allure of being called “doctor.” Funny thing is that now I detest being called “doctor.” When I was a student, I used to carry a medical bag in the back of my car wherever I went. Still do now, but at least now I have the proper equipment and I know how to use it. Then — well, I’m not sure how many accident victims would benefit from me testing their reflexes or doing a funduscopic exam on them. I also had a large bore needle that one of our more senior professors said we could use as a “makeshift cricothyrotomy to establish a temporary airway.” Then we thought how cool we would be saving someone’s life by sticking an IV needle in their neck. Now, I still laugh at some of the stuff I used to carry in that bag. Thank goodness I never actually pulled the bag out of my trunk.

People will ask you for medical advice. Tell them you aren’t a doctor and you don’t know. Or tell them you haven’t studied that topic yet. Don’t act like you know what you’re talking about. More often than not, you’ll give them the wrong advice and you could get yourself into trouble in the process.

8. Set aside a day to relax. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. We usually had our exams on Monday mornings. Most of us studied all weekend. Sometimes during weeks with less difficult tests, we’d take a Saturday night off and go to the bars. However, Monday afternoon and evenings after school, everyone relaxed, partied, went to the beach, played cards, and acted like normal people. Some of the fondest memories (and the most incriminating pictures) I have from medical school were from events that took place on Monday nights. Make friends and have fun. It’s a school, not a prison.

9. Don’t forget your family. Your family is proud as heck of you for making it into medical school. Call them once in a while. Better yet, write them an e-mail and send pictures. Chances are that they sacrificed a lot so that you could go to medical school and they probably brag about you to all their friends. Give them some material to brag with. Without your family, you probably wouldn’t be where you are right now. Trust me … you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

I’m sure that there’s more stuff buried in the back of my mind. Maybe I’ll add it in an update to this post. Start with these bits of advice and you’ll be way ahead of the curve.

And if some day you see a contracted old curmudgeon in diapers mumbling about how he used to write a medical blog, take pity on your old pal WhiteCoat.

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