“This is madness. Why did I do this to myself again?” I never thought I would ask these questions because I know how much I want this. I have a poster pinned on my wall way back in college that writes, “Doctor Katey.” But the “how”, oh my God, you can never underestimate it. Here are ten things that I learned so far aside from biochemistry, physiology, histology, embryology, and all those hardcore sciences.
- People have different learning strategies. You do you.
Your method in undergrad could still work in medschool. However, with the bulk of information, active learning is the key. You won’t have the time to repeat a material over and over again so you must practice the skill of choosing the important parts and using it to your advantage. Honestly, I am not a fast reader when it comes to technical material, so I learned that there are books which are easier for me to digest. I start with them and then I watch lecture videos, listen to the professors and reporters and try to integrate what I learn. The key here is, do what works for you and throw away what doesn’t.
2. Learn together.
Someone once said that no man is an island. Let me rephrase it, try to be an island in medschool and you’ll die. What do I mean by this? There are gunners everywhere especially in high school or even college. They work their way to the top by crushing anyone who’s in the way and by being selfish with information that can help others. I’m telling you, you can’t be like this. Learning should be collaborative. Some of your classmates are chemists, who are so good in biochemistry, which you will need all the time. There are pharmacists who are amazing in pharmacology, medical technologists who knows a lot about diagnostics, and the nurses who can orient you with clinical skills. You will need them. And they will need you. So practice mutualism. Help them and they’ll help you. Medicine will be so much easier this way.
3. Priority one: YOURSELF
I used to be really active before I studied med. But, the overwhelming workload surprised me. So please try your best to have a good mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical life. Yes, those readings are important but you can’t be an excellent doctor if you don’t take care of yourself. So, meditate, stretch, run, listen to music, and party from time to time. Sleep. Believe me when I say that sacrificing your sleep will backfire on you. I scored higher on tests wherein I got more sleep and I almost failed when I pulled out an all nighter. Prioritize YOU.
4. Saying no is a requirement.
You only have 24 hours in a day. If you say yes to everything and everyone, you will find yourself exhausted and not primed to learn. When you decided to be a medical doctor you should have said goodbye or hit pause to other activities that you regularly do. For example, I used to have gigs before medschool, but I can’t stay up late so now, I don’t. I still sing sometimes, but it’s not my priority anymore. I only have a fixed time for my hobbies. I still do them but, I just can’t afford to sacrifice my rest because I need to learn so that I’ll be an excellent doctor. So, say NO. You don’t have to join all organizations because of peer pressure. Join them because you really want to and don’t overestimate your energy. Always think before saying yes.
5. Spending wisely.
For someone who has worked for four years prior to studying med, this was really hard. I just don’t know how to spend like a student. Think before you order that Starbucks Caramel Macchiato. That can cover for one day of your allowance. I can’t shop like I used to or eat whatever I want whenever I want. Have friends who are also financially conscious. So what we do is after our exams, we eat out and watch a movie. For the rest of the week, we spend like students. Remember that life is hard, and we shouldn’t make it harder for our parents or our relatives financing our studies.
6. It’s okay to have mental breakdowns. Call a friend.
This is normal. I hate it when this happens, but I am telling you, it will. Here’s where you need mental toughness, family, and friends. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people when you can’t take it anymore. Believe me, someone will help you. I had a health scare a week before my final exams. But because I have this strong support system, I managed to stay sane amidst all those dreadful moments. Studying is hard, all the more if you have other matters to think about. You need friends. Ask for help.
7. Adapting to your pace.
Unlike most of my classmates who are fresh from undergrad, I’m not as mentally quick as I used to. I got really pressured at first because who likes being the dumb one? However, it dawned on me that pressuring myself doesn’t work. I had to be kind to myself and work at my pace. You must do this too. There are topics that others are more adept to, instead of being pressured, work harder. Read more and ask them to explain a concept to you. You’ll be amazed by how it’s easier to learn just by asking. Be kind to yourself even if your brain is like a turtle at first. Believe me, you’re not alone. You can’t be excellent always, but you can try to be the best version of yourself, and work your hardest everyday.
8. Always think about your future patient.
Your resilience will be tested. If you only have two to three hours of sleep, exams, projects, and reports you might be prompted to give up and question yourself. But basically, I just think ahead and imagine myself in ten years. If I have a patient who’s dying, does he or she deserve a crappy doctor? NO. I won’t be that doctor. I may not be the best but at least I know that I did my best. The thought of my future patients is enough to put me out of a slump. I just rest my mind and hustle again. It’s hard but it’s worth it.
9. Screw competition, aim to learn.
Being overly competitive doesn’t work in medschool. Always aim to learn. Listen to the lectures because you might need that information someday. Go to class because learning will make you a better doctor. If your aim is to shine, then this is not the right place for you. You will burn out eventually if you’re excelling because of recognition. Dig deeper. Learn deeper.
10. Going back to your why.
Your why must be clear to you. If it’s not, then you’re on a shaky path. In one semester of medschool I realized that this is not for the weak or faint hearted. Everyday, you will be humbled by how much you do not know. If you’re looking for a place that will cradle your emotions, this is not it. You will make a lot of mistakes and look dumb 99% of the time. You are like a child who’s trying to walk for the first time. That’s basically how I feel everyday. Always go back to your reason. What pulled you to be here? If that is strong enough, I think you will love it.
I still love it. I’m tired but I’m happy. If you love what you’re doing, you’ll never get tired. You will be exhausted, but you’ll just hit pause but you’ll never stop.