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Top ways to support a medical student

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Written by Kristen Heath and Kelly Matthews

Know a medical student? Ever wondered how you can best support him or her during medical school? The Mentoring and Advising Program (MAP) team put together a few helpful tips.

Respect their time and space.

Medical school takes a lot of focus, concentration and time! There is so much students need to learn, so many tasks they need to do, and so many expectations (that they are often putting on themselves). If the student you know doesn’t have a lot of time to visit or talk to you on the phone, it is not because they don’t want to. Becoming a great physician demands time and attention. If you miss them and want to tell them that you love them, consider methods of communication that don’t necessarily require a response. Send them positive text messages, cards or photos to let them know you are thinking of them and that you are proud of them. Try not to be intrusive about how they are spending their time or what is going on in medical school. Reassure them and be there when they do have the time to spend with you!

Say I love you, I’m proud of you, I support you…and say it a lot!

Whatever affirmation the medical student you know needs to hear, say it to them often. Medical school often makes students question their abilities, talents and intelligence. It may even cause students to reconsider their path. Support and connection are so important to helping students remember their worth, cause and talent! Everyone needs to know they are cared for, especially those who are going to care for so many! Again, positive text messages, cards or photos are a great way to communicate your love and support! Students love receiving mail, especially when it comes with a care package full of their favorite food or treats!

Understand their “issues.”

Imposter syndrome is a common problem that may sometimes cause medical students question their career choice, natural abilities and intelligence, or even self-worth.  Additionally, medical students face other issues that students in other disciplines may not. They may feel compelled to excel at the risk of not sleeping, eating or taking any breaks. They may over commit to activities in order to boost their CV. Or, they may not commit to anything at all because of anxiety. Make sure you listen without judgement. Understand that the medical student you know is not alone in having these issues to deal with. If you or the student ever become overwhelmed or concerned though, please reach out to the IU School of Medicine Mental Health Services team—they’re here to help.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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IU School of Medicine

With more than 60 academic departments and specialty divisions across nine campuses and strong clinical partnerships with Indiana’s most advanced hospitals and physician networks, Indiana University School of Medicine is continuously advancing its miss...