“Why is it in medical school we’re separated from the things that brought us here?”
One of my classmates texted me that statement from a doctor’s speech at a conference in Chicago. We’ve discussed that sentiment quite a bit this year.
Table 6 dinner :)
Let’s just say MS2 isn’t really what I expected. In some ways it’s better, in some ways it’s worse. Of course, the “worse” seems to outdo the “better” most of the time! I think the toughest part for me this year is all the class time and no patient contact. We’ve seen 1 patient this year so far. And we have a minimum of 12 hours of required lectures we sit through each week. So obviously the scale is majorly tilted to the “knowledge” rather than the “experience.”
And that’s good, I suppose. We clearly need the knowledge in order to have good experiences in the hospital. We need to know about how stuff works (sorry to use such technical terms, guys) before we can explain it to a patient. But at the same time, it’s REALLY hard to stay motivated sometimes. I’ve often wondered about the whole med school structure. It seems like we live for the next exam. Study hard, take the exam, deep breath, and repeat. And that can get exhausting and monotonous and frustrating and life-sucking. Not to mention Step 1 is sorta in the back of everyone’s minds…
So what’s the solution? How do you stay motivated when you’re separated from the very thing that brought most of us to med school? Most of us want to become doctors so we can “help people.” We all have different stories, but it pretty much boils down to that. Yet, we’re so busy studying that *we’re practically isolated from helping people (*unless you choose to study in Starbucks). And I don’t just mean patients. Sometimes studying can result in isolation from friends and family too.
How do we deal with that? I’m still trying to figure it out. But as I’ve talked to physicians/residents/upperclassmen friends who have gone through this, one common theme keeps coming up:
Cram sesh for the Pharm exam
Late night cram sessions will be forgotten. Early morning lectures will be in the past. Studying really hard and not feeling satisfied with your exam score will be a distant memory. Wishing we could actually see patients instead of just read about them is only a temporary wish.
But other things will change too: having the freedom to go to Starbucks in the middle of the day will no longer be feasible. Spending a day studying in bed will one day be even more ridiculous than it is now. Taking LONG naps just because I “need a break” won’t always be an option. That amazing post-exam feeling that happens right after a Friday exam…when you realize you have a gloriously free weekend…that feeling will one day be ancient history. The late night laughs and bonding that often happens the night before an exam will be fond memories.
One day we’ll be seeing patients. We’ll be working long hours. We’ll be responsible for having the knowledge necessary to help the patient. One day we’ll have everything we complain about not having right now. But I wouldn’t be very surprised if we think fondly of the “good old days” in med school when no one’s life was in our hands. When the biggest stress was the huge pharm test coming up, not the patient lying in the bed about to die. When we didn’t make any money, but we also didn’t have to worry much about money (mo money mo problems, amiright?!)…yet. When we could take a sick day and it didn’t really affect anyone else too much.
So even though med school sucks sometimes, let’s remember that the “good old days” never seem that good at the time. In the words
Remember that things will change. If you hate a class you’re in right now, remember that it’s only temporary. This too shall pass. If in the future, you clash with a physician you’re rotating with, remember that it’s only temporary. That too shall pass. Last week I hated med school and contemplated becoming a Starbucks barista who just happens to have some medical knowledge…but then suddenly some happy things happen (such as Starbucks getting all decked out for CHRISTMAS!!) and life / med school isn’t so bad anymore. Things change. The bad will change and become good. The good can change and become bad. Whatever you’re doing in life, remember that things change. So enjoy the life you’ve been given, love the people around you, and be thankful that this is your life. The good, the bad, the ugly. Things will change, but your attitude can remain joyful through it all. Choose joy, friends.
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.
I’m an MS4 based at the Indy campus, though I spent MS1/2 at the Muncie campus. I started med school with a strong interest in international missions, pediatrics, education, and whole person care. I’m still interested in all those things, except I re...