Medical school is not easy. Many end up miserable and wondering if they chose the right career. Recently, I’ve spoken to other fourth year students and some have said they would never go through this again. Some of them saying they have been miserable and are just ready for the next stage. For me it hasn’t been perfect but I have, overall, enjoyed my time in medical school. I am here to tell you it IS possible to be succeed in medical school and be happy.
By no means do I consider myself to be the perfect example, but, I am about to graduate and I’m happy. I have found certain behaviors and mindsets have helped me throughout the years to keep up and move on. So I wanted to sit down and write my recipe to succeed and be happy in medicine so far.
This is essential as it will dictate what is more important, have a life in medicine or make medicine your life. The sooner you make this decision the easier it will be to manage your time and find happiness in the journey of medicine. For example, in the beginning I wanted to be at the top of my class and be AOA, etc. I did well on my first few exams and I had hope to achieve those goals. I found myself sleep deprived, cranky, and feeling down. Weeks passed and I was unable to spend time with my husband. I was also not taking much-needed breaks because I needed to be ahead. Soon thereafter I decided that having a life and spending time with family was important to me.
That was when I changed my focus from being the best, to doing my best. I saw differences instantly. I was able to study more efficiently and faster because I felt content. My grades were not the highest but I had more energy to keep going as the semester tightened. I felt like I had a grasp on things, versus going insane and exhausted all the time. Sometimes I did not finish the material but I slept a few hours before my test. I was able to concentrate and finish the exams. For me this was important. The fact that I was capable to allow myself breaks and time off medicine was crucial to helping me keep going. It also helped to strengthen my relationships and thus my support network.
This might sound obvious but having short-term goals is as important as long term ones. More so to maintain motivation and drive to keep going. When you set yourself small goals that are ATTAINABLE it makes you feel accomplished with yourself. The best way to do this is to get a good planner and make to do lists. Planning out your days and the study material will help you keep organized and better track of time.
Having a to do list will help you check off the things you have completed and motivate you to finish everything else. It will also serve to one of my next points which is celebrate your accomplishments, big or small. If you finish your to-do list for the day celebrate with a movie, a glass of wine, or a night out. Setting goals will keep you on track to get things done and feel like you are moving forward all the time. To succeed in tackling you to-do list, take it one step at a time.
This might be the most important thing on this post. One or twice a weeks it’s essential to take some time off from studying and do something different. For me these were exam days and one night during the weekend. These were times where I got to binge watch TV, write on this blog, or have a glass of wine/beer with hubby and friends. This is basically much needed mental health time where you get to not think about medicine, your endless to do list, or the journey still ahead.
It is these moments which will serve as spaces to recharge your spirit and keep you moving forward during the hardest times. Another great way to do this is exercise or take a pampering day. A good bubble bath, or spa day with massage and facial, or just getting a mani-pedi are other amazing alternatives. Making time for yourself, for self-love and stress relief, are important in any stressful lifestyle. If we fail to give ourselves this time, we are more susceptible to burnout and unhappiness.
I cannot emphasize the importance of this. The worst thing you can do to your self-esteem is compare yourself to others. Your journey is your own. No two people will have the same story for how they got to the finish line, our MD/DO/PA/NP/etc. We need to trust that we are making the best choices for our life and future. If that is taking a LOA and having more time for boards, then so be it. Want to do more research? Take an extra year, so what. If you had to take the MCAT or Step twice then it is not the end of the world. I am the biggest advocate of everything in life happens for a reason. What is meant to be will be.
You may get scared or anxious, but it all works out in the end. Our lives are ours to direct, we will end up where we’re meant to. So when you find yourself feeling jealous, or discouraged because a classmate or someone on social media is doing things differently, STOP. You are the only one that can change your direction. To do this you must understand that if you set your mind to something, you CAN achieve it. But YOU have to WORK for it. Trust that you are headed in the direction only YOU are meant to succeed.
Finally, celebrate all milestones, big or small. You got through a big test, go for a nice lunch. Finished first year, go on a mini vacay. You get my drift. This will not only keep you motivated, it will psychologically make you stronger. This will serve as a reward system. Celebrate because you made it through, even if it’s just through your to do list. The important thing is you survived, and you can now move on to the next step. Count every finished step as a success. If you do this I promise you will succeed. There is nothing worse than having your spirits broken to hinder your progress and block your mindset. Every celebration is a step closer to your goal, and time is of the essence.
Time will fly. In the end, you will be able to remember all the good things you have achieved during the road that is medical school. Before you know it you will be submitting your rank list and anxiously awaiting graduation. So congratulate yourself. Because you made it this far and have succeeded. You will soon get to say “I made it!”
These are very broad tips, but this is how I believe I succeeded in medical school. I was talking to a fellow MS4 a few weeks ago and she said she felt miserable and wanted it to be over. She felt she had survived, not succeeded. I look back and I feel happy, accomplished, and I LOVE what I do. If I had to do it all over again, I would (not now of course, I need a break LOL). But I truly believe being a doctor is an incredible blessing, even more so an ObGyn. I feel eternally grateful for having the opportunity to impact so many lives throughout my training and career. When I am in a labor and delivery unit, standing all day, tired, and sleep deprived, I know I made the right choice because no matter what, I am happy.
Thanks for stopping by!
Edit: I was JUST watching Grey’s Anatomy episode where we are told Bailey’s life story and it could not leave this post without some wise words from the great Miranda Bailey.