Four Key Tips for Success in Medical School

Health Care July 2021 PREMIUM
You’ll get through it.

Attending medical school and completing it can seem daunting, especially in the current global scenario. Doctors and senior students offer a few important insights on how to make the medical school journey smoother and more fruitful, paving the way to success.

Tip No. 1: Focus on your studies, not on pandemic politics

We are at a point in time where clinical medicine and serving patients is hard to deal with given the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical school students now have to rise to the challenge of dealing not only with the disease itself and the physical manifestation of symptoms in patients, but also with controversies surrounding the management of COVID and public health measures taken during the pandemic. In clinical practice, healthcare professionals and patients alike will surely have strong opinions on these matters. That is why our first piece of advice to medical students is that you should not succumb to the controversy and politics of it all and let it distract you from your studies— stay focused, train now, and change the world later.

Tip No. 2: Get lots of clinical experience

Whether you’re a first year pre-med or first year med student, get as much clinical experience as you can. This not only helps you get accepted into universities, but the experience alone is where you learn so much beyond the books, in the real world. As you step into clinical practice, take these words of advice with you for the long-haul—do not try to be perfect, just try to be better than you were yesterday.

Tip. No.3: Study smart to get better results

When anyone thinks of medical school, they default to the fact that it is hard work. They think the content is going to be so difficult to grasp, but in reality the content is only half  the battle. The real challenge is developing a study strategy that works and that allows you to save time and have a more productive learning process. In essence—study smarter, not harder. Some of the best ways to study in medical school can be the most obvious (using study aids like flashcards, forming study groups, reading and taking notes, watching videos, etc.), but it all really comes down to how you learn best and most effectively. That is why being aware of the 4 main styles of learning— visual, auditory, reading/writing, and tactile, and what kind of learner you are, is necessary as this allows you to unlock the best study techniques for yourself. It is important to also keep in mind that different study strategies work not just for different people, but for different course content as well. For instance, a visual learner may study biochemistry better by creating charts and drawing pictures, but they may also find themselves using a more tactile approach when studying anatomy and physiology as this allows them to be physically engaged.

Tip No. 4: Have a structure in place to help you succeed: stick to a routine and a schedule

Keeping up with the medical school grind is undoubtedly going to be hard, but staying steady is key. Not only will organizing your daily routine and planning a weekly schedule give you the structure you need to stay on track, but it also takes away the pressure and chaos, which ultimately reduces stress— Break down your daily routine and dedicate certain blocks for studying, self-care, eating, exercising, and down time and stick with it. For instance, keep your Friday afternoons available for some down time with friends, Saturday mornings for a nice run with a workout buddy, and Sunday nights for looking over your week and reviewing course content. Planning a weekly schedule should be broader as this will allow you to see when you have an upcoming exam or holiday break that you need to prepare for.

Think about what tool you’d like to utilize for organizing your schedules -something that you can tangibly write in like an agenda? Or your phone where you have an abundance of tools like a calendar that alerts you for your next class or to move on to your next task? Whatever you decide, make sure you actually use it. Do not go out and buy 10 different colored marker pens from the store and a 30-dollar agenda that you have aspirations to write in just because of how pretty that one you saw on Pinterest was! A lot of med students do not have time for that. Just do what works best for you, and what is organically a functional tool for you. If that is writing in an agenda in a way that engages you, then there is nothing wrong with that.

Whatever you decide, make sure it works best for you. Just be sure to always be kind to yourself – medical school may seem like a long journey, but it can be an enjoyable and fruitful one as well. You’ll get through it.

Author Bio: Alyssa Dean is a recent Public Health graduate whose mission is to protect the health of populations through health education. Her commitment extends beyond the community as she is a contributing writer whose focus is on healthcare reform and health topics alike.

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