Getting into medical school is hard. Once you’re there, however, the battle is still not yet fully won. You’ve worked hard to get there, and you’ll have to work hard to stay there. While most medical students who start on their journey towards earning their MD do indeed earn it, a good number of those same students arrive at graduation day feeling burnt out, wondering if they chose the right path for their lives. As you start off your medical school career, check out these tips for staying resilient through the ups and downs of school.
Opening up about your struggles and doubts can be a terrifyingly vulnerable experience, but it’s an important one. More than likely you’ll find out that you aren’t alone in your exhaustion; your colleagues are probably struggling with the same feelings.
Sharing how you’re feeling can provide the opportunity for others to open up as well.
This one is more difficult to balance in medical school, but it is equally important. A sure way to burn out in academics is to only have studying and clinical work on your plate. Instead, plan time within your schedule to enjoy the hobbies you invested in prior to school. Remember all those things you listed on your medical school application as hobbies? Take time for them while in school too. Your brain needs a break from studying.
GET AROUND PATIENTS
Seemingly simple, this piece of advice is really most relevant for medical students in their first or second years (before they’re in their clinical rotations). Often it’s easy to lose sight of what drew you into medicine in the first place when you’re stuck wading through books at the library all day. Whether is shadowing a physician or taking time to read stories of patients and how their healthcare workers affected their lives, force yourself to stay reminded of why you entered medical school in the first place.
It sounds like an impossible task, but making yourself actually get a decent amount of sleep can make all the difference between a burn-out and a thriving student. Sure, you’ll often have to operate on a lack of sleep during residency, but there is minimal advantage to forcing your body to function on little sleep during medical school. Staying up every once in awhile to study for a big test may be reasonable, but walking through school in a constantly sleep-deprived state won’t make you a better doctor.
Finally, getting professional help should be a top priority. The suicide rate among doctors is significantly higher than that of the general population. It’s naïve to think that this rate is something that only becomes an issue after completing medical school; realistically, the problem starts within the culture of medical school itself. If you’re showing signs of depression, seek professional helps sooner rather than later. Being “resilient” is important for completing medical school, but doing while addressing your mental health is even more important for your long term prognosis.