Gaining experience and exposure to the worlds for medicine, research, and heath is a necessary part becoming a physician. In fact, nearly 60% of students accepted to medical school say that they have participated in such activities. For being such an important part of the journey, it’s interesting how students just “go through the motions.” Some students may be better at gaining deeper value from the experience than others. Other may just have to learn how to identify moments of value and substance but not without lots of guidance. If you’re participating in a program, internship, or research position this summer, here are a few things to keep in mind:
IDENTIFY WHAT YOU WANT TO GAIN BEFORE YOU START.
You should know exactly what you want to get out of your activity, no matter if it’s a research apprenticeship, hospital volunteering, or an academic program. Start by asking yourself this question: what am I looking to get out of your experience? Then, make a conscious decision that you will be proactive in whatever setting you’ll be in. If you’re like most pre-meds, most of the thoughts you may have going into any new environment having to do with getting into medical school and fulfilling your dreams of becoming a doctor will be stressful. And once you start going through the motions of the day-to-day, it may be hard to stop and think about what your end goal is. So, take the time in the very beginning to sit, think, and write down what it is that you hope to gain from this experience. Put it down in writing will make it more real and it will be something that you can go back to at the end of the summer and reelect on whether or not your expectations and goals were fulfilled.
PERFECT THE ART OF BEING INTERESTED.
When it comes to practicing medicine, it will be all about your patients and not all about you. Work on perfecting that now by being genuinely interested in what you’re doing, who you’re working with, what you’re learning, why something is important, and so on and so forth. If asked, feel free to share things about yourself and your interest but don’t let it go on for too long. But get into
the habit of asking questions, seeking information to learn more about something, focus on things and people outside of yourself. The key to being interested the “right way” is listening when someone is talking to you with a true and strong attention to what that person is actually saying. When it comes time during your career as a physician, it’s not going to be about, but about your patient. Your job as a physician wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the patient so it’s critical to fine-tune these skills now. To be the best physician you can be, gain the trust of your patients and form a connection with them, you’ll need to focus on being interested. As you begin your summer, think about ways to act on the idea of you being interested. When you have conversations with others, whether it’s one of the individuals leading the program or one of your fellow students, be in the moment and be present – this will show others that you’re interested and your attention to them and what’s going on is actually real. In today’s world of ever-present distractions, its comforting in some ways to know that there can be a moments or several moments when true conversations and interactions between two human beings can take place. Go ahead and ask questions, but not just any kind of questions, open-ended questions. You’ll find that people like talking about themselves and if this is coupled with you showing that you are actively listening, the connections with grow. As you’re talking with someone, asking questions, and listening to what they have to say, don’t get distracted by your inner dialogue about how you’re going to respond to what’s being said.
THINK ABOUT THE WHY.
As you begin your summer activities, you may find that you have more time to think about the why – why do you want to become a doctor? Why do you want to pursue a career in medicine? Chances are, because of something you’ve experienced or felt. Or, maybe not. If you’re not exactly clear on why you want to go into medicine, this summer might very well be the perfect time for you to reflect and identify the reasons you’re so interested in becoming a doctor. During your summer experience, try to figure out where your passion and interest in pursuing medicine intersect with what matters to you. Successfully identifying your reason for wanting to practice medicine is critical at a time when, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges, the number of applicants to medical schools is at an all-time high. Surprisingly, many busy premeds put answering this question on the back burner. Answering this question may be easier than you think. To do so, you must focus in on what you’ll be able to draw from when times get times get tough – that is, where our great desire to practice medicine meet your ability to do the work involved. Your motivation should be unique to you, fitting your interest like a hand fits a glove. If you are clear about your motivation and why you are pursuing what you are, it allows medical schools to see, beyond grades and activities, your connection to medicine. Zeroing in on why you want to become a doctor can also help you identify your calling within medicine.