If you’ve decided to pursue a career in medicine, there’s probably a  pretty good chance that you’ve had to face some questions from peers and family members alike.

 “You really want to be in school for that long?”

“Won’t you be in a ton of debt?”

“…But how will you spend time with your family?”

Normally, you’ve probably also rehearsed your answers to all these inquiries and more, assuring nay-sayers that you really have thought through your desired career path. However, if you’re like most other pre-med students, there’s also a pretty good chance that sometimes you find yourself questioning your own decision. Whether it’s a particularly poor grade on a test or a day of feeling overwhelmed by student loan paperwork, feelings of discouragement as a premed are pretty common. In those times it’s important to give yourself some solid reminders of why you wanted to pursue your MD in the first place.

Shadow

Perhaps one of the most recommended activities for premeds, shadowing can be a great way to boost both your med school applications and your motivation to even go to med school at the same time. Contacting any family friends/connections that are physicians who might be willing to let you shadow them is an excellent place to start for this, but not knowing any doctors is definitely not a factor that should prevent you from getting day-to-day exposure to the medical field. Contact your local clinic and inquire about any physicians who would be willing to let you shadow them; it may take several calls to various clinics, but in the end your search will probably be fruitful.

Volunteer

While shadowing is a great way to boost your motivation and connect with current doctors, volunteering is often a better way to “get your hands dirty” within the medical community. Of course, the tasks that you can personally do will probably be pretty limited; afterall, you most likely currently lack official medical training. However, that shouldn’t prevent you from helping out at local non profit community clinics. Such clinics run on volunteer manpower, and your service doing anything from acting as a runner between doctors to checking in patients will be greatly appreciated. Overseas medical missions trips are also another option for many premed students, and fundraising can make these pricy trips financially possible.

Connect

Finally, one of the simplest but often overlooked ways to rekindle your premed motivation is to actively connect with possible mentors for you within the medical community. There are an impressive number of medical student and physician bloggers who regularly post updates, and many of these bloggers are not “too big” to respond to your questions about the profession. Seek them out and motivate yourself to follow your own medical dreams by finding inspiration in their stories. Reading medical memoirs of physicians can also be a great way to motivate yourself, even though this option doesn’t usually offer you the possibility of an active, two-way connection with the author.

Overall, the most important way to feed your premed motivation is to put yourself into environments and situations where you cannot help but constantly be reminded of why you want to pursue a career in medicine. Being around patients and doctors, giving your time to help the the ill of your community, and staying inspired through correspondence with current physicians are all great ways to achieve this. While none of these activities is a sure-fire way of preventing your motivation from sliding away, they’re all great ways of helping yourself stay on track even on days when you are facing your doubts.