A Word with First Year

For the students out there who will soon begin their first year in medical school, let me say congratulations and welcome. There is a long road ahead of you. After reflecting on the experiences I have had and the observations I have made, I have here a list of 16 words of advice to set the course. Here is a quick guide to first year:

  1. Take some time in those first few weeks to build your network. The people in your class are the ones who will be your friends, support, and future colleagues for the next few years. You will need to find people you can count on.
  2. Do not let the white coat or stethoscope fool you. Your friend probably does not have that rare syndrome you just studied and you probably do not have a ruptured triple-A. 
  3. Study hard. Get quality studying done and avoid the distractions. Make the most of your study hours so you can…
  4. Find balance. This is your out, a way to get away from medicine and back to your old life. Take some time off for yourself and adjust it accordingly depending on how much you need to study. But always take some time for yourself, your family, friends, and partner. Always.
  5. Sleep when you need. Sleeping hours disappear quickly over time so when you have a day off, get some extra shut eye. Also, if you have to choose between an all-nighter and sleep, go with the sleep.
  6. Caffeine. It is an unavoidable fact of medical school but take it from me, put it off as long as you can. At this point in your career if you can avoid it do so. Would not want to have it lose its edge down the road now would we?
  7. Stay healthy. Stay fit and eat fresh. Part of finding balance is taking the time to keep your body in shape and have a wholesome meal every now and then that needs more than three minutes in a microwave. Your body will thank you and you will feel better.
  8. Practice interviews and clinical skills. I remember when it seemed awkward watching one classmate interview another. Take those moments seriously and learn from them. These are skills you need to carry with you forever now. Practice makes perfect so do a little bit of clinical skills every now and then with your friends and family.
  9. Anatomy labs. Working with cadavers for the first time is intimidating so avoid the hands and face, the two most human elements of a person until you feel comfortable. Also, it can be easy to forget these cadavers were people once, remember to treat them with respect.
  10. Invest in your equipment. Shoes, stethoscopes, white coat, what have you, make sure the parts that last should, and make sure you are comfortable in them.
  11. Save your money when possible. Do you really need that gratuitous Starbucks? Do you need to get the pair of jeans? Medical school is costly and saving anywhere will eventually add up, even if it only puts a small dent in your debt. Seek out free things when possible. Free lunches or food-provided seminars are great for these.
  12. Be careful of what you say, how you say it and where you say it. The world of medicine is wrought with privacy and confidentiality concerns so learn to mind your surroundings before discussing something, especially if it involves a patient, real or not.
  13. Thick skin. Generally the people who work with you are nice but you will need to develop dragon skin. Expectations run high as you go through medical school and you will constantly enter situations where you do not know or make mistakes. Try not to take what people say at you personally.
  14. In the same vein, do not be overly hard on yourself. You are still learning and at this stage of your training there will be mistakes and bad calls. Take them in stride, learn from them, and move on.
  15. Be a moderate learner. Learn what you need to and maybe a bit more out of interest but take solace in knowing that you will not be able to study everything in a year. Stay within reason. Do not be obnoxiously keen. It will end badly.
  16. On a similar note, getting into medical school is not a license to become arrogant or obnoxious. Do not falter here when you have just made it through the door; it is a reputation you do not want following you around. Keep it together.

Good luck and take care.

Related post: A Word with Second Year. A Word with Third Year. A Word with Fourth Year.

Also check out the lists by wayfaringmdmd-admissions, and cranquis.

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