Posts tagged advice

Note Taking Tips by sarahsaysmd:

In med school, taking notes is hard because there’s SO much material. I remember going through one of my lectures and wondering how the hell I was going to simplify it to something I could actually remember. I usually make what are called “study sheets” after each lecture, and this is how I do them!

  • If there’s learning objectives, follow those. Use them to guide your notes. If there’s not, then use your intuition (based on what was heavily emphasized or covered the most) to figure out where to focus your notetaking. Just make sure you’ve organized everything in your head before putting it down to paper, because notes only work if they’re clear! 
  • Use categories to break up your learning. In one lecture there’s often multiple components, so I use headings to separate the main points. That way they don’t all blur together in my head.
  • Whenever possible, make charts, diagrams, or drawings. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve remembered something on a test because I took the time to draw it out! If you’re a kinesthetic or visual learner, this is super helpful. It really simplifies the material and organizes it thoroughly. It’s much easier to study from a clear chart than a block of text.
  • When you do use text, keep it concise. Use different colors to write out key phrases and terms, and try not to write out paragraphs and paragraphs. Sometimes, it unavoidable, and you need a lot of text to understand a key concept. Short and sweet wherever possible, though, makes life easier for you! 
  • Transform, transform, transform. Always try to put things in your own words wherever you can. Manipulate the material so that it coincides with what you’ve learned. When you think about a topic from multiple perspectives, you understand it a million times better.
  • When reviewing notes, read them aloud! Sometimes, I cover up one section and say everything I can remember about it. Then I check to see if I missed anything. It’s a great way to review (might be awkward if you have roommates, but mine is used to my impromptu lectures by now!). 


  • Attending: You were on call last night?
  • J: Yes.
  • Attending: How was it?
  • J: It was alright. Steady night.
  • Attending: Are you ready to start the day?
  • J: Yes, let's do it.
  • Attending: You see, everyone, the problem with us is that as members of the medical field, we have selected ourselves out to have certain qualities. We tend to be perfectionistic, dedicated and always aiming to please. We lie to ourselves, minimize the problems when in reality, we all need to take better care of ourselves and each other.
  • Everyone: *Nods*
  • Attending: You said you are ready? How many hours of sleep did you get?
  • J: ...None.
  • Attending: We owe it to ourselves at least that much to be honest of what we can and cannot do.

A Word with Fourth Year

For the students who have survived their foray into clerkship, congratulations for making it this far. You are only a year away from finishing your medical schooling. Here are some words of wisdom as you draw closer to the end as an undifferentiated stem cell and down the new path as a resident.

  1. Stay healthy. Surely by now you will have managed to find a daily routine that allows you to work hard but also enjoy time away from medicine. However, third year is also a time when one can pick up bad habits. Plan ahead, and take this opportunity before residency begins to really iron out the sore spots in your life.
  2. Explore your interests. Fourth year is really about finding your career interest and honing in on that goal. This is where you can start to expand on your career choice and take electives that give you inspiration, skills, or both. 
  3. Prepare early. Residency applications are meaty things and the deadlines come sooner than you think. Research the programs early, write cover letters early, and think about planning your electives early and in line with the residency matching schedule. 
  4. Have a backer. In third year, I mentioned that making a good impression was important. That trend continues on in the fourth year electives as well. The good will and social capital you accumulate with your attendings are what will fuel good reference letters. For a competitive program, these letters, particularly if they are from respected members of the faculty, can make or break an application.
  5. Study and keep studying. Elective choices can change the entire atmosphere of fourth year. While flexibility is welcome, it is never a license to take the easy road. Still take some time to read and study. At the end of it all, regardless of what program you match to, the licensing exam tests you on all facets of medicine.
  6. Big brother, big sister. When you began third year, you were the fresh face on the ward. There was some stuff you knew back then but a tonne more you had no idea about. Remember how stressful and terrifying it was once.
    Now that you are a fourth year, do not forget how that felt. When you meet a third year student on your team, help them along, guide them, impart your experience to them. Remember the kindness of your senior students and residents and pay it forward.
  7. Have fun. Medical school goes by very quickly. As a student, there is a flexibility and freedom that you will simply never come across again. Enjoy your rotations with your peers. Make the most of your electives. Take the residency interview tour as a nation-trotting adventure. Never forget to have fun on this job.

Related posts: A Word with First Year. A Word with Second Year. A Word with Third Year.

It’s in the act of making things that we figure out who we are.
Austin Kleon.
We treat patients, not diseases.
All healthcare flows through the relationships between the healthcare provider and patient.
The spoken language is the most important tool in medicine.
Eric Cassell, Talking with Patients, 1985.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013.
It is the duty of a doctor to prolong life. It is not his duty to prolong the act of dying.
Lord Thomas Horder, 1936.
First off, I love your blog and how you are passing your knowledge to others in this way, it really helps someone like me who is completely nervous & confused on the process of becoming a doctor. My question is: If you could go back and give your freshman self any advice as to how to better prepare yourself for applying to medical schools & building your resume what would it be? Would you do anything differently so that you might have had more confidence in your application? — Asked by Anonymous

Firstly, to you and everyone else who have been submitting questions, I am sorry for the late reply. 

The circumstances surrounding my plans to pursue medicine are complicated. However, if I could go back and give myself advice in a different life, I would advise taking my time. One of my biggest regrets has always been coming into medicine young. I feel that I could have benefitted from a year or two of life experience: working, volunteering, exploring, travelling etc.

The secret to being a great candidate is not how much time you invested in research, how many doctors you shadowed, or how stellar your grades were. The secret to being a great candidate doctor is being a well-rounded, honest, dependable, and kind person. Where medical knowledge can always be taught in school, these qualities that ultimately define you as a candidate are developed through the experiences you have gained in your life.

Without Mistakes How Would You Lern?
Even now, I have to always remind myself that it is alright if I make a mistake, it is alright if I cannot answer my attending’s question, it is alright if I missed something. In the end, what matters is that I learned something to make sure those mistakes do not happen again.

Without Mistakes How Would You Lern?

Even now, I have to always remind myself that it is alright if I make a mistake, it is alright if I cannot answer my attending’s question, it is alright if I missed something. In the end, what matters is that I learned something to make sure those mistakes do not happen again.

Trust no one.
Internist on verifying any information given to us rather than elicited ourselves.