I decided to get into medical school at sixteen just when I was about to graduate from high school. My main reason for deciding to study medicine was to “serve humanity”. There are many ways to serve humanity such as being a banker, a teacher, or probably being a chef, but my younger self not even an adult yet decided I wanted to render my services to humanity by studying medicine.
Fast forward to 2013 when my medical journey started, I was completely uninformed about medical school and the challenges of medical school. As you may have heard, medicine is one of the most competitive courses you can get into.The name speaks for itself. It usually requires you to have had exceptional grades in high school, and present something in your CV that makes you stand out of the crowd of people who apply for this prestigious course every year.
If you’ve decided to study medicine, you should understand that medicine is a lifelong commitment that’s if you decide to practice after medical school.Going through the websites of several medical schools, you’ll notice that one of their aims is to graduate well trained doctors but no one ever mentions what it actually takes to become a well trained doctor.
Many students consider studying to be a very difficult thing to do. I do sometimes especially when I have piles of materials to study and there’s no motivation to even start studying. The thought of studying can cause us a lot of stress which also contributes to our inability to study. The truth is, studying doesn’t have to be a difficult process. read more; Tips on Being a Successful Student – Habits of Successful students
MAKING A DECISION TO STUDY MEDICINE
Before giving a speech to a crowd of people on lets say “stress and how to manage it” or “getting the perfect sleep every night”, it requires that you do a lot of research and readings and also lots of rehearsals before the day of the speech so you’ll be better equipped to pour out words of wisdom to your audience. The same thing applies when you decide to start medical school but it is not as easy as it seems. A rehearsed speech will probably be given in a day or maybe two but medicine is for a lifetime literally. Yes you may research about getting into medical school but how do you rehearse for something that’s lifelong. This is one thing most doctors were uninformed about and wished they knew.
Before you continue reading this post, I don’t intend to scare you in anyway or discourage your intensions of starting medical school but to help you become more equipped and offer “tips on being a successful student”
Several countries have structured medical programs. America and Canada among others require you have obtained a degree prior to applying for medical school whereas in the EU and the UK, you can get in directly from high school or from A level. The former usually takes four years and the latter five or six years as the case may be.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN MEDICAL SCHOOL
If you were to imagine for a moment what you think people do in medical school, you’ll probably think it’s what you see in the TV series “Greys Anatomy” or maybe not. In medical school, you are required to learn every single aspect of the human body anatomy and it’s physiology. You are supposed to know how different organs and body systems function and malfunction. All these are within your reach but requires handwork and dedication.
The medical school I attended operates the six years system which is split into three years preclinical and three years clinical rotation. The preclinical years is mostly the classroom phase where you take the foundation courses in preparation for the clinical phase. Both the preclinical and clinical phases can be equally difficult and tiring because the coursework is usually very stressful and you must know how to “manage your stress effectively” in order to survive medical school.
Without further ado, below are a few things you need to know before you consider a career in medicine.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE STARTING MEDICAL SCHOOL
1. Getting all A’s in your secondary school science courses doesn’t equate to being a good medical student.
It is good to be hardworking in high school and get good grades because it’ll be what will determine your chances of getting into medical school but you must never confuse getting high grades in high school to equate being a good medical student. In my 6 years of medical school, I’ve seen students who were straight A students in their respective high schools but found medical school very difficult. You’ve probably heard you’re a very bright student, I think you should study medicine, this is actually ludicrous and I wish it works that way. Going through medical school will be a completely different chapter of your life so in as much as the basic science courses will help in shaping your mind or in preparing you for medical school, you must understand that medical school is a life of it’s own and needs to be approached differently.
2. You need to actually enjoy studying to cope with medical school
I can’t over emphasize the voluminous workload that awaits you once you’ve decided to study medicine. Medical school entails a series of exams and like every exam, you need to work very hard. There will be days you’ll not feel like studying but you have to study otherwise you’ll be left behind. You have to fall in love with your study materials and understand every bit of it. Studying has to become a lifestyle. Having a good study habit is also very important for your success. Deciding what study method to use even before starting can be helpful because it puts you one step ahead and keeps your mind prepared for what is to come. In medical school, there are those who study from the first day of school, some study one month to their exam, while others might prefer to study two weeks to their exam. Know your strength and weaknesses and do what works best for you.
3. Developing a positive mindset is important to get through medical school
There’ll be days you lack motivation or days where you feel like giving up. I recall a few times I failed an exam I had studied very well for. Trust me, it feels very devastating when you see the letter grade FF. What helped me through these was keeping a positive mindset. There’ll be days where you feel very stressed from the excessive course work, times when the lecturer/professors offend you or periods where you find a particular course very difficult to understand. When all these happen, it might make you stressed and when stress is not managed properly, it can affect our course grades. Always have a positive mindset towards everything. “No problem is as great as it first seems”
4. Good study materials/ resources are vital for medical school success.
There will be lots of study resources available to you ranging from your lecture notes, textbooks, youtube videos on related topics, medical school forums, and several other medical sites. Open your mind to several learning platforms. Develop an inquisitive mindset, not every book is necessary and sometimes, limited resources doesn’t equal limited knowledge, choose what works best for you and stick to it. Do not be afraid to ask questions, go to your professor for clarifications on things you don’t understand, engage in group study if you enjoy it, get flash cards to help you with studying. Your success in medical school is 30% the professors responsibility and 70% your responsibility.
5. Medicine is more than just loving biology.
In high school, I really loved biology and I would say I was pretty good at it, but it wasn’t until I started medical school that I realized the biology is just less than a fraction of what you’ll encounter in medical school. I don’t mean to scare you but there’s biochemistry, biophysics, pharmacology, anatomy etc. Most people like myself eventually pulled through these courses and maybe if you decided to study medicine, you will too but just keep at the back of your mind that medicine isn’t just high school biology and would require perseverance and hard work for you to pull through.
6. You’ll question your decision to study medicine several times
Here I am a sixth year medical student, you’d expect that because it’s the final year, everything should become easier. I wish it was true. In my journey through medical school, I’ve had to question my decision to study medicine almost like the number of hair on my head. As you approach the end of medical school, you begin to realize that it is actually not the end but the beginning of a new phase because you’ll have to specialize in a particular field and the journey of getting into a residency program requires a lot of studying for various exam and also making a huge decision on what area of medicine is. best for you. This is a very critical stage as the specialty you choose may decide how happy or fulfilling your career will be. At least I can speak for the majority of my friends at the moment who have had the same experiences as I’ve had. You should know for sure that when you’re in medical school, there’ll be days where you feel you have made the wrong decision or you are in the wrong place. But you can pull through this.
7. In medical school, it is difficult to keep up with other extracurricular activities
If you’re the type of person that likes to engage in several extracurricular activities, medicine can take that away from you. You’re always so focused on studying or attending lectures especially if your medical school program runs from 7am -5pm daily. You find out that you’re always very tired at the end of the day and just want to sleep and probably wake up early in the morning to study while also getting ready for the new day. Suddenly 24 hours might not be enough. In the long run, you’ll get used to the fact that your life revolves around medicine. This is not to say it is impossible to engage in other activities but it is extremely difficult, however time management is crucial and will see you through.
8. You always have to challenge yourself in medical school
It is all about setting new challenges and short term goals. Let’s say you want to finish studying a particular chapter at a particular time, there’s no room for procrastination, you have to push yourself to achieve your set out goals. Only by doing this can you really succeed in medical school because the work load like I’ve emphasized throughout this blogpost is enormous therefore challenging yourself is your best bet to medical school success.
9. Medicine is not for everyone
Know your strength and weaknesses. I’ve seen people say I decided to study medicine because my father or mother wanted me to be a doctor and then they show up to medical school and end up failing or giving up in the first year of medical school. Some of them even get to the third year of medical school before they realize that medicine isn’t for them.Let your decision to study medicine be solely yours, free from all external influences. Medicine is a field where learning never ends and majority of your life will be invested in it. So it’s important to understand what you’re signing up for and be prepared to face the challenges that medicine brings.
10. You can do it.
This whole talk about medical school like I mentioned is not meant to discourage you. The fact is that if there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the years is that you can do whatever you set your mind to do. There’s nothing you cannot do as long as you believe in yourself. Believing in yourself, handwork and perseverance is the key to being successful in life and when you apply these three key principles, you’ll realize that medicine is just another hurdle you have to overcome to achieve your dreams. I’m actually happy and proud that I studied medicine and I am also happy for all the challenges I overcame, the good times and the bad ones likewise because it made me a better person. If I overcame six years in medical school, then I’m sure you will too. Just make sure it is something you really want because that’s passion is what would keep you going in the hardest of times.
I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME. Philippians 4:13
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