10 TIPS for STARTING Medical School


Hey guys. I’m Siobhan, a first year medical resident. Today I’m going to be doing a video requested by Anna and I’m gonna be sharing 10 things that I wish I knew when I was starting medical school. This week I ran into some first year medical students and it reminded me how excited I was when I first started and also how many questions I had. Congratulations to all of you who are just starting this incredible journey. And to those of you who are aspiring to medical school: Keep going, because soon this will be you. When I first started med school I had lots of questions about how to set myself up well for clerkship when we do rotations at hospital and then even when I have to apply for residency. But when I would ask upper years for advice, I found like they would often brush me aside and say I was being too keen or that you have plenty of time, don’t worry about this. Now I definitely agree that there’s no reason to stress about residency applications that are like three years away, but I think it’s at least practical to think about how to set yourself up for success. I’ll try to incorporate that a little bit into this video as well, so let’s dive right into it. I bought lots of books when I first started med school. It’s like it was comforting to have them all there, that somehow all that information was gonna get into my mind. I really wish that’s how it worked. To be honest, if I could go back I would just say: get one really good physiology textbook, because you need to learn the basics. But beyond that, you can just buy things along the way as you figure out what you need. I think the most important thing is to figure out what is your learning style and then find resources that work with it. So for me I’m definitely a visual learner, so I gravitated towards websites like Calgary Guide, which had awesome flowcharts that they make. Or some of the YouTube videos by Armando and he does sketches of different pathophysiology. So I’ll link those below, you can check them out, see if you like them too. There’s some other expensive resources that I think are worthwhile. Like Up-To-Date, so you can actually see the most up-to-date information and the UWorld question bank I thought was fantastic to be doing questions and testing yourself. Don’t worry, I’m gonna make a whole video just on resources that I used, then how to learn effectively and efficiently in med school. So subscribe if you don’t want to miss that upcoming video. Don’t get discouraged if you feel like you’re constantly relearning things. The first day of med school I remember our dean said that medicine is like trying to drink from a fire hose. It’s so true. The biggest challenge is just how vast the information is, you’ve got to learn so much. It’s not that the material is particularly difficult. There is just so much of it. There’s no way that you’re going to be able to remember it all the first time or be able to catch all of it, so just remember that. You’re gonna have to go back multiple times and each time you go back to the material, you’ll remember a little bit more and I’m still doing that. Each time I see a patient, I’m reading up on it and a little bit more sticks each time. I strongly recommend taking notes on a platform that you can easily pull up on your phone. So I really regret not doing this. When I started med school, I was doing everything on Word documents and while that was great on my computer, it was really hard to search for information, to pull it up in the hospital when I actually wanted. So I ended up transferring pretty much everything over to Evernote, which took so long reformatting. So I wish I did it earlier. It doesn’t have to be Evernote. The reason I chose that one is because when I would search a term, it would even search pictures. So if I draw another diagram, took a picture of it and put it into Evernote, it’ll pop up in my searches on my phone, which was awesome. You’re not dying. Medical school syndrome is a real thing. And I found that when I was reading about all these diseases and then later on when I was seeing patients, especially my own age, in the hospitals. It was so easy to start thinking ”Oh my gosh, I think I had those symptoms. Do I have that?” It actually happened twice to me. So the first time was pretty early on in med school. We were learning about the anatomy of the throat and I think as I was reading about it, I kept touching my throat and then I kept tensing it up, my neck. And then I kept thinking there was something stuck in my throat, so I kept thinking there was something wrong with me. The second time happened months later and we were learning about different types of cancers. And I was convinced that I felt a lump and beyond that, I was convinced that lump was a sign of metastatic cancer. Which I realize now is really ridiculous, because I had no other symptoms. But it was like my life flashed before my eyes, I pictured having to go through all the therapies and then I pictured: Okay, well… I’ll have to become an oncologist and I’ll have to treat cancers to tell my story. I got a little bit out of hand. So clearly it’s hard to separate what you’re studying from how you’re actually feeling, it’s totally normal. One disclaimer I want to make is that med students, residents… We actually do get sick, just like the regular population. So if you’re really worried about something, just go and get it checked out. Try to collaborate with your classmates right from the beginning. If you can create that collaborative environment rather than something that’s really competitive, it’s gonna benefit you all. And although it’s a bit crazy to think of, you’re all gonna be doctors and one day you might actually have consults with eachother on patients, so you actually want all of you to have that good information. In my class there are a couple of people that started out sharing their notes, resources on Facebook and then it just became the norm. And I have to say, that was a big difference from undergrad and I really loved it. It felt like you’re all in it together. So if you’re the first person to start doing that in your class, you’re gonna be seen as this positive force and I promise you, that’s gonna be paid forward in the future. I really suggest getting involved from the beginning and remember what you’re passionate about. Med school is about way more than just studying, it’s an opportunity to start thinking about the career you want in the future. Do you want to do research? Medical education? Sit on boards? Do academic work? Do you want to really be involved in clinical trials? Or clinical work? This is a great opportunity to just get involved, start talking to people and trying things out, because the stakes are pretty low still. Also getting involved in things you’re passionate about. It’s going to be really useful when things start getting tough and they will. So when you’re wondering: ”Why am I still studying on a Saturday?” or ”Why am I missing out on things that my other friends aren’t missing out on?” You’ll remember with these projects that you’re doing, that this is why. This is why you got into medicine. Plus it’s gonna be good for your CV when you are prepping for residency, but that’s secondary to actually doing stuff that you enjoy and that you love. I’d say start thinking about specialties early on. Not to stress about it and not even to expect yourself to figure it out right away, but just have Iit going on in the back of your mind. And what I think is best is if your school allows you to go in, start shadowing doctors, talking to residents. That’s a great way to see who do you get along with, what do you like in a hospital setting. I think it’ll put you a bit ahead of the curve. Personally as you guys know I love lists, so I made a list of all the different specialties out there and tried to get exposure to them and figure out what was the best fit for me. I think I went through a stage where I wanted to be every type of doctor. One week it was being a cardiac surgeon, in the next pediatrics, then I thought maybe little babies or psychiatry, radiology. And then when I finally got down to it and figured out I wanted to do internal medicine, I felt much more sure about it, because I’ve gotten involved, seen what other specialties were like early on. The other reason was in case I wanted a specialty that was really really competitive, that knowing it earlier on would definitely be an advantage when it came to the time for residency. I hate to tell you guys that so early on, but the truth is: Things are getting more competitive. And so it’s just good to prepare yourself, not to be stressed about it, but just to be prepared. Medicine is a marathon and not a sprint. I would say that early on, it would be so great if you could start with some good habits. So you know… Cooking at home, going to the gym, making time for friends, call up your family. Those are things that if you start doing them regularly now, it’ll just become more natural in residency and later on when there actually isn’t as much time, but you’ll find a way to make room for it. Yes it’s easy to say and I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not always good at it. And I’ll get sucked into what I’m doing and get totally wrapped up in it and forget to do other things, but even now talking about it is a really good reminder for me. That brings us to our next tip. Don’t lose your hobbies. I actually loved being in the medicine, the medical school bubble, talking to people about your medical experiences and having friends all in medical school. But the minute I would go out of that bubble and remember that I’m a violinist and I love being active and seeing those friends, it actually felt… I felt more grounded and I felt like I was able to connect the different parts of myself and I was a bit happier doing that. So I would say it’s important to keep those things up. Of course the pragmatic side of me also wants to say that having those hobbies and showing that you’re well-rounded is gonna pay forward when you’re at that residency application stage. And I hate to keep bringing it up, but it’s one of the realities. And I have a feeling that’s something that you guys are probably thinking about even already. Lastly, ask for help when you need it. And you’ll notice I said when you need it and not if you need it. Everyone has those moments when they feel really overwhelmed and stressed and it’s so important to know who you can turn to and not feel alone. Burn out is being talked about a lot more and there’s a lot of work being done to decrease the stigma of asking for help, but I still think we have a long way to go. Be kind to yourself, try to reach out and support others and just never feel like you’re isolated. More and more we hear about stories where medical students take their own life and I’m sure when they started out, that they would never have thought that it would come to that or that things would get that bad. So I never want you guys to feel like you’re in such a terrible spot that there’s no one you can talk to. Usually med schools are great about telling you about supports that are available. Usually student wellness will have something. In Ontario, where I live, there’s something called the Ontario physician health program. It’s a program totally separate from our schooling system that you can call. You can be anonymous if you want and they’ll help you link up to programs. They’ll even talk to you and advocate on your behalf to the med school. So there’s always someone that you can call and I’m sure wherever you live, there’s something similar to that. You’re going into this field to help people and to heal them, so first you need to learn how to take care of yourself. Well, we’re ending it on a bit of a serious, more somber note. But I just want to really really congratulate you guys for getting into medical school and starting this incredible journey. I have such fantastic memories with the friends that I made and all the adventures we had together. You go through some pretty crazy stuff, but I think it bonds you in a really special way. I have no doubt that you’re gonna love it. So thanks for watching, don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already. And comment below, let me know what you’re thinking or just say hi. So bye for now and I’ll chat with you guys later.

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