Before you decide to apply to medical school I want you to sit down in a front of a mirror… possibly naked… and ask yourself this question: Can I handle it? No matter how hard you try predicting what medical school is like, you’re never going to know until you walk that path. It’s only my first year of medical school, but I’m already feeling like I’m barely sleeping at all. It’s a lot of pressure when you are thrown into a class full of people who are equally smart as you or in some instances even smarter than you. After the first semester I realized that it takes so much effort to be at or near the top that you begin to lose yourself in the process. I wasn’t enjoying the moment. I was under a lot of stress to perform well on my finals and in the end I got what I wanted, but I lost a part of me in return. When you’re at the top, there’s nowhere to go but down. You may not know what I’m talking about when I said, “I lost a part of myself in return,” but you will eventually.
This semester I started to take it a little easier on the medicine side of things. I try not to stress myself out too much and just do as much as I can without compromising my own health. It’s ironic that I’m going to enter a profession where I promote good health every single day and I can’t even say that I’m healthy right now. It is nice to come home from a long day at school and realize that I don’t have to be immersed into medicine 24/7. I find that having a hobby helps. In my spare time I design websites and learn more about internet advertising. OK yeah it sounds geeky now that I put it into print, but hell I’m at the point where I don’t give a shit anymore. Seriously, find something outside of medicine to keep yourself sane. I noticed that a lot of the people in my class do so many interesting things outside of school that it’s really hard not to admire them. I found out that some play in an amateur AFL league, while others put on classical concerts. Learning how to manage your time is a skill everybody is going to have to learn sooner or later. Medical school is going to make you do it if you haven’t already done so.
Now that you’ve had some time to think about whether you can handle being a medical student, I’m going to attempt to tell you what’s it’s like to be a medical student from a first year’s point of view. I have to warn you (and remind myself) that it doesn’t get easier from here on in.
7:30 AM – Wake up, shit, shower, and shave… Sometimes I grab a muffin or an apple for breakfast, but most of the time I go to school on an empty stomach.
8:20 AM – Catch the bus.
9:00 AM – CBL (Case-Based Learning) Session. This is where we get into our CBL groups and get introduced to the case and allocate the work within our group for the week. Some have to work on the Friday group presentation in front of the class or work on the case questions.
12:00 PM – Anatomy Lecture
1:00 PM – Lunch
2:00 PM – Seminar/Lecture. It usually has to do with the other side of medicine, i.e. Medical ethics, healthcare system, rural practice, communication, doctor-patient relationship, and medical law.
3:00 PM – Anatomy Lecture Again
4:00 PM – Histology
5:00 PM – Go Home
6:00 PM – Study/Relax/Prepare for tomorrow’s lectures/presentations/tutorials/dissection.
2:00 AM – Sleep
7:30 AM – Start all over again.
As far as science goes, this semester we’re learning more about pharmacology, pathology, gross anatomy, histology, biochemistry, microbiology, statistics, physiology, and immunology. Although it’s a long list, I have a feeling I’m missing something. On top of all of that, we have to attend 4 hours of anatomy dissection, put on Friday presentations, go to tutorials, 2 hours of microbiology or physiology labs, 2 hours of clinical skills and/or doctor-patient stuff, and follow a family who’s recently had a baby and document the progress over 2 and a half years (that’s on our own time). If you combine all of that you will notice that there’s roughly 40 contact hours a week (9am – 5pm everyday). So I ask you again – Can you handle it? Some people in my class have already dropped the course after first semester because they couldn’t. Remember that this is only a glimpse into first year medicine. Try multiplying this by 4 years and tell me your answer then.