Getting started in medical school can feel like the first major step on the road to fulfilling your long-held ambition of becoming a doctor. However, it can also be both challenging and overwhelming. The tips below can help you succeed during this exciting and demanding time.
Beware of Perfectionism
It’s no secret those who are admitted to medical school share certain personality traits, and being a high performing individual is one of them. In fact, this tendency toward high performance can mean you are a perfectionist, someone who is always striving to do their very best. This is a fine quality until it isn’t, such as a situation in which performing perfectly simply isn’t possible. In medical school, you are dealing with an enormous quantity of information, more than you can memorize, and later, during your residency, the long hours that you work mean that you will frequently feel exhausted and as though your work is subpar.
The good news is that the secret to being a good doctor is not memorizing every bit of information that comes your way, and those long residency hours train you to function even in the most demanding situations. You aren’t supposed to be perfect, so don’t beat yourself up for failing to meet a standard no one could. Instead, you need to learn how to triage. What are the most important things for you to learn and do? Focus on those and remember that it’s not about knowing everything you possibly can. Good doctors never stop learning and asking questions.
Plan Your Finances
Medical school is expensive, so many students end up taking out loans. It’s not uncommon to graduate with a substantial amount of debt, so it’s a good idea to have some plans in place to pay it off. There are certain programs that forgive a portion of your medical debt. If you work for a certain amount of time in an underserved community, the total amount that you owe may be lowered. However, your options vary based on several factors, including what kind of debt you have taken out. Another option is refinancing your loans. This can mean a big reduction in how much you owe in total if the interest rates are lowered, or it can mean lower monthly payments. You can review a guide that explains more about how this can help you save money and how often you can refinance.
Another important thing to understand is the role of malpractice insurance, what it will cost you and the circumstances in which you will need it. When you’re just entering medical school and you have many other things to worry about, contemplating issues such as what your total student loan debt will be and how to pay for medical insurance can seem overwhelming, but it’s important to keep them in mind. You’ll need to make sure that the salary at your first position can cover your expenses and costs of living adequately.
Your Ideal Workplace
Yet another thing to consider is what type of doctor you want to be and the environment that you work in. Working in a big city emergency room will be a very different experience from becoming a general practitioner in a small town. Alternately, you may decide that you want to specialize in a particular area, whether that is oncology, dermatology, psychiatry, neurology, or any of the many other possible specialties. You might decide that you want to work with a specific population, such as older adults or children.
While you don’t have to start thinking about these particulars until later in your medical school career, the advantage of starting to do so as early as your first year means that you have more time to explore options without feeling as much pressure to choose as you will later. Consider your personality as well as your goals. No one goes into medicine because they hope to spend as much time as possible with their family and as little time as possible at work, but there are certain specialties and career paths that are more family-friendly than others. On the other hand, your priorities might be in looking for the highest paying option, getting into cancer research or helping indigent populations. Be as honest and specific about what you really want to ensure career satisfaction later.
Mentors will be enormously helpful to you throughout your career, and you may have several of them during your school years alone. They do not have to be full-fledged professionals already although they may be, but they might also be other students who are further along than you, residents, professors, or those working in other capacities. Doing volunteer work or taking the opportunity to shadow a professional can be great opportunities to meet someone who could become a mentor. Networking online or offline at school-related events can also provide these opportunities.