1. Figure Out a Way to Study That Works for You
Studying is a big part of medical school. Even if you have good habits and study skills from undergrad, you may still be overwhelmed with the content and sheer amount of information you’re now learning. One recommendation from physicians is to study over long periods of time (as opposed to cramming) to help you better understand complex concepts. In fact, in a survey of undergraduate students, those with higher GPAs were less likely to cram and more likely to plan out studying ahead of time.
It may be helpful to try different study strategies. Graphs, charts, images, videos, mnemonics, self-testing, and study groups are just a few examples. Certain material may be more conducive to different study methods, so try a few strategies and see what works. You can try asking med students in the year ahead of you for tips on how they studied for particular courses.
Different apps, websites, and software can also help with studying. These tools can help keep assignments organized, teach concepts in a new way, aide in self-testing, and more. Here are a few lists of free study tools for students:
- 12 FREE Online Study Tools Every Student Should Know About
- The Best Free Study Productivity Tools for Students
- 12 Best Study Tools Medical Students Need to Stitch up That A!
2. Utilize Resources and Take Advantage of Opportunities Your School Provides
Universities have a lot of resources and opportunities for students. Take advantage of these! This often starts with orientation. Orientation may seem cheesy or tedious, but it can be a great way to start school on a positive note.You can learn more about the resources available, hear tips for succeeding in classes, get familiar with the school, and meet other students and faculty.
Schools offer resources to support students. Many U.S. universities offer career services, healthcare services, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) support, disability accommodations, financial aid resources, and more. These resources are for you, so use them when you need them!
In addition to support resources, many schools offer opportunities for students outside of the classroom. Volunteer, join a club, take on a leadership role, work in a research lab, participate in intramural sports – there are options. Medical school is time-consuming and a lot of work, but these extracurricular opportunities are a great way to interact with other students outside the classroom and follow things you’re passionate about.
3. Find Mentors
Mentors help medical students by providing insight and advice about specialties, rotations, residencies, career opportunities, and more. For med students, finding a mentor early can be beneficial in exploring interests and various career paths. If you’re interested in finding a mentor, the first step is to think about your interests, career goals, and what you would like to learn more about. You don’t need to have an exact career path in mind, but choosing a few interests to focus on can help narrow down which mentor(s) to reach out to.
Then you can start looking for a mentor. Start by checking with your university. Some schools offer formal mentoring programs for students. Even if there isn’t a formal program, the school may have ways to connect med students with physicians at local health institutions or school alumni. This is a great way to get introduced to people interested in mentoring students.
If your school doesn’t offer help with finding mentors, you can still find someone. If you’re interested in a specific specialty, you can look into professional organizations for that specialty to see if they connect students with mentors. You can reach out to people in your network, or reach out to people via email. Social media can also be a great tool to connect with mentors. And don’t forget, you don’t just have to pick one mentor. Having multiple mentors can be beneficial as each mentor can help you with different interests or provide new insights.
When first meeting with your mentor, be prepared with questions to ask them. Try not to ask your mentor questions you can easily find answers to on Google. Focus more on learning from their experience. You can also set up expectations in your first meeting, such as how often you will meet, what the meetings will be about, etc.
4. Start Learning Health Tech Early
Health technology is rapidly evolving. Clinicians have new information systems and clinical tools they need to learn to provide the best care for patients. However, while clinical care delivery has become largely dependent on health information systems, this same technology is not readily available for med students.
A review found that there are critical gaps in medical education regarding EHRs. This is problematic because EHRs are not intuitive, even for digital natives. A Mayo Clinics Proceedings survey found that US physicians gave their EHRs an “F” on the usability scale. While usability desperately needs to be fixed, physicians still have to work on the EHR regardless. Which is why it’s important for students to start this learning process early, so that when they start rotations and residency, they don’t have to spend extra time learning how to use the EHR.
CareAlign is a HIPPA-compliant, secure clinical workspace that can be used to teach students how to integrate technology into patient interactions from day one. Students can begin by having a place to record a history while talking to a patient, and learn how to position their device to ensure they don’t detract from the patient interaction. Learn more about how CareAlign helps med students, or get started for free today.
5. Take Care of Yourself!
You’ve probably heard it before: taking care of yourself is important. While it may be cliche at this point, that doesn’t take away from how important it is. A meta-analysis found that about one-third of med students worldwide have anxiety. During the 2020-2021 school year, over 60% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health issue.
Oftentimes, caregivers focus on caring for others. But how can you care for others if you aren’t taking care of yourself? Eating nutritious food, drinking water, getting adequate sleep, physical activity, and taking care of your mental health are important throughout your life. Prioritize time for yourself. Schedule it into your calendar or add it on a to-do list if that is what will help you get it done.
If you want support, a great place to start looking is at your school. Many schools offer gym memberships, healthcare services, food pantries, and other resources for students to stay healthy. You can also look in your community. Some places will offer sliding scales or discounts for students, which can help make these resources more financially viable.
Want to start taking care of yourself now? Check out this 30 minute compilation of funny cat and dog videos. You won’t regret it 🙂