When people start medical school they are often in for a shock. These very smart students, who up until that point worked really hard to be the best in order to get into medical school, suddenly are competing against other people just like them.
Not everyone can be the best.
Perfectionism is the norm in medical school. That’s good — we all want our doctors to be smart and capable! — but it can have its consequences. Anxiety and depression run rampant.
During one of the first weeks of school our Associate Dean of Curriculum broke the news to us:
“50% of you will be in the bottom half of your class.”
That’s not comforting to hear from a patient perspective, but it helps us students understand what we are up against. All medical students are incredibly intelligent and hard working. Even if you were #1 in your class throughout high school and college, you might not be in med school. It’s okay to not be perfect – what’s important is the learning so that we can be good physicians in the future.
There is that classic quote:
Q: What do you call the the person that graduates last in their medical school class?
It can be a little disconcerting that first time you’re below the class average on a test or quiz. SLU is pass/fail, as are many medical schools now, so that there is less anxiety and competition during the classroom years. The goal is the encourage collaborative and excited learning, freedom to explore other interests, time to volunteer and research, and maybe some sleep and fun, too!
As someone that was the epitome of Type A growing up (my mom tells stories of forcing me to stop studying and go to bed), I’m actually pretty surprised by how relaxed I am about school. Sure I work my butt off, because you have to just to pass, but I don’t get obsessive or upset about how each test goes. I’m okay with who I am and realize (and love!) that I have a lot going on outside of the classroom. I attribute my attitude to a few things — my years out of school that helped put life in perspective, my past failures and mistakes that made me realize not being perfect is okay, and of course my anxiety medication.
I love that I am at a school that celebrates students with other passions, encourages exploring interests outside of school, and allows me to maintain a rich social life.
However, with my first round of boards exams coming up (there are 3 rounds of medical licensing exams), the beauty of pass/fail is quickly slipping away. There is a lot of pressure to do well, considering the score on step one of boards is one of the biggest components of a residency application. Simply put: you have to know your stuff.
|| For more on boards exams check out this post: How Medical School Works ||
Second year of medical school gets a little intense because of this. People are simultaneously studying for their classes and reviewing for boards at the same time. There is a lot to learn and relearn – it’s daunting to say the least. I’ve have a lot of great resources to study from; it’s holding myself to a schedule will be the hard part. It’s frustrating to come to terms with the fact that for the next eight months, some of that much needed down time I used to give myself will now have to be dedicated to studying for boards. Difficult, but so, so worth it.
I love what I get to learn. Get to learn. I want to be the best doctor I can possibly be. I admire the physicians or even older medical students that know so much that I don’t yet. I never want to look back and think that I couldn’t have done more or worked harder.
It’s tricky to balance working your butt off but keeping your sanity. I’m all about balance and maintaining good habits like plenty of sleep, exercise, and down time, but for a the next eight months I might tip the scales a little more to the studying side. And that’s okay.
We don’t have to the the best. We can’t all be the best. But we have to give it our all. We have to be OUR best.