Medical Student

How much time do med students have, really?

Everyone has heard it – med students are so busy and study all day and all night. But how accurate is this?

Here is a break down of my average week day. Please keep in mind, this is specific to me and to my school’s curriculum.

late rabbit

6-7: Wake up, pack lunch, walk to school.

7-8: Eat breakfast at school, get coffee, get organized for the day

8-3: Classes including lectures, labs, and workshops, generally last from 8-3 on the average day with a one-hour break for lunch.

3-4: Head home. I usually try to give myself one hour off so that my mind can get a break. I’d like to say I’m productive but I usually use this time to text friends, play games on my phone, and watch YouTube videos. Sometimes, the brain just needs to be mindless after a full day.

4-6: Homework. This can include pre-reading and materials for tomorrow’s lectures, taking online quizzes, or prepping for dissections.

6-7: Cooking and eating dinner. I can save time by eating leftovers which I often do by cooking two large meals early in the week. If I’m particularly stressed, I do reading while eating but I try to avoid this.

busy
How it feels sometimes

7-10: Either continue doing homework or, if I’m finished, start studying old material. I do this in a variety of ways in the week including creating study guides, flashcards, or rereading various power points and materials that were confusing.

10-11: This is my ‘wind down’ time. I shower, get ready for the next day, maybe clean my room and maybe write. I try to be in my bed by 10:30 but this often doesn’t happen. The true goal is to be asleep by midnight so I can get at least six hours before the next day.

 

Overall, it’s a fairly tight schedule. There’s usually twenty minutes or so in between classes where you get some free time to socialize or jot ideas down in a notebook. I often write blog ideas in between classes. But as you can see, there’s not a lot of large free time to do things like get groceries, watch a movie with friends, do laundry, or clean. Thus, most of these things are allotted to the weekends. If I get out of class early or have a light load of work, I try to take advantage of that by either going for a run, getting ahead of my work, and doing some chores.

 

 

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Medical Student

What to Bring on Interview Day

Hey everyone! I apologize for the radio silence the last couple of weeks – school has been crazy with anatomy practicals but I am slowly learning how to balance school and my personal life so I promise to work harder at posting more regularly! My goal is to post at least once a week, most likely on Wednesdays. That being said, please let me know if there’s particular content, particularly about med school, that you’d like to see 😊

 

It is officially medical school interview season! This time can be stressful enough whether you’re waiting for an interview, searching for the perfect suit, or perfecting your answer to “why do you want to be a doctor?”

I am someone who attempts to quell my nerves by over-preparing and being ready for the worst-case scenario. Thus, on every interview, I took my little ‘emergency kit’ that I thought I would share with you now.

I stored these items in a medium sized make up product bag. I chose a small black one that looked professional thrown into my tote. Avoid sheer bags so the contents can remain private.

 

My Interview Emergency Kit:

  • Tampon and light days (I’m a female, these always need to be on hand just in case)
  • Pill box with Advil
  • Tissues
  • Safety pin (for outfit mishaps)
  • Q-tips
  • Powder and lip gloss
  • Extra bobby pins and hair ties (I have a lot of hair and it MUST stay out of my face)
  • Extra panty hose (I have a fear of getting runs in mine)
  • Dryer sheet (to avoid static cling)
  • Some cash and quarters (especially if you have to pay for parking)

 

interview emergency kit

The make up bag is from Charming Charlie. The pill box is from Francesca’s. I personally use the Sephora line of matte perfection powder for touch ups.

 

I should note, on most interviews I maybe used one to two of these items but it made me feel better just knowing they were available in case the need arose. Feel free to add or trim down on my emergency kit as you deem necessary. I hope these helps calm your nerves for the big day, even if just a little. But remember, spending less energy worrying about the possible mishaps will give you more to bragging about your awesome self and impressing your prospective school.

 

Good luck!

Medical Student

How I prep for Anatomy Lab

This week has been anatomy filled with my medical class dissecting the back and posterior neck region. Having taken an anatomy class last year, I was eager to begin lab and have been loving it thus far. My lab uses human-donor bodies which can be an adjustment for many people emotionally (Check out my post post about it). However, preparing for lab can also be an academic adjustment so I thought I’d share how I prepare for each lab in a scholastic sense.

 

Watch dissection videos

Schools usually provide these for you although some can be found online. I watch them once the night before then try to re-watch them just prior to the actual lab in the morning.

 

Coloring Books

Here is a link to the coloring book I use. It is my favorite because it has so many different perspectives of the muscles, bones, and nerves. Plus, it feels a little less like studying and a little more like art so it can be a nice break while still being productive.

anatomy coloring book

Effective flashcards

Having a thousand flashcards is not going to be helpful. I try to keep one flashcard per muscle and include attachments, function, and innervation.

 

Utilize multiple diagrams

I look up diagrams online in addition to ones provided by faculty. This way I see a variety of ways in which the material is presented and tested. The internet is a great resource and can be really helpful for finding quizzes or unlabeled diagrams that you can self-test yourself with.

anatomy drawings

While in lab…

I try to teach my lab group members what I know and then we alternate and they teach me. We like to quiz each other sporadically throughout to help us study as well.

I also make time to wander around the lab and check out what the other donors look like since there is a lot of variation and it’s important to be able to identify structures on all bodies.

 

 

I hope some of these tips help. Anatomy is so great so be sure to enjoy it and get the most of your experience!

Medical Student · School

Active Learning Study Tips

I just had my first real medical school exam this past Friday (*shriek*). I tried hard these past three weeks to utilize effective and efficient study methods that focused on active learning to help me prepare. With school just starting, it’s a great time to try out new methods and integrate them into your studying repertoire. So, I thought I’d share some of the new techniques that helped me.

 

Studying for all the senses.

While rereading the textbook can seem effective, it has been proven to be one of the most ineffective study techniques out there. Active learning is better. Active learning means listening, drawing, and moving. Rewrite your notes. Draw out diagrams. Listen to podcasts. Perform practice questions. The more ways you come into contact with the information, the better you will retain it.

 

pictures in notes
I add little doodles here and there in my notes to keep my mind focused. Plus, sometimes a random analogy (i.e. separating Romeo and Juliet) helps me remember concepts.

 

 

Identify your ideal noise level.

Some people need absolute silence and thus should find designated ‘quiet’ areas on campus or invest in ear plugs. I personally do better with some ambient noise so I like to sit at a semi-crowded café. I also found this amazing site that makes ambient noise mixes so that it sounds like I am sitting in the Slytherin common room at Hogwarts.

 

Base study guides off objectives. 

This is something that is emphasized a lot at my school and I wish I had focused on this more in undergrad. Most professors have a list of learning objectives or focuses that they introduce at the beginning of each new section. Use these to your advantage! They are a fabulous guide to what you should focus your studying on. These topics are likely to be high yield – meaning they’ll show up on a test the most and are thus more worthy of your study time.

 

study guides
Study guides directly based on the list of objectives

 

Teach and be taught. 

They say that you truly understand something when you can teach it to someone else. Now, we don’t all have roommates kind enough for us to teach them all of our lectures. I recommend a study group (my ideal size is 4-7 people) who can talk out hard concepts. If you’re struggling with one topic, try teaching what you can to the group and allow them to jump in when you mess up or forget something. Then do the same for them.

 

I hope some of these tips help you all as much as they helped me with my first exam. Have a great start of the semester and happy studying! 🙂

Medical Student

Wellbeing in Med School

Last year, my senior year of college, I really did not focus on my physical and mental well-being as I should have. I didn’t eat well, was sick often, and rarely exercised or made time for things I loved. I socialized with friends and focused on my academics, but infrequently checked in on how I was doing.

 

How I was last spring is not sustainable now that I am in medical school. If I continue with my old habits, my body will be exhausted and I will definitely fall victim to burn out. Three weeks into medical school and I’m doing much better. I’ve created a few easy rules for myself to follow to force myself to take better care of my body and mental health that I am hoping to maintain. After all, if I’m here to learn how to help my future patients stay healthy, I should probably lead by example.

 

Packing lunches ahead of time

I make 1-2 large meals on the weekends and then have been taking the left overs to school for lunch. I pack everything, being sure to  include healthy snacks the night before so I am not as tempted to pick up some sugary treats while on campus. This has also been helping my budget.

Walking to school 

Sometimes, the 15 minute walk to and from class is the only exercise I get. It’s a nice wake up in the morning and gives me some time to be outside and clear my head. On especially busy days, I multitask and call my mom during it so I can catch up with the family and then solely focus on work when I’m home.

mickey walking

Take my lunch break off

Most days, we get a full hour for lunch. Many take half that time and then study for the rest or get ahead on homework. I try to relax for the full break, chat with friends, or pick up some coffee so I’m refreshed and ready to go for the afternoon lectures.

Commit to things that are important to you

No matter how tired I am, as of now I refuse to not put make up on in the morning even if it means losing out on fifteen extra minutes of rest. Putting on my make-up wakes me up and helps me feel prepared for the day. It’s something I prioritize in my morning routine and I won’t be letting it go any time soon. I will also work extra hard Sunday day so I can enjoy the Game of Thrones finale that night – no way I’m missing that! 😊

Tracking my Interests

In my bullet journal, I track healthy habits and interests including… not hitting the snooze button, hitting my calorie goal, writing, and meditating. By keeping a numeric diary of what I am doing throughout the week encourages me to do them more. Even just a ten minute meditation or twenty minutes creative writing every once in a while is good for me. One of my favorite quotes is “sleep won’t help if it’s your soul that’s tired.” As much as I love science, sometimes my soul needs a more creative break.

Sleep is priority.

Over everything. I got an extra hour yesterday instead of flat-ironing my hair (something I’ve been wanting to do for days) and I have no regrets. My bed is my most important companion these past few weeks and I have no shame in saying that. If I get anything less than 6.5 hours, I’ll be useless and its too early for me to attach myself to a caffeine IV.

Medical Student

First Week as a Medical Student

 

This week, I felt like a future doctor and every once in a while it would hit me, that I’ve made it.

 

I don’t have ‘classes’ per say 

A lot of my loved ones have been asking me which of my classes is hardest or the most interesting. I didn’t really have a clear idea of how class schedule worked in med school so not having set class schedules for the whole semester is different. I have a weekly schedule that I access online. Every day, I have various traditional lectures, workshops, and team based learning activities. Each is usually an hour to an hour and a half and focuses on a specific topic such as enzyme kinetics or protein folding. All of these classes fall under ‘block one’ of my Foundations of Clinical Sciences.

*Note, this is how my medical school does it, others have different structures for curriculum.

Imposter syndrome is real

Being surrounded by people who have had careers, graduate degrees, and more years of chemistry or physics, while exciting, is also terrifying. The other day, I had to ask what ‘vaso-occlusive crisis’ meant and I felt like a moron. In case you were wondering, it’s when sickled blood cells build up in vasculature leading to a painful crisis for sickle cell patients. Some classes, I’m terrified that people will realize I got in on a system glitch. But based on my conversation with my peers, I’m pretty sure everyone feels that way. Plus, the admissions staff seems to have their stuff together so I doubt they make mistakes too often 🙂

imposter syndrome

I will need to change my study style

My study techniques got me through undergraduate courses and the mcat, so yes they have worked. But I do not think they will be sufficient. There’s a saying about retaining all the information from medical school.

It’s like drinking from a fire hose

And it truly is. In one hour of a workshop, I went through approximately one month’s material from an undergraduate lecture. Adjustments will be needed. I’m trying out a few this week including maintaining a cumulative study guide rather than making one right before a test as well as utilizing online material and self-quizzing more frequently. Based on my next exam’s score, I’ll continue adjusting.

I owe Elon a lot

I was so blessed to go to Elon – not only because I loved it and made some amazing friends there, but because my science classes prepared me so well for med school… or at least they have so far haha. We’ve mostly been going over molecular biology, genetics, and biochemistry. My previous undergraduate lectures have allowed me to be familiar with these concepts and I’ve even been able to utilize old notes (because yes, I do save them all).

I am exhausted and have never been more giddy

I am living my dream. When I think about it too much, I honestly start to tear up a little. I feel like I’ve truly found a place where I can be pushed and appreciated and surrounded by people with similar interests to my own. I’ve never felt so immediately comfortable somewhere before (though I am still terrified of keeping up, honestly). I try to remind myself to be grateful any time I forget how incredible this is and start to complain about the workload or lack of sleep. I am a lucky girl indeed to be able to do this and I am privileged to be learning here with so many brilliant classmates and teachers.

me in my white coat
You could say I’m pretty excited
Medical Student

What to do after applications?

I apologize for being AWOL this past month. My laptop completely crashed and I recently moved up to Vermont to start settling in so I haven’t been able to keep up. But things have finally settled down so I promise to start posting more regularly.

 

Now, I know the 2017-2018 medical school application cycle is going on and many of you probably just sent in your primaries. So, I thought I’d share my advice for what to do with your next two months of summer while waiting to receive secondary applications.

med school apps.jpg

 

Check you email constantly.

You’ll be receiving secondaries and updates from AMCAS so make sure to check your email at the very least once a day and check your spam folders as well.

Fill out secondaries ASAP.

The recommendation you’ll often hear is to complete you secondaries within 2 weeks of receiving them so that schools know you are serious. Now, two weeks seems like a lot of time but often you receive them all at once and you have work or school or other obligations, so you just have to do your best to work through them as quickly as possible.

waiting gif
The wait for responses can be exhausting.

Keep information updated.

If you move or any of your information changes such as phone number, GPA, or email, keep all of the schools updated and notified by indicating these changes to your AMCAS profile.

Buy your suit now.

Buy your interview suit now when you can take your time and look for sales. Interviews can be stressful enough without frantically searching for a suit that fits both your body and your budget when you don’t have a lot of time yet. It may seem like you’re jinxing yourself but even if you don’t get an interview this year, you’ll need it in the future and if you get a classic suit, you’ll be able to wear it for many years to come.

Look up possible secondary questions.

There are many forums that discuss past secondary question. Additionally, some students may receive secondaries before you and  post questions on these forums. Having a heads up on the types of questions you’ll be asked can give you an opportunity to start brainstorming and drafting potential answers.

 

 

I hope this information was helpful and good luck during this application cycle!

 

Medical Student

Tips for Writing a Personal Statement

The personal statement for medical school applications can be the most daunting. It’s one page where you can write anything you want about yourself and it’s often the best opportunity to demonstrate who you are besides just your GPA and MCAT scores. Thus, it was the part of my application that I was most stressed about but I ended up with a piece I was pretty happy with. So, I thought I’d share my personal tips that helped me.

who am i

First make a list.

Answer the question “What are you passionate about” and just brainstorm. See what patterns you see and try to pull those out in your writing.

Sound like yourself.

Yes, you want to sound professional but not like there’s a thesaurus is tossing out words.

Have the right people edit.

Have people you trust edit such as your school health committee or career advising. An English major or professor for grammar and spelling. But be wary of having too many people edit it. Too many cooks in the kitchen can leave you with something you’re not happy with.

Focus your paper.

Only highlight 1-2 key experiences from your resume. Otherwise it’ll just read like a laundry list. Mention the 2 most relevant ones to what you’re applying to and use the space to expand on them.

I hope some of these tips help and good luck with your applications!!

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Medical Student · School

Tips for MCAT Test Day

The MCAT is a beast of a test and there are so many tips and tricks to use for preparing for it. However, not a lot of people share their ‘day of’ tips. Here are some of my personal tips for what to do the day of the test based on my personal experience.

survey-opinion-research-voting-fill-159353.jpeg

1. Try to have a relaxing night

Obviously you want a good night’s sleep but if you can’t fall asleep because of nerves, try to do something relaxing that does not include technology. Maybe read a book or journal just to keep your mind at ease and rest.

2. Get there early… duh

You will not be the only one and it will cut down some of your anxiety.

3. Stretch during breaks

You’re going to be sitting for a long time. During my breaks I did full yoga stretches and even sat down on the floor to do the butterfly – I didn’t worry about what I looked like, I just wanted to feel comfortable.

4. Pack smart

I brought plenty of snacks and a cardigan because I tend to get cold.

5. Know the rules

You need proper forms of ID. Also, some places will only let you bring in ear buds to the testing site if they are still in the package so double check this.

6. Don’t make plans

You may be mentally exhausted by the time the test is done. If you want to celebrate after, do so but don’t plan anything too strenuous otherwise you may regret it.

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Book Worm · Medical Student

Book Review: First Person Plural

I recently read First Person Plural: My Life as a Multiple by Cameron West which details the author’s personal struggle with dissociative identity disorder or DID (once called multiple personality disorder).

first person plural

I have read quite a few books detailing individuals with this disorder and their life stories. Many involve quite detailed accounts of the abuse they encountered. Although this book does include upsetting details, the focus is not on what Cameron went through as a child due to a sexually abusive mother and grandmother, but rather it focuses on Cameron’s struggles as an adult. I think this makes this a more approachable story for readers interested in DID who are wary of reading a graphic retelling of abuse.

The story starts with Cameron West, a father in his late thirties, running a successful business and happily married. However, as time goes on he finds that his mind starts to jumble and eventually, he finds other personalities – 24 to be exact.

What is truly amazing about Cameron’s story is the support system he has! His wife Rikki is incredibly supportive. The story includes her own struggles as she tries to help the  man she loves through this journey. Also, reading about how the two decide to tell their young son about what is happening is so interesting. Their son, Kyle, explains how he sees his father’s disorder as well and a child’s perspective is great.

I think that this book is a great find for anyone – either people interested in psychological disorders or practicing physicians. DID is a disorder that is often misunderstood and has serious implications on an individual’s physical health as well. Cameron’s story is a fantastic first step to starting to understand DID and its full impacts on an affected individual’s life.

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