If you have ever visited Student Doctor Network or r/medicalschool, you may be discouraged to see that everybody there is having a tough time and hates medical school and their life because of it. So this begs the question, Is medical school hard? Is it as bad as you hear? Is it the soul-sucking experience that takes away from your life? The answer may surprise you.
The fact of the matter is, as a medical doctor, you literally have people’s lives in your hands. People’s livelihood depends on your knowledge and decisions. If your parent or yourself needed medical service, would you want someone as your doctor that had to prove themselves over and over again and worked their butt off or someone that just scraped by? Exactly. It’s supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to challenge you. Look at the barrier to entry. Look how hard you work to even get in. So yes, it is challenging but is it as bad as they say. No, no it is not.
The Fire Hose Analogy
The things you learn in medical school are not particularly difficult. They are fairly straightforward concepts that need to be applied to complex problems. Even if your professors are not the best, there are tons of free online videos on YouTube that can confirm concepts for you. What makes it tough though is the volume of information. The pace at which you have to learn is much higher than college and by the time you learn one thing, the next 10 are ready for you. It is often described as drinking water from a firehose.
The fix: Study efficiently and work smart, not hard. Check out our other episodes and posts on how to study properly.
Being Comfortable With Discomfort
The other thing that makes med school hard is the fact that the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know. Most med students are type-A people used to being the top of their class and knowing what’s going on. This changes once you become a med student however as you find yourself at the bottom of the totem pole climbing your way up. This is a tough place to be because you will find yourself forgetting the information you learn, and not knowing how to apply it as time goes on. You will be under the control and supervision of residents and attendings that know a lot more than you and some who will use that to their advantage.
The Fix: Do what you can and enjoy the process. Learn to be patient and understand that this is a long journey and you are not expected to be an expert as a student. You are there to learn so learn, and ignore people who make you feel bad about it.
Life Doesn’t Pause For You
Medical school and becoming a doctor are just parts of your life. The other parts; relationships, hobbies, life goals won’t be addressed by it. Those are still things you have to manage on the side and figure out for yourself. Med school can be busy on its own but also having to figure out life on the side can take it over the top. Most people are in their early 20s going to medical school which are the formative years of your life. Sometimes, it can take away from “normal people life” experiences that you may have otherwise had and this can lead to med school feeling hard.
The Fix: Time management. Study efficiently and get your work done in a productive manner. This will free up a lot of time (at least the first two years) for you to do all these things on the side.
As you get older, and go through medical school, there are often more questions than there are answers. What specialty do I want to do? Will I match? Where will I match? Do I want a family? Where will I meet my significant other? Where will I live? These questions can seem to all come at you at once and cause an existential crisis. But understand that these questions and confusion in life are normal in everybody’s life, not just medical students’. Some things are just present in life in general that you have to deal with and medical school alone can’t just take the blame for it.
The Fix: Take time for yourself and lay out the goals you have in each area of your life (health, relationships etc). Do everything you can daily to make progress towards those goals. Find mentors and upper years in medical school (especially in the specialty you want) and ask them questions and for guidance. Other than that, enjoy the journey and understand that you will never know it all.
So all in all, medical school is challenging, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Do whatever you can to make the journey as smooth as possible and I promise you, you can enjoy med school.