Authored by: Jonathan D. — NYIIT
I graduated 3 years ago from a traditional model US medical school after getting a non-science degree, and looking back now it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was at the time. It changed my life though, for better or worse.
The first year out of college is probably the hardest. You have to learn to adjust to the new life of studying more diligently and giving up many of the small joys and freedoms you’ve come to enjoy in undergrad. The workload is pretty high, and you’ll most likely spend a majority of your time either in class or studying. You learn the language of medicine and begin to use weird words like proximal, superior, anterior and distal in non medical sentences without noticing. What time you have left is often spent talking about class, profs, or studying with other students (try to avoid this). You’ll spend lots of time in the anatomy lab and you get to spend your nights smelling like beef jerky and chemicals. Your non-medical friends ask you all about the bodies. You ride in elevators alone from the stench. In your actual free time you’ll hopefully get to do people things like see friends or date. It’s really not that bad, but you’ll definitely notice a pretty sharp decline in your concept of “free” time. For this reason, most of your second tier friends just disappear. You weren’t hanging with them anyways, so no big deal I guess. All in all, it’s really not that bad. Just different. You’ll feel pretty smart about science type things, and you’re probably right!
Second year You seem to hit the swing of things but the workload increases sharply, and thus your time is further diminished. No more anatomy lab! Pathology is usually the main source of stress due to the sheer volume of information about human disease. You become friends with Robbins and Coltran, and they keep you up at night by mocking your inability to remember the etiology of hypercalcemia in sarcoidosis at 3AM. You will likely diagnose yourself with some rare metabolic disease while you study and isolate yourself from your good friends who have jobs, money, and girlfriends that don’t talk about cranial nerves. It is second year that you risk losing college friends to medicine. There is little or nothing about your new-found knowledge that translates into normal conversation, and you can’t stop thinking about neoplasia and white blood cell dyscrasias. You start getting good at scientific shorthand and your handwriting takes a dip in the toilet as you try to keep up with the lecturers (Try writing in all caps… it helps!). Commas are a thing of the past. No tears are shed as your grammar dies with a whimper. You reach the peak of your social awkwardness (full retard). Everyone in your class is getting ramped up to take USMLE Step I, your first board exam. Mercifully, this is the smartest you will ever be about basic science. Now, you can start worrying about clinicals and the last summer break you will ever have draws to an inexorable end as you taste true freedom one last time. Tears are shed this time.
Year 3 You start wearing your short white coat (aka the Birth Control Coat). You rotate through Internal Medicine, Surgery, Psychiatry, OB/GYN, Family Medicine, Pediatrics, and depending on where you are Emergency and Neurology. Your time is not your own. Your ass now belongs to the attending (big dogs) and the residents (grasshoppers) and (s)he/they do not trust you… not one bit. As a third year, your job is to read, be pimped and not heard. You will be asked increasingly harder questions (pimping) until you get one wrong. Even if you have no clue at the answer, you guess. When you do get one wrong… and you will, the residents will chime in with the right answer and life will move on. This is life now. You survive off of the intellectual leavings of your betters. You are the Gollum of this story. Only this time, you’re invisible for the whole adventure. Your job is to be wrong, admit your ignorance and learn. Students who do not get this principle, or attempt to throw a hard question at a resident in front of an attending will likely earn some form of punishment, like fecal disimpactions, no lunch break, forced late nights doing nothing or extra notes to write in the morning. The inept and socially maladjusted are just ignored. They likely won’t fail you or hate you, because then they’d have to work with you again. They’ll just nothing you and low pass your ass to the next attending. You will meet the hardass attendings (Dr Kelso) that make everyone cry or make you regret being born. You will also meet the ones (Dr Cox) who are so good that you want to impress them and be them. They will both haunt your dreams as they crush your spirit in opposing directions. The dark side has power, the light side has respect. The majority of your friends have forgotten you entirely due to the long and irregular hours in the hospital. You might turn to drink, but you don’t have the money or time. You also take Step 2 Somewhere in here, but I don’t really remember anymore (See ‘turning to drink’).
Fourth year You begin to notice which group you belong with. Nerdy types tend to like medicine. Jocks and egos seem like surgery and ortho. Dudes with small mustaches like pediatrics (BahZing!) and ADHD people like Emergency (That’s me!). At this point you will likely have some semblance of competence or at least optimistic enthusiasm. You’ll have lots of free time, and you’ll use it filling up applications and administrative crap needed for graduation. You might due a couple of rotations in whatever specialty you’ve chosen and then you’ll apply for the match, which is basically the Hunger Games for medical students. There’s a limited number of total residency spots (specialty training jobs), that are available. So you choose your specialty, throw your name into the system and hope you get picked. The strongest get picked first (get their first choice) while the weaker applicants are forced to work in the mines (less competitive programs). Some are forced to “scramble” into a position because they didn’t match at all. This means days of frantic phone calls to programs that did not recruit enough residents, but with a distinct possibility of not getting a job at all. In any case, you may get sent to any program you ranked. Meaning you simply get sent all the way across the country to some sucky program, even if it was the last on your list. Once you match you get to relax a bit. Not much school work or studying. Just getting ready to move and planning. Then graduation hits, and you’re a doctor!!! Congrats!
Next up, Residency!!!
Good advice! Congrats on persevering. Work as hard at being a good doctor as you did in getting into medical…
I am really angry about this virus. I am 71 with several co-morbidity factors and I take care of father…
Good luck on your path to what is a wonderful profession! I still love what I do, after many, many…
I have read Hot Lights Cold Steel.. it’s a good one too
Hope for the best.