Articles and Case Studies

Making the Most of Medical School

18 Mar 2013


Sarah Maltby

Commencing medical school is an exciting and anxious time in any new medical student’s life. First of all, congratulate yourself. You did it! All your hard work has paid off, so make sure you take time to enjoy your accomplishments. Medical school is an equally challenging and rewarding experience and it is very easy to get caught up in the endless studying and lose sight of the bigger picture. Your time at university is to prepare you for your career as a doctor, so while learning the material is highly important, it is equally important to learn other skills that will assist you in your career.

Here are some ideas to help you make the most of your time in medical school.

1. Get involved?

I can’t stress this one enough. It is possible to get through medical school by keeping your nose in the books and limiting your extra-curricular activities, but I would encourage you to participate in as much as you can. Seek out opportunities to volunteer some of your time.  It is a fantastic way to meet new people and network with peers in areas of medicine you are interested in, but also a great way to develop communication and organisational skills that will assist in your professional development. Whether it’s through an official student committee role or assisting with exam preparation/ interviews, the experiences you will have are invaluable.  Plus, it will look good on your CV when you are applying for jobs in the future.

2. Keep an open mind 

Some of you will already have a specialty in mind; others will have no idea yet, but try to enter every rotation you undertake with an open mind. I guarantee that some of the rotations you were dreading will actually end up being your favourites and many of you will leave medical school focused on a completely different specialty than what you were originally thinking.

3. Network, network and network

In medicine it’s not always about what you know, it’s also about who you know, so take opportunities to meet new people. Your supervisors can be excellent sources of information about career paths,  research opportunities and even general life advice, so don’t be afraid to talk to them! They were once in your shoes and most will be more than happy to help.MDA National encourages collegiality and networking. Visit our student Facebook page to get connected.

4. Get a mentor

A student a year or two ahead of you is an invaluable contact person. They can help answer questions about what to expect in the following years and provide you with some tips on how to get through. I would also recommend finding a professional mentor once you have a better idea which career paths appeal to you. They can provide you with advice about how to get into their specialty, including tips on applying to the colleges, research requirements,  opportunities and ways in which to strengthen your CV.

At MDA National, we have Ambassadors at each stage of a doctor’s career life stage so please don’t hesitate to contact your Relationship Manager who can put you in touch with your local Ambassador.

5. Have a life outside of medicine

Medicine is highly competitive and it is very easy to get caught up in competition with your peers for top marks in the course. This can however, be extremely detrimental to your self-confidence and mental health and it’s really not worth putting yourself under that pressure. Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter if you get an A… really. Studying should not be your only activity, so try to pursue at least one interest outside of medicine.

6. Stay healthy

Medical school is hard and being a junior doctor is even harder. Your health is important, so take care of yourself. Everyone (and I mean everyone) will have times when they feel overwhelmed. Try to develop some good coping strategies to manage stress while you are studying, so you can apply them later in your career. Go to the gym. Take breaks when you need them. Spend time with friends and family outside of medicine. Make sure you have a GP, and most importantly, if you are starting to struggle, seek out some help from the university or the counsellors available on campus.   The years at medical school really are incredible years in your life, so make the most of them and enjoy yourself!

MDA National offers Members our Doctors for Doctors and Live Well Study Well program. 



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