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5 Habits You Need to Cultivate Before Starting Medical School

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Congratulations on finally making it to medical school and stepping one step closer to realizing your dreams. If you still have some time before classes start, you must be feeling jitters of apprehension hearing about how challenging medical school can be. While you cannot change the demands of this challenging field, you can nevertheless cultivate some fruitful habits prior to starting medical school that will help you make the most of medical education, while allowing you to foster a sense of personal well-being.

Make Sleep a Priority

It is not uncommon for new medical school entrants to burn the midnight oils to keep up with the copious amount of information that they are expected to learn, which is why they are perpetually sleep deprived. However, you would soon learn (the hard way) that you cannot perform well without sleeping at least 6-8 hours each night. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule would help you get a jump start on your day and give you the energy and cognitive boost to stay upbeat and motivated throughout the day. Since a better part of your first year would be spent running between classrooms, lecture halls, and, labs, it is all the more important to maintain adequate sleep hygiene to be able to focus well and stay alert. Before embarking on your medical school journey, we advise all students to try to sleep at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Also, refrain from checking your phone or binging on videos once you have settled in for the night. The quality of sleep you obtain night after night reflects on your performance in your Caribbean medical school. After all, numerous studies have linked quality of sleep with one’s memory and learning capability.

Learn the Value of Puntuality

If you often found yourself running late to classes or important events in your pre-medical program, perhaps you need to turn over a new leaf. When it comes to medical school classes and events, we cannot stress the importance of attendance and punctuality enough. We often see new medical school students scrambling to find their classrooms and labs during the first few weeks of starting medical school, because they didn’t consider arriving earlier or mapping routes beforehand. Remember that all successful physicians and surgeons value time and make sure to arrive to procedures earlier than their teams, to set up and be prepared. If you are apprehensive about running late to classes, labs or exams we advise setting your clocks back by a few minutes. If you are not a morning person, you could set up multiple alarms, spaced a few minutes apart, to help you wake up on time. Remember that arriving earlier to tests or classes give you ample time to review your notes or revise previous concepts, as well as settle in without worrying.

Learn Time Management

Despite what anybody has ever told you about medical school, here’s the reality: you cannot cram for medical school. If you start falling behind on your lessons at the onset of the medical school, material will continue to pile up and you will eventually face an insurmountable mountain of coursework just a few weeks into the semester.  The only way to stay on top of your lessons is to get organized. As a rule of thumb, plan to accomplish 24 hours of study time each week, and divide that time effectively between modules. Allow yourself some extra time to cover a more difficult topic, and be sure to organize your study material, books and notes in a way that is easily accessible and conducive to efficient studying.

Don’t forget to prepare a schedule for the next day. Creating a daily schedule and sticking to it as much as possible will help you divide your time between reviewing course material, attending classes, participating in extracurricular activities, and most importantly, catching a breath. Throughout medical school, you will learn how to stay organized and prioritize your tasks, so why not practice at home for early medical school success!

Seek Out Mentors

As medical school would teach you, you should never shy away from asking for help. A common trait of highly successful medical students is that they gain much from the experience and expertise of their mentors and teachers, and accept their help.  There’s only so much that textbooks can teach you; but your support network can offer real-world guidance, encouragement and a listening ear.  Your teachers, peers and mentors can actually prepare you for a successful career in medicine and help you understand the real-life implications of being a healthcare provider. Someone with years of experience in your field can understand your pain points and guide you in the right direction, since they were once in your shoes. Seek out mentors in your Academic advisors, professors, and teaching assistants and don’t be afraid to reach out to them when you need help.

Strengthen your Relationships

Do you believe that getting together with friends and strengthening social ties is nice, but not necessary? Harvard Medical School’s Women’s Health Watch reports otherwise. Humans thrive on social connections and relationships. Research says that people who build and maintain deep relationships with family, friends and peers are generally happier, more relaxed and live better. Regular interactions with likeminded peers and friends relieve stress and gives you the mental and emotional support you need to cope with the demands of medical school. Even if you are not a social butterfly, we recommend that you practice socializing before starting medical school. Even when the rigors of medical school limits free time with your family and friends, your medical classmates and peers become your greatest support system.

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