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Medical Students

How can Medical Students Benefit from a Strong Support System

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Take a trip down the memory lane. When did you last ask for advice or confided in someone? Did that conversation have a positive effect on you? Did you feel comforted, or perhaps found the solution to a seemingly insurmountable problem? We hope you didn’t have to travel too far back since when the going gets too tough, a strong support system will unequivocally get you through the rigors and challenges of medical school. It is important to surround yourself with the right people, including your peers, professors and advisors, who will steer you through challenges and struggles throughout your academic and professional career. Whether you are experiencing burnout, need a shoulder to lean on, or are looking for some career guidance, let’s explore the importance of a support system in medical school.

Why do Medical Students need Support?

The rigorous intensity of an MD program can burst the bubble of most med school students who aren’t used to such a fast-paced curriculum or such exorbitant academic expectations – nothing short of “drinking from a fire hydrant”. This can lead to feelings of exhaustion, inadequacy, and even total burnout.

Most med students come a long way away from home, which can leave them feeling isolated, and alienated from their at-home support system of family members and loved ones. Majority of them also face academic, financial and personal problems, while some struggle to fit their social life and outside interests around their academic work.  Time constraints, academic failures, peer pressure and life-or-death situations that medical students frequently encounter, can further add to their stress.

Feelings of social isolation, depression, and inadequacy can take a toll on even the strongest students, and they may not be able to navigate these challenges on their own. In fact, according to a study by NIH, students who drop out of med school usually do so within the first year, an alarming insight that highlights the need for strong peer and institutional support system early in a student’s medical school journey.  If burned-out students are not supported at the right time, they may get demotivated and demoralized leading to a shattered self-confidence and stunted personal and professional development. Here are the primary support systems available to medical students studying in the Caribbeans.

Peer Support

Sometimes you need peers who are in the same boat to understand your struggles, celebrate your successes, and cheer you on.  Students often bond over the shared experiences and struggles, building a strong camaraderie that creates another level of support. Studying at a Caribbean medical school means that most students have travelled far from home, leaving the world they knew behind, and must now lean on one another to find support. Whether you just need a little peer support, or a study group to help you grasp complex concepts, or just confide in someone who understands what you’re going through, your peers will technically become your family over the course of your study.

Supportive friends will celebrate your successes and help you learn from your failures, providing the encouragement that you need to meet each challenge with fortitude and a positive attitude. Similarly, whenever you feel overwhelmed or find yourself struggling in school, the peers in your support network will be willing to help you and offer their guidance, insight and strategies for success. Your university may even offer mentoring services where students further into the course support younger students. Connecting with people who have been in your shoes and hearing their experiences first-hand offers great solace and motivation.

Institutional Support

The path to becoming a licensed professional is rife with difficulties and challenges. Most medical students find the combination of academic work, deadlines and clinical placements very demanding. Failures and setbacks can make students question whether they are cut out for a career in medicine. Fortunately, most Caribbean medical schools understand these challenges well and have many resources in place to ease the transition into medical school. Medical students shouldn’t shy away from asking for help from their faculty or academic advisors.

For instance, Windsor University School of Medicine offers a full suite of student support, including psychological counseling, career counseling, specialized coaching, and student accessibility and accommodation services.

Our faculty is readily available to students as they experience the rigorous curriculum of medical education. Each new student is assigned to a faculty adviser, who assists with the initial adjustment to medical school, provides advice and counsel on academic and non-academic issues, and helps the student identify resources to assist with career interests and professional goals.

The faculty and alumni of the WUSOM help medical students in obtaining postgraduate residency, by providing information on examination, clinical rotation, time schedules and obtaining postgraduate training to help you navigate the residency application process. They advise students on Step I and II of USMLE preparation, counsel students in specialty and residency selection, interview skills, CV preparation and the residency application process in the United States, PLAB exam of the United Kingdom and other country programs. Additionally, students can also seek individual counseling and psychotherapy to deal with anxiety, depression, stress, substance addiction, and career uncertainty.

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