How to be a medical student


Being a medical student is a piece of cake. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

If someone says medical school is too demanding, then they shouldn’t be here in the first place. I can tell that you’re different. I can see that twinkle in your eye. You’re gonna make a great doctor someday. You need to cut these negative people out of your life; they’re only going to drag you down. You’re tougher than that. You’re made of stronger stuff. You’ve got a bright future. Nevermind these old docs who say the golden age of medicine is over. Nevermind these physician surveys with job dissatisfaction creeping higher every year. Nevermind these “abandon all hope ye who enter here” comments from your mentors. Nevermind the skyrocketing divorce rates, burnout rates, suicide rates … they’re all just old and bitter. They’re quitters.

They’re jealous of your youth, OK?

Look, you’re going to be a doctor. That’s what you’ve always wanted, right? If you wanted a normal career you would have gone into business. This is a calling for you, remember? You couldn’t fathom doing anything else with your life. But listen up, because I’m only going to say this once. Hear me now or hear me never! It’s not all peaches and cream. But you can handle it … I believe in you. Raise some hell, and when the dust settles, you’ll be on top. You’ll see. Just follow these tried-and-true steps.

First things first: Go out and get yourself an exorbitant amount of debt. No, bigger than that. Bigger. I’m talking a 2018-Lamborghini-Huracan amount of debt. A 2018 Lamborghini Huracan with all the options. We’re talking the transparent engine bonnet with the carbon-forged engine bay, the 20” titanium Mimas rims, dynamic steering, hands-free Bluetooth, five-year warranty — all of it.

Don’t get intimidated. You can’t afford to get spooked now. (You can’t afford anything, ha!) Don’t worry about it, this is just how it’s done. You gotta get some skin in the game. You gotta spend money to make money. (And if it’s someone else’s, so what?) This is personal finance 101. Anyone worth their salt in the business world will tell you that the best way to start your adult life is by chaining yourself to $300,000 of unforgivable debt. Don’t sweat it, kid. Just let it permeate every aspect of your life. Let it simmer at the back of all your thoughts. Let it hover over everything you do like a black cloud. Let it keep you up at night as you stare wide-eyed at your dark ceiling. That’s how you know you’re on the right track.

The next step is to learn everything — all of it. Hurry up! You should probably stop reading this and get back to work. You’re burning daylight, Pilgrim! “Medical school is like drinking from a firehose, just drink as much as you can.” Haha, right? Except don’t drink as much as you can, drink all of it. Shove that fire hose down your esophagus and straight into your stomach and crank that lever to full-blast. Better yet get that fire hose hooked up to an IV. Get one in each arm and each leg. Absorb it all, dammit. Remember, this is all going to be on boards, so don’t forget anything. That test will determine the rest of your life; it’s never too early to start studying. You better get going. This is a slacker-free zone.

And you can’t forget to do your extracurriculars, that is absolutely crucial. Puff up your CV until it’s absolutely bloated. You gotta wear a lot of hats if you go down this road. You want to match into that residency program you want? You want to even match into the specialty you want? You better be one abstract-writing, soup-kitchen-volunteering, magna-cum-laude-earning, club-leading, conference-attending, research-poster-presenting, program-director-networking, scholarship-earning, demonstrably benevolent, magnanimous, intelligent, well-rounded stone-cold killer. You’ll make time. You won’t hold a candle to your competition if you don’t. You better believe they are juggling all these plates. You need to throw them higher.

Bonus points: Get married and start a family. Make sure that as many people depend on you as possible. Gamble their futures along with yours. Let the terror of ruining someone else’s life give you the energy to work harder. Do it for them. They will know how much you love them by how little they see you.

The most important part: Pick up the world and put it on your shoulders. Your patients are putting their sacred trust in your hands, you better not let them down. Do you want to be that know-nothing doctor stumbling around the hospital? Do you want to be the one that maims or kills a patient? You need you to be better than your best. You need to be supernatural. Get there first, leave last. Five minutes early is ten minutes too late. Haven’t you read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? Here’s an eight: Be perfect.

Take comfort in the fact that it only gets worse from here. Put in 12-hour days, put in 16-hour days. Hell, sleep at the school. You better believe you’re going to sleep at the hospital during residency. Get used to dozing off in strange places. Come on; you’re a tough cookie, you can take it. Get ready to decipher complex medical problems in life-or-death situations on two hours of sleep. See one, do one, teach one. We’re only as strong as our weakest link … is that going to be you?

Here’s a fun old joke: What’s the problem with spending 90 percent of the week in the hospital? You miss 10 percent of the patients! Haha, don’t worry about it, that’s just our world-famous gallows humor. Welcome to the martyr culture. You need to find humor in the absurd if you’re gonna survive here, kid. You’ll think it’s funny real soon. You’re next in line for the sacrificial altar.

Start laughing.

Jake Eggett is a medical student and can be reached on Twitter @jakeeggett.

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