What I wish I'd known at the start of medical school: Top tips for newbie medics

Congratulations! After years of hard work, dedication and jumping through countless hoops, you’ve finally made it out of high school and are embarking on the next step – medical school. The next few years are arguably some of the most formative and (if you do it right) enjoyable period of your life. However, there’s a few things I wish someone had told me as a fresher to really get the most out of my time in medicine.

  • Don’t waste your student loan buying every single textbook… Don’t make the mistake of buying all the recommended textbooks when the majority will be destined for nothing more than gathering dust on the bookshelf. Ask around, find out what textbooks are really worth buying, and see if you can buy them second hand or if your university library can order them in for you because you seriously don’t want to blow your whole student loan on your personal library.
  • Trust yourself… naturally when you start anything new, it’s always comforting to hear what your peers are doing and to follow their lead. However, it can be really easy to get lost in the two extremes of “secret studiers” (those who pretend they never study) and “big talkers” (those who say they’re never out of the library). Don’t listen to anyone, just make your own study schedule and trust yourself, there’s no one who knows how much work you need to do other than yourself.
  • Know your limits… Medical school is a marathon, and not just an ordinary one, it’s like one of those ultra-marathons, so pace yourself. There is a never-ending amount of information, and unlike your A Levels, it is humanly impossible to learn it all – Trust me, I’ve tried. It’s so important to know when to stop because you honestly don’t need to know everything to pass or even excel in exams. And if you feel the pressure is getting to you, don’t hesitate to speak to someone, chances are other people are feeling the same way.
  • Medicine isn’t learnt in the library… When you start clinical placements, get involved and spend time in the hospital. The vast majority of doctors are keen to teach but just aren’t sure if you’re keen to learn, so be confident, introduce yourself, and be inquisitive. You’ll only get out as much as you put in.
  • Invest time in a non-medical interest… As amazing as the medical degree is, it can be all consuming! Without even realising, you can end up getting completely sucked into the medical abyss. So, if you play a sport/have a hobby keep it up, if you don’t, start one. Even just a couple of hours a week where you can switch off medical mode, will do your mind a world of good and keep you sane.
  • Finally, work hard play hard… The next few years will be some of the most gruelling of your life, and speaking from experience, medical school can really push you to your limits. There’s plenty of work to be done, but there is always time for fun and no matter how busy things get, set time aside to see your pals and let your hair down. You’ve earnt an amazing opportunity to make lifelong friends and experience an extremely rewarding degree together. Take advantage of the camaraderie that comes with the degree, put yourself out there, have fun at the socials and enjoy your time, because in the blink of an eye, you’ll all be donning those graduation gowns and will be let loose on the wards!

Thank you for your contribution - The Next Step team