Keep it in Mind: Five Points to Help Keep Things in Perspective

By David Chen


Medical school can be stressful. In the preclinical years, we are bombarded with mountains of lectures that leave us feeling constantly behind. When we finally enter our clinical years, we are thrown into the scary world of wards and theatres with little knowledge and guidance on how to make the most of our clinical experience. Added on are the many exams, assignments, extra-curricular responsibilities and the busy schedule that comes with being a medical student. With so many things to handle, it is not surprising that there is such a high rate of burnout amongst medical students and doctors. While I cannot make a magic pill that can relieve medical students of stress, I have tried to come up with 5 points to help medical students keep things in perspective when things are tough:

  1. Even the best of students encounter difficulties and obstacles. If you find yourself struggling, remember that you are not alone and that there are others who are feeling the same way. There is no shame in seeking support from friends, family, staff or your doctor – often, we just need some help to get us back onto track. Also, don’t forget your own role of supporting your peers in medical school.
  2. If you feel as if your marks are not good enough or that you do not know as much as your peers, remember that you are in a cohort of the brightest students in Australia. Getting into medical school is already an amazing feat and shows that you are a talented individual with a lot of potential. Remember, P’s get degrees – you do not have to get the top marks to be a great doctor. In fact, most academic staff do not believe that marks are a good reflection of how good of a doctor you will be.
  3. You are most likely doing better than you think you are. Often, it is not that your peers know more than you, but it is that you have all studied different topics and therefore, each know some areas of medicine better than others.
  4. When you have a seemingly impossible task, remember that you probably have greater capability than you give yourself credit. Looking back, I am sure we can all think of moments when we managed to overcome an obstacle that seemed impossible at the time (e.g. completing your 5000 word case report or doing well in an exam that you thought you failed). The only thing you can do is to try your best and sometimes, the results can be surprising.
  5. Even if you do perform worse than you had hoped for or receive a result that you see as a failure, think about all the people who failed many times before they became successful. Jim Carrey was booed off stage after his first comic stand-up and Oprah Winfrey was fired by her producer as she was “unfit for television”. Often, a failure (e.g. not getting the hospital you want) can be a blessing in disguise and lead to opportunities that you would not have had otherwise.

We all know how difficult medical school can be at times. Hopefully, these 5 points can give you some guidance and help keep things in perspective during these tough moments.

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