The Finish Line: On the race that is medical school and where we go wrong

By Erin Stewart

From the moment we enter into medical school, we have entered a race. We are constantly achieving remarkable things, but do we ever really stop and appreciate them before the next stage of the race begins again? Where is there time to slow down and appreciate all we have achieved? Entry into medical school, exam results, fun clinical placements, an internship spot..?

As a final year medical student, we are currently awaiting/receiving internship interview offers and, soon, our internship offers themselves. While this is a very nerve racking and exciting time, it is another step in the road of an ever-changing journey. Throughout medical school we are always awaiting something. We await exam results, clinical placements, the exciting changing of the new academic year. All with the end game of finishing medical school and getting out into the hospital system as a ‘real doctor’.

However, when you do near that end it becomes apparent that the race has not ended — it’s only just begun. By handing out internship offers in July, you inevitably look towards finishing the final year of medical school and moving onto internship. But with all that haste, we are not focusing on the great experiences and challenges we are faced with in the final half of fifth year and instead see it as another hurdle to overcome before moving onto the next challenge.

It would be great to slow down and enjoy the ride. This ride will last a lifetime, so why are we rushing? As a cohort, medical students are driven, high achieving students who are always looking for ways to better themselves, always striving for the next challenge and the next step. It is also a consequence of the system in which we are based. Not only in medical school do we take each step year by year, as a working doctor life goes year by year as well (sometimes in six monthly blocks) and you are again moving onto the next stage of your career. Medicine itself has constructed a race-like system for its medical students and doctors alike.

The race is never ending. Whether you have just finished the first six months of medical school or you are nervously awaiting internship offers, we are all in the same boat. We all have a journey which will most likely take us our lifetime to complete.

I wish there was less of a rush. I wish I spent time in the first years of medical school listening to those interesting lectures that wouldn’t come up on the exam. I wish I didn’t research physician training pathways in third year and instead used that time to sit and listen to the elderly patient talk about his family. I wish I didn’t listen to the senior consultant who said that you needed to publish two research papers before the end of third year.

Just enjoy your time, no matter the year level. No matter how fast you race onto the next challenge, there will be another challenge waiting behind the corner. So what are we rushing for? Enjoy the experiences in front of you right now.


Featured image by Krzysztof Mizera at Wikimedia Commons.

Medical school vs. friendships

By Sherihan Goni

Med school is tough. Between the crazy influx of information, long hours of study trying to keep up, many many cups of coffee and the all-consuming, exhausted sleep that follows, often it becomes hard to maintain a social life. It becomes really easy to isolate oneself from people, to hide behind a laptop and piles of books, until one day you sadly realise you’re better acquainted with the grooves on your desk than actual people.

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On Suicide: Let’s Start With Honesty

By Grace Scolyer

“If more people talked about what leads to suicide, if people didn’t talk about it as if it was shameful, if people understood how easily and quickly depression can take over, then there might be fewer deaths.”

-The wife of Dr Andrew Bryant, Brisbane gastroenterologist who committed suicide three weeks ago

I have only ever admitted to three people in the world the deepest extent of the depression. All three of them forced it out of me, asked me at points where I was too weak to lie, to scared not to admit it, terrified of how they would react but even more terrified of what I could do to myself if I kept it in any longer.

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Stressing About Stress

By Anthony Honigman

“Can you chase those bloods?”  “Yes, but what’s your management plan for this patient?”  “Have you even looked at the VIA practice questions yet?”  These questions alone are enough to raise the cortisol levels in any budding young medical student!

While some of these are asked tongue-in-cheek, one question still remains — why are we as medical students, and eventual working doctors, so prone to work-related stress and anxiety?

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The tireless pursuit of a good night’s sleep

By Grace Scolyer

If I could make one generalisation about the specific problems with self-care that medical students have, and why our physical and mental wellbeing is so much poorer than the general population, it would be that it all comes down to time.

We have 24 hours a day: depending on the day of the week and your year level, around eight to ten of which will be contact hours, one will be travelling, one will be getting ready, two will be breaks taken for food and coffee, two will be note-taking or preparing for the next day, two to four will be additional study. Leaving four to eight hours. To socialise, watch TV, exercise, meal prep, or scroll through Facebook. And, if we have time, sleep. It’s not always as simple as putting your phone on do not disturb or trying to avoid caffeine after 2pm – it can be ridiculously hard to get a decent night’s sleep.

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Surviving FOMOitis

By Isobel Blackwood

So, you’ve just heard that your friend Jamie has found a consultant to do a ‘quick research project on haemorrhoids’ with on the side, and that Alisha has decided to fly to Sweden to attend the World Congress on Hand Hygiene. You also found out that May is giving up her holidays to volunteer at a medical clinic on a remarkably isolated island, and that Steve has been voted in as the president of no less than three student-run societies.

And then they ask you what you’re up to…

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Sunshine on a rainy day: On sunlight and wellbeing

By Erin Stewart

In this author’s humble opinion, autumn and winter are the best seasons of the year! It’s cosy, scarfs become mainstream, the ski fields start to open and hot chocolates become essential. A whole range of brilliant things! However, as summer disappears, the days become shorter, the sun is covered more and more by cloud and inevitably, the sunshine becomes less frequent.

Sunshine is such an important element of our wellbeing and happiness. So how can we enjoy the coming cooler months but also make sure we keep up with the essential Vitamin D our body needs as well as that sunshine to brighten our mood?

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An open letter to first years: You’re doing fine

By Grace Scolyer & Alannah Murray

To our new medical students,

Relax.

It’s going to be okay. No, really, you’re going to be okay. I know you feel like your world has shrunk and exploded at the same time – after spending so long as a big fish in a small pond, you’re now in an ocean crowded with bigger fish (and it’s pretty hard to breathe underwater anyway). Don’t forget to be kind to yourself.

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On running (away from your responsibilities)

By Calypso Magyar and Maisie Hands

For many, the stress of medical school and need to study can get in the way of partaking in physical activity. You tell yourself that you got way more than 10,000 steps in while walking around the hospital so you don’t need to do anything more on top of that, or that you can’t afford to take an hour off from all that anatomy you need to learn. Unfortunately that physical activity is often coloured by the stress of the day and doesn’t give you any space to unwind.

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Sharing the Burden

By Grace Scolyer & Alannah Murray

How to Speak

When I first noticed that my brain wasn’t working the way it used to, it wasn’t tragically melancholic like I expected. Addressing, admitting, and conveying my depressed thoughts was embarrassing, confusing, strange, and disorientating. More than anything though, it was just plain awkward explaining what was going on — but I knew it was time to let someone else share the burden, because I was scared of what would happen if I didn’t.

Since then, I’ve had plenty of strange, vulnerable, and poorly-segued conversations with my friends, family, and doctors, trying to explain the messy parts of my brain. Here’s what I have learnt.

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