A Week in the Life of a First Year Medical Student

Not one of my more interesting blog posts, but nevertheless here is a typical week in the life of a first year medical student. If you notice gaps in the schedule I am probably either sleeping, eating, calling my family to catch up, or trying to get a run in. There is a ton of work in medical school, but it is definitely doable (maybe even a little enjoyable). I have plenty of time off to do some of the things that I am interested in. All in all, I pretty much love medical school 90% of the time. By the way...all of the following goes out the window the week before a test. I literally, no exaggeration, study for at least 10-12 hours a day, every day for 5 or 6 days. That sucks.

Monday

6:45 AM - This it the time I wake up every single weekday. That way I can take my time getting ready. I have a coffee, breakfast, shower and make sure I have all my things packed up for lecture. I also check emails and make sure that I don't have to be dressed up or anything special.

8:00 - 12:00 AM - There are 4 lectures every single morning. The topics vary: anatomy, biochemistry, cell biology, physiology, neuroscience, clinical skills, careers in medicine, guest speakers on interesting research or other opportunities, etc. Most days the school does a good job of mixing up the subjects so that we don't get saturated by the same subject. Attendance to these lectures is not mandatory 95% of the time. However I usually try to go to all the lectures. I like listening in person, but I write down very few notes. There are plenty of students who sleep in and/or just listen to all the lectures via recordings.

12:00 - 1:00 PM - Lunch, the most sacred of breaks. No matter what is going on, I don't study during this period. I eat with friends or attend random meetings/presentations for free food.

This is the base schedule Monday - Friday for a standard (non-test) week. I will not rewrite this part for each day. 

1:00 - 3:00 PM - Anatomy Lab CoTeach - Each human cadaver is shared by 6 medical students. However, only 3 of us are dissecting on any single day. Therefore we meet once a week as a full group to teach each other what has been done. There are usually review questions, and lots of professors around to guide us through the body. Very little dissecting is actually during co-teach sessions.

3:00 - 7:00 PM - Study

7:00 PM - Midnight - Watch Monday Night Football, mess around on the internet, or if the game isn't interesting to me, I usually catch up on shows that I missed during the rest of week via Hulu or iTunes. I like to start off the week slowly so that I don't burn out on day 1.

Tuesday

Typical morning and lunch

1:00-3:30 PM - Small Group Meeting. This is one of my favorite activities of the week. There are 9 medical students and 2 preceptors (clinical MD's) in each small group. Each week, 3 of us will practice our medical history and physical exam on a standardized patient. The others will observe, practice their patient write-ups, and give feedback to the interviewers. We go over clinical skills and just work on getting better with talking to patients. Our small group is already really close-knit and our preceptors are super nice and helpful so it is an enjoyable break from the classroom.

4:00 PM - Midnight - Some combination of dinner, emails and studying...with studying taking up 90% of that time. Tuesdays are one of my heavy study days. Always try to be asleep by midnight though.

Wednesday

Typical morning and lunch

2:00 - 6:00 PM - Study (getting a picture of how things are in medical school yet?). Roughly every third week we are in the simulation lab learning on super expensive medical dummies how to do an assortment of doctor-like things.

6:00 - 11:00 PM - Date Night - My girlfriend and I have carved out a portion of each week that is sacred from studying, emails, and all other commitments. We do dinner and a movie, or a wine-tasting, or trashy TV and popcorn. It is situated right in the middle of the week so that we stay sane.

Thursday

Typical morning and lunch

1:00 - 4:00 PM - Anatomy Lab - Here is when my group is doing dissections. Depending on the body part, the time can either fly by or be incredibly aggravating. I love my dissection group though, we get along and talk about pretty much everything. It really is the best way to learn human anatomy, it just sometimes isn't the most fun (or best smelling) experience.

7:00 - 11:00 PM - Study, study, study - try to catch up

Friday

Typical morning and lunch

I love Friday afternoons, we almost never have any commitments. I usually take the afternoon off, although once we are within a week or two of the test I will be in the library.

Saturday and Sunday

SLEEP IN BOTH DAYS!!!!

I plan my weekends around whether my favorite college and professional football teams have big games. I know that I need to get in 10-12 hours of study total over a typical weekend. I also play intramural flag football every Sunday. Weekends are generally awesome, except before tests when I will be in library more than I am at home.

 

 

Welcome to the Anatomy Lab

This is a repost of an article I wrote for KevinMD. I hope you enjoy it.  After a week of medical school orientation, followed by two weeks in the classroom studying cellular organelles and biochemical pathways, our class was finally going to start the centuries-old rite of passage that is human gross anatomy. For many students, it will be first time seeing a dead body. The anatomy lab is where future surgeons will make their first cut with a scalpel, without the pressure of life and death. It is where the ability to visualize organs and spatial relationships within a living body will be honed. It is also the place where medical students begin, for better and for worse, to become desensitized.

On the morning of the big day, professors lectured us, trying to prepare the class to walk into a cold room full of 30+ dead bodies. We were shown pictures of cadavers, videos on proper dissection techniques, and given rules and regulations of the cadaver lab. However, as is often the case, hearing about an experience is not quite the same as living it.

Our first round in the anatomy lab was smartly scheduled in the afternoon, hours after lunchtime. Although most students claimed to be excited (only one friend admitted to being hesitant about the whole thing), the locker rooms were very quiet. Before every laboratory session we use this locker room to change into scrubs, white coats, and close-toed shoes that will end up so stained, and smell so strongly that they will never be worn anywhere else. After changing, it is only a short ride up the service elevator to the cadaver lab.

As you walk into the lab, it is impossible not to notice all of the sealed black body bags sitting on stainless steal tables. The lab is a huge white room and also extremely cold. This is due to the constant current of cool air blowing through the room to prevent smells from stagnating. There are large orange “biohazard” buckets under each table that will be used to retain bits and pieces of human skin, fat, connective tissue, and other body parts that become separated from the cadaver over the course of the year.

On day one, after my dissection team of 3 is assembled around the table, we unzip the bag, and finally meet “our” body. He is an elderly gentleman, not skinny or particularly overweight. He is laying face up, although a sheet covers most of his body. During this first lab session we must flip our cadaver onto his stomach into the prone position. Honestly, I think this is done to make us appreciate the term “dead weight.” We then learn some surface anatomy on the back, finding bodily landmarks that can be felt through the skin, before sealing the bag back up, and quickly leaving.

Cutting begins a day later. Our list of muscles, nerves, and blood vessels to find and identify has been printed and laminated to prevent oil from body fat from soaking through it. My medical school, like most others, starts dissections on the back of the cadaver for two main reasons. The first being that it takes time and practice to become good at dissecting, and the chances of destroying the large muscles of the back are fairly low. Secondly, a cadaver’s back is one of the more impersonal body areas, thus protecting a medical student’s innocence just a while longer.

The hours seem to fly by in the anatomy lab. It takes a lot of time to cut through skin, remove fat, find the borders of muscles, and carefully dissect out delicate nerves and blood vessels. Entire afternoons are spent finding a handful of structures. For the first time in my life, I have cramps in the muscles of my hands. Luckily, my lab group develops a bit of a system. While one of us uses the dissection guide and illustrated anatomy atlas to be the “navigator” of the body, the other two cut, probe, and search the cadaver for familiar ground. Along the way we are constantly confronted with surreal moments. Hours into lab, while skinning the shoulder area, I realize I have been resting my forearm on the back of my cadaver’s head. I start to notice tattoos, nail polish, scars, or even pacemakers on cadavers around me. One of my lab partners says, “cool” as she flexes the finger of our cadaver by pulling on a tendon in his wrist. And it is cool.

Nothing about this experience is normal, yet it has become routine, as I spend two afternoons a week with my cadaver and will continue to do so for the next 6 months. Honestly, I haven’t had much of a reaction to being in constant contact with a physical reminder of death…at least not yet. Most days in lab, there just isn’t enough time to reflect on what I am actually doing. There is always more to do: more structures to find, or other cadavers to see for a different perspective. I think staying busy helps. As you probably know, medical school is full of “type-A” personalities. So when our professors tell our class that we will be tested on identifying structures from each cadaver, we can push aside thoughts of death, and the fact that these structures once belonged to someone’s grandmother or father or child.

That’s not too say that medical students are heartless or that the system is churning out apathetic physicians. Lab groups become attached to their cadavers. For instance, you’ve probably noticed I have been using the possessive “our” while referencing my group’s assigned cadaver. Most groups name their cadaver, and we use a sheet to modestly cover up areas of the body that won’t be dissected that day. We were lectured on the importance of respect and confidentiality towards our cadavers, but I think it was largely unnecessary. Our medical school class realizes what a sacrifice and gift that the donors of these bodies have given to us in furthering our education. Therefore, respect is always given to these cadavers. I sincerely hope that my donor’s family knows how much he was helping me learn, because seeing illustrated diagrams and attending lectures is no way to master this complex subject.

Within weeks of starting medical school, I take part in a tradition that has helped train thousands of physicians before me. Anatomy lab is a part of medical school that all physicians remember and have strong feelings about. However the act of dissecting cadavers sets me apart from 99% of my family, friends, and peers. Never is that more evident than on the phone with my mom trying to describe my day. I often will say that anatomy lab was “good” or “pretty uneventful today,” because I just don’t know what or how to say anything else. I guess you have to be there to explain what it is like to hold organs in your hands, to physically follow the path of nerves down the arm, or to spend hundreds of hours cutting apart another human’s body.

How to Avoid Hospital Hostility: A Nurse’s Perspective

Nurse Doctor Relationships The following guest post is courtesy of Nurse Lauren, a registered nurse and a great writer. Make sure to jump over to Lauren's site and check out her posts...

Whether you are a medical student, a new resident, or an established physician, you know it doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a brain surgeon) to figure out that there seems to be a tinge (if not more) of animosity (on occasion) between the nurses and doctors of essentially every hospital. And yet, hostility really does not have a place in an environment where teamwork is essential to the point that people's lives are depending on it.

Building a healthy working relationship with nurses can be one of the most crucial components of success as a physician, and for new docs or medical students there's no better time to start learning how to build those relationships than right now.

As a current or future doctor you have likely had numerous encounters with nurses in the hospital. You've probably figured out that (like docs) nurses can't necessarily be put in a box. Nurses are not all kind and nurturing, neither are we all catty and controlling. Nurse's personalities vary across the spectrum. However, despite the various personalities that are at play, there are ways to create a positive working environment with (just about) any nurse.

 1. Remember that Respect is a Two Way Street

One mistake that a lot of medical students and docs make is viewing nurses as their inferiors. They may think that nurses are “wanna-be doctors” or treat them as the “the help.”

The truth is, the vast majority of nurses I know do not want to be doctors. In fact, if you ask a nurse why he/she became a nurse the answer will probably not be, "I wanted to help people and med school sounded too hard." More likely you'll hear answers about wanting direct patient care, desiring a fast-paced and nurturing atmosphere, maintaining a good work-life balance, and building a rewarding career.

Although a nurse’s education is not nearly as extensive as an MD’s- we do complete rigorous training to be qualified to do what we do. Additionally, many nurses have been in the healthcare field for much longer than you have. Those years of experience can be extremely valuable to you as a newbie. When you show nurses respect, you will find that they tend treat you the same way. It’s that mutual respect which sets the foundation for a healthy, cohesive working relationship that is essential for positive patient outcomes.

 

 

2. Listen to the Nurses

It amazes me the number of physicians that will only read a patient’s chart for updates, but never check in with the patient’s nurse. The nurse is the person who has been with the patient all day and all night; we have a lot of objective and subjective information that can be crucial to their care. Even though this information can be found in the patient’s chart, speaking directly to the nurse provides for more streamlined communication and an assurance that the most important concerns will be addressed.

Of course, nurses on the floor are very busy and no, it’s not always convenient to stop them to get report, however I do encourage you to make it a habit of checking in with the nurses in addition to reading charts. It’s important that you hear nurses out on their concerns and suggestions regarding the patient’s care. Of course, there will be conflicts of opinions and many times you may end up making a decision that contradicts the nurse’s suggestion. That’s ok. Not everyone on the healthcare team will necessarily full-heartedly agree with every decision that is made. The important thing is creating an atmosphere where suggestions and questions are welcome, an atmosphere that promotes synergy, leads to more-informed decision-making and improved patient care.

 3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Another mistake a lot of medical students make is assuming that the nurses don't like them or don't want them around. Perhaps you even feel a little bit intimidated by the nurses. After all, experienced nurses know what they are doing on the floor and are very confident in their work. As a newbie, you may not feel that confident yet.

One thing that a medical student, a new resident, and a nurse have in common is that we all know what it is like to be at the bottom of the healthcare totem pole. We’ve all been there- being new, being nervous, and being unsure of ourselves.

My advice to you, is don’t be ashamed of your position as a newbie. You have already accomplished a lot in your education and career- you can be confident in that fact. And you can know that many nurses on the floor will be more than willing to help you along the journey (provided you can successfully navigate rules 1 and 2). Don’t be afraid to ask questions, you may find a nurse can be one of your greatest resources to you in your professional journey.

Learning to work well on an interprofessional team is just like any other skill you are required to learn, it takes practice and nobody gets it exactly right the first time around. However, I believe that if you begin to develop these positive habits now- showing nurses respect, being open to listening to their feedback, and showing a willingness to learn by asking questions, you will find less of a power struggle and perhaps even make a new friend to help you along your way.

How to Write a Medical School Personal Statement

Personal StatementYou’ve worked hard for years, and now you’re finally at the medical school gates. The college pre-reqs are done, the MCAT is toast, you’ve put the extra-in-curriculars, but you still have one last thing on your pre-med checklist. You need to write your personal statement! Trust me, it isn’t the easiest task in the world; it took me a couple months of writing and constant tweaking until I had something that was even decent. The personal statement isn’t the time to rest upon your laurels - rather, it is time for a grand finale that sums up the reasons you pulled so many all-nighters, did school work on the weekends, and went above and beyond the typical applicant. Your personal statement should pull from all of the hard work you’ve done, and make your application come to life so that the admissions committee can really imagine you as a dedicated new addition to both the school and the medical community. It isn't an easy task, but I want to help you out...

You want to know how to write a medical school personal statement? Follow these 7 tips for an application changing essay.

1. Know Thy Reader

Before you begin to write your personal statement, consider who exactly will be reading your statement. Is the admissions committee made up of a bunch of teenaged girls? No? Ok - that means an overly dramatic personal statement about a vision quest you had at a Pink Floyd concert probably isn’t going to cut it here. Your committee is composed of medical professionals, professors, medical students and admissions staff. Keep in mind that most of the people involved in admissions feel pride towards their medical school. They want people who will fit in and continue the tradition that they love so much. I know that I only want the best (and coolest) to come to my medical school. Tailor your statement to the people who will be reading it!

Nota Bena: Tell the truth in your personal statement. Don't make up stories, or say that you are interested in something that you aren't. An experienced interviewer will see right through you and your personal statement come interview day.

 

2. Know What Your Reader Wants

As I mentioned above, your audience wants to get to know who you are as a student and as a medical professional. They are reading your statement to find out two main things that don’t automatically leap from the pages of your transcripts, your resumé, or your test scores: what motivates you to pursue a career in medicine? and why do your personal qualities make you a strong applicant? This essay is your time to sell yourself by addressing these two fundamental questions.

Write an essay that is specific in answering these questions. Maybe you want to work with the elderly population as you have experience volunteering on a geriatrics floor? Or perhaps you want to advance scientific research, because after witnessing an alternative treatment first hand, you have a strong interest in implementing novel therapies. Why medicine? Is a question that will keep coming up throughout the med school application cycle, so you might as well get used to answering it.

Nota Bena: You should know what motivates you. The hard thing is putting it on paper. Writing about yourself isn't easy, or fun.  Highlight your strengths, without coming across as arrogant or naïve.

 

3. Don’t Be Redundant or Emphasize Non-Relevant Skills

A quick example...if you were trying to sell a sedan to a racing car fan, you probably wouldn’t emphasize the car’s childproof locks. You would talk about its engine. It is awesome that you’re a star volleyball player, rocked the MCAT and have years of perfect grades under your belt, but don’t just state those facts. Instead, discuss how your love of volleyball gave you discipline, commitment, and a drive to practice sports medicine. Connect activities to personal qualities.

Nota Bena: I would try to stay away from writing about any kind of negative experiences, or from using negative language at all for that matter. Now isn't the time to talk about how you got fired at Bank of America, but it taught you resiliency. Some people can pull it off, but you probably can't.

 

 4. Know How To Stand Out

Your typical admissions committee member is reading dozens (if not hundreds) of personal statements to help determine if they should take the next step and interview you. I can guarantee you that the majority of personal statements will be skimmed because they are so very similar. So…what does that mean for you? You need to approach your essay as a way to stand out and highlight the very best aspects of you. This is your chance before the interview to become more than a GPA and MCAT score.

Try not to be just another applicant who has high marks and "excels at science and wants to help others." These are great reasons for wanting to go to medical school, but they definitely aren't unique. There are ways to prove that you "want to help people" without c0ming out and saying it. Consider what makes you a different applicant than anyone else. Whether it was an experience working with patients as an ER scribe or all the grey hairs you gave your mom conducting lab experiments in her kitchen as a child; make your statement personal and maybe even a little entertaining.

Nota Bena: This was the hardest part for me. Creative writers, this is where you can pull ahead in applications!

 

5. Grammar, Spelling, and Writing Skills Matter

An essay full of grammatical errors, run on sentences, and comma misplacements won’t exactly instill confidence in the folks deciding whether or not you have the potential to be a detail oriented student/professional. A basic command of the English language is fairly important, so you may want to spend some a lot of time proofreading. Your personal statement may be the reason you were passed over in favor of someone with a similar background who turned in a killer, and grammatically correct essay.

Nota Bena: Your parents, significant others, mentors, favorite professors, etc. are all good resources for editing and proofreading, so use them!

 

6. Start and Finish Strong

Open with a great introductory paragraph. A sad truth is that your essay will be judged and remembered by its first paragraph. Make sure that your introductory paragraph is strong and contains a clear thesis or theme that really outlines what you’ll be discussing in the rest of your personal statement. This will make or break the rest of your essay, so pick something that you can support with your strengths and experiences in the body paragraphs. Flesh out the points you touched upon in your introduction, use specifics, and personal anecdotes. Conclude your personal statement by reiterating your main point in a fresh way, don’t just restate, “I love helping people.” Organization is the key to any good essay, and it is of course important here. Hook the reader in the first paragraph, prove your point, and lock-up that interview invite with the conclusion.

Nota Bena: An outline can be very helpful, after you have an underlying theme for your personal statement. Want to do something really special? Have that same theme transcend your “Work/Activities” section of AMCAS.

 

7. The Final Nota Bena!

Play it safe. I thought I had a killer personal statement. However, when my mentor and girlfriend read it, they said I came off a little bit arrogant. I still really loved it, but the risk just wasn't worth the reward. I edited and revised my personal statement, until I had something a bit more reserved. I've told you to be unique and entertaining, but don't do something stupid. This is where multiple proof readers becomes so important!

Let me know what you think in the comments, how did you write your personal statement?

Dr. Zac's Rule of Twofers

This guest post is very special to me, as it is written by Dr. Zac, an Emergency Medicine physician, who blogs at AgraphiaDr. Zac is one of my blogger heroes, and a major reason I started The Hero Complex. If you haven't already, I suggest going through Agraphia's archives. If you don't laugh out loud, feel some profound sadness, and fall in love with his writing style, than something is wrong with you. Enjoy his post.  When you get ready to examine a patient, there are a few clues you can use beforehand to determine how sick they are. There are some quick ones, such as how many visits they've had in the past 30 days for the same back pain, or whether or not they have any vital sign abnormalities. Sometimes you're in luck and labs or xrays have already been performed.

But all of these methods pale in comparison to Dr. Zac's Rule of Twofers. Now, I don't mean to talk myself up, but this formula is genius. Allow me to demonstrate:

 

RoT

 

Where the total sickness of your patient is equal to a coefficient (δ) times the total possible sickness of any given patient divided by the number of patients in the room. Please note, there is a separate but directly related theorem when multiple people from one family check into different rooms in the ER.

You may ask yourself, "What exactly is δ, Dr. Zac?" Quite simple. It's the Coefficient of Chief Complaint, goes from 1-10, and it is used to scale the importance of certain chief complaints. Usually it equals 1, but if the chief complaint is, say, "horrific car wreck on the interstate," it allows us to overpower the denominator.

A few examples:

  1. Mom checks in her four children at the same time, all who have "Fever x 1 Day" listed as a chief complaint. Fever has a δ coefficient of 1. Thus, the maximal sickness per patient is divided by four, leaving us with an essentially social visit. Make your pleasantries, crack a joke or two, look in the kids' ears, no antibiotics necessary.
  2. Dad, drunk, lights the house on fire. He and his 8 illegitimate children are brought in as well as his mistress. "House Was On Fire," naturally, carries a δ of 10. Thus, 10 divided by 10 patients gives us 1, leaving us with a maximal potential sick value equivalent to that of any other patient in the ER.
  3. A friend sitting in the room with your patient mentions offhandedly that she coughed once earlier today. Unfortunately, all the sick in the room has already been used up by your patient, leaving the friend with a δ = 0. This is a special case, also known as the "convenience coefficient" and occurs when someone is so far from being sick they couldn't even be bothered to check in at triage.

There you have it, folks. Dr. Zac's Rule Of Twofers. It's bulletproof.

Tips for Dating Medical Students

Amber, who writes at The Unconventional Doctor's Wife, was kind enough to write a guest post for The Hero Complex. She has been married to her physician husband for over 11 years, and has been by his side through the MCAT, medical school applications, residency, and two fellowships. If there was anyone qualified to write this kind of post, it was her. Make sure to hop on over to her site and/or leave comments and questions below.  When A asked me to write a guest post on tips for dating medical students, my first thought was “dating in med school? I could give you 100 reasons not to do that!” But alas, everyone is looking for their Mr. Right…or Mrs. Right…or in this case, Dr. Right? So, I will give you my best.

Any relationship takes work. We all know that. But when you add the demands and stress of medical school it makes things a little more tricky. If you insist on dragging someone into this mess, there are four things you need to know…and when I say you, I mean the both of you, the medical student and the dating partner.

If you can understand and apply these four tips, you will eliminate a lot of unnecessary headaches and drama heartache.

1. This is not normal

Medical Student: Just to be clear and make sure you understand… this journey you are on, is so far from normal, it’s not even funny. For the next seven to eleven years, your life will look nothing like normal. You will miss out on spontaneous weekends with friends, family events, reunions, vacations and more. I’m assuming you were already aware of the fact you did not sign up for a 9-5 job, at least not yet…if ever. So adding another person to the mix? It’s anything but a normal relationship.

Dating Partner:  It is critical you understand that this relationship is not like any other. So stop comparing yours with your friends’ or anyone else for that matter. There will be much sacrificing on your end. You need to understand that med students will never feel like they have studied enough. Never. Ever. It’s ridiculous. The 3rd year is a preview of residency. The rotation schedules are not flexible.  Be prepared to be the one that bends, and then bends again and again and again throughout this entire journey…And then again.

The sooner you both understand this unfortunate unique life, the less bumpy it will be. Well, honestly, there will always be bumps… but now, at least you know what you signed up for.

2. Expectations will always disappoint

Dating Partner:  This may be the most important advice you ever receive:

Drop any and all expectations now.

“What? That’s not fair!” you say?  You’re so right. It’s not fair. And it won’t be for a long time.  That just comes with the territory of dating someone during their medical training years. They have worked incredibly hard to get where they are (and I’m sure you have too), but unfortunately, their schedules (especially 3rd year and residency) do not flex for anyone else in their life. I’m not kidding. That’s not their choice…it’s just the way it is. And yeah, it stinks. So if they tell you they will meet you for dinner at 6:30pm, do not expect that to really happen… or at least bring a friend, just in case, so you don’t end up dining alone.

Medical Student:  This may come as a shock, but do not forget what I’m about to tell you:

The world does not revolve around you.

You may have been told or feel otherwise, but that is a lie. If you have decided to involve someone on your crazy doctor journey, then you need to sacrifice a little too. That person has a life, a job, friends, family, and feelings too. Do not expect them to drop everything when you unexpectedly have a moment or day off. Yeah, it would be great to spend time with them, but respect their commitments and time away from you.

Expectations will be the root of many arguments in your relationship. Do yourself a favor, and kick them out the door now.

3. Communicate!

Medical Student: You’re in school. I’m assuming you have a calendar with your schedule on it. Use it. Tell your partner. Write it down, sync your calendars. This should include all exams, study groups, study time, rotations, interviews, study time, study time, study time.  If something should change, let your partner know ASAP.

Dating Partner: If you have any important dates (work, events, family) where you would like your loving med student to join you, then please, please, please, let them know as soon as you know. Hopefully, they can plan their study schedule around it.  But if it’s during their 3rd year, understand that they might not be able to make those important dates. And as much as they would like to be there with you, it is out of their hands.

Communicating is so simple, yet it never is that easy. Work on being open and honest with each other. Be clear. Don’t bottle up emotions. But also, dating partners, don’t drop a bomb on your med student the night before their exams. It’s not good for anyone. (I may or may not have done that multiple times.)

4. Don’t forget about your patience {not patients}

You both are human (I hope), and humans mess up…a lot. Have patience with one another. Give each other grace. Forgive and let go of grudges. Learn from mistakes and try again. Tomorrow is a new day.

It’s probably is easier to go through these medical school years single, but knowing someone is in your corner, cheering you on, and sharing this journey with you, can be worth all the blood, sweat, and tears.

Just remember to not compare yourself to other couples, understanding your relationship is unique. Respect one another’s time and keep expectations low by communicating honestly and openly. Remember, you’re on this journey together, and are both figuring it out as you go.

Dating in medical school is a preview for what’s to come (if you decide to get married and venture into residency and fellowship).  So…if you cannot handle it now, then get the heck out while you still can. Otherwise, proceed and enjoy the ride. Good luck!

*** Bonus tip for the medical student: It will not kill you to take a 10 minute break from studying. Not. Ever. Sometimes that’s all someone needs to know you are thinking of them: a text, a call, a cup of coffee together, anything. 10 minutes. It’s doable.

*** Bonus tip for the dating partner: If this all sounds like way too much work and sacrifice, then go with Plan B: Go have a life for 7-10 years, and hook back up when they are a real, practicing doctor. You’re welcome.

{Full disclosure: My husband and I were already married when he started medical school. But we tried to make it extra challenging for him (because med school isn’t tough enough by itself), by having our first baby during the first week of medical school.  Yeah, not a smart move, but’s that’s for a whole other post. So, I checked with my friends who dated in med school and they gave me the OK on this.}

Morton's Fork Book Review

The book cover of Morton's Fork In the interest of full-disclosure, Dr. Coy provided me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can read more about the author here

I just finished reading Dr. Dale Coy's fictional work, Morton's Fork: A Doctor's Dilemma, and it was probably one of the most thought-provoking books I have read this year. The title refers to a choice between two equally unpleasant options, otherwise known as a Morton's Fork. Throughout the course of the book, Dr. Roger Hartley, our protagonist, is faced with plenty of these tough decisions.

The events of this book are put into motion when a disgruntled, noncompliant patient sues Dr. Hartley for $5 million dollars in a frivolous lawsuit. Something finally snaps in Hartley, and a rash action threatens his family life, practice, house, and life-savings. I don't want to give away too much, but somewhat unwillingly, Dr. Hartley also becomes the poster-boy for tort reform in healthcare.

For those who don't know (and I didn't really), a tort is a civil wrong. As Wikipedia puts it: "Tort law deals with situations where a person's behavior has unfairly caused someone else to suffer loss or harm. A tort is not necessarily an illegal act but causes harm." What is perhaps a little scary is that as a future physician I most certainly will be named a defendant in such a suit. In fact, a 2011 article in the New England Journal of Medicine "estimated that by the age of 65 years, 75% of physicians in low-risk specialties had faced a malpractice claim, as compared with 99% in high-risk specialties."

Obviously this topic affects me and my future, so Morton's Fork was an easy read. I really enjoyed Dr. Coy's writing; as he is sticking up for physicians. There is so much pressure on doctors these days in healthcare: the threat of being sued for malpractice, putting patient satisfaction surveys above good/affordable medicine, and fighting with insurance companies for compensation (just to name a few). This book puts into perspective what these pressures can do to a good man and good doctor. I particularly liked Dr. Hartley's stance on malpractice. He says, "One hundred percent accuracy for doctors is an impossible dream. Medical mistakes are inevitable...If the system were fair, doctors would have little quarrel when reasonable settlements rectified our mistakes."

However the book isn't without some faults. I know it is a fictional work, but in my opinion some of the events and circumstances seem a bit unrealistic. Also, Dr. Coy presents a slightly right-wing perspective on the current state of healthcare in the United States (the "bad-guys" are Democrats). I am not an expert or even close to informed enough to know what party or politicians are responsible for the state of malpractice laws, but I do know it will take a bipartisan effort to reform it.

I start medical school in less than 3 weeks. Morton's Fork was an eye-opener for me. I think that if you are considering the medical field it is worth your time. The book is informative but also entertaining. I found myself cheering for the Hartley family throughout the work. Last, but certainly not least, this story has shown me the importance of taking care of myself and my family ahead of my career. I don't ever want to burn out, or be jaded by the medical system like Dr. Hartley. I loved Dr. Coy's recurring theme that a happy doctor is a better doctor.