Graduating from medical school after four long years of hard work is a serious accomplishment. The journey from student, to resident, to Dr. is arduous and takes immense dedication and sacrifice. Because of this, we want to pay special tribute to the graduating class of 2020 and recognize all that you have accomplished during such extraordinary times, and of course, all you will accomplish in your careers. We applaud you!
With you on our minds, we worked with our community of clinicians to create a list of 20 things graduating medical students should know.
1. How to balance work and life so as not to become jaded. Being a physician will be hard, and it will be a great challenge to not become burned out. Know how to separate your work from your life.
2. When and if you want a significant other or even kids. Your career will be extremely busy and might require extra planning or sacrifices.
3. To accept that you can’t change the med school you attended or the residency program you are in, and you will have to go through the whole application process again for a fellowship. Your med school or residency placement won’t define you, and neither will your grades from your clinical rotations.
4. How to ask for help, challenge someone or something, or disagree with someone without it negatively affecting your career.
5. Which classes are the most important to shoot for honors in and which are fine to simply pass. School will take up your entire life if you let it, so it’s important to prioritize the classes and teachers that really matter and cut yourself some slack in the others.
6. How to perfect your “Is there anything else I can do?” in such a way that your resident knows that you’ve given it our all and you would like to go home.
7. Know the important people in your specialty and who the right people to network with are.
8. Become friends with the Barista at the hospital coffee shop. Enjoy the little things like buying yourself that cup of coffee because, hey! This is the first time you are being paid, and you deserve it!
9. How to sleep on a call room mattress or even under your desk. Sure, it’s not pretty, but you’ll be aching for those extra minutes to rest your eyes.
10. Where you can go to relieve emotional stress from a difficult patient and vent to people who understand! Whether this is the lounge or the hospital gym, it is vital to have a place that helps you clear your head and de-stress.
11. To get perfect scores, you need to sacrifice something, so prioritize what is important.
12. Becoming a doctor will require you to study for LIFE. No one will ever be able to get away with not studying or not taking responsibility and still do well.
13. Know that you will make mistakes and missteps in residency, but you are there to learn! Learn to take responsibility for medical errors, even if they weren’t solely your fault.
14. Form a communication style and approach that you use with patients. Whether your approach is jovial or stern, It will evolve as you continue to practice, and it will play a key role in connecting with patients.
15. Find mentors that you admire who will inspire and guide you along the way, whether they are in your specialty or not.
16. It’s all about balance - find a classmate who helps you study and another who helps you let loose on weekends.
17. Try to find hobbies outside of medicine that will keep you SANE. Prioritizing these will prevent you from burning out.
18. Keep sight of and believe that one day you will actually be attending. After 4 years of hard work, you do deserve that M.D. and so much more!
19. Don’t be scared of the impending responsibilities. You have earned everything and it is a tremendous honor. Embrace what is to come and enjoy each step of the way!
20. Graduating from Med School is the culmination of all of your hard work, and everything begins from here!
Eko is honored to work with Jennaire Lewars on this article. Jennaire is a fourth-year medical student from Toronto, Canada who studies in Chicago, IL. He plans to pursue an internal medicine residency and then an interventional cardiology fellowship. His time is spent volunteering to care for COVID-19 patients helping alleviate the burden placed on colleagues and front line workers and researching cardiovascular awareness. As an advocate for health promotion, he utilizes his platforms to facilitate awareness around medical topics and conditions, and in turn motivate others to pursue their passions.