Category Archives: Med Student Advice

Choosing A Specialty – Brilliant Insight!

Today I heard some of the most insightful information throughout my time in medical school. This insight was told to my class by the dean of education in regards to selecting a specialty. Although we won’t be required to do so until the end of 3rd year, it was still a very encouraging concept. Obviously I am paraphrasing, but the general concept went as follows:

Don’t eliminate pursuing a certain specialty based on the idea that it won’t fit the type of lifestyle you want. You can modify your career  to conform to whatever lifestyle you want to live. You can choose to work part-time, full-time, etc. No matter what, there will be times when your career as a physician interferes with your life outside of healthcare. The important thing is that you’re missing those outside moments of life to do something you love. If you miss out on things like family for a career you don’t have a passion for, you’re going to be miserable. Choose to pursue a specialty because you love it.

It seems that many physicians today have a propensity to focus their attention on the negative aspects of medicine. More often than not, people don’t like change, and medicine is a rapidly changing field. There will undoubtedly be both good and bad outcomes as a result of these changes. However, it is very encouraging as a medical student to hear someone discuss the ability to maintain a well-rounded lifestyle in medicine. Being a person who is family-focused in every choice that I make, this is especially meaningful to me. My wife and I have always known there will be times when I can’t be there for family events or activities. However, I also know that I want to be there as often as possible. If it came to choosing between my family and my career, it’d be my family every time. No questions asked. However, hearing an MD say that raising a family will not and should not restrict me from choosing a specialty I develop a passion for is extremely encouraging.

My Bittersweet Education

I officially begin classes again tomorrow!

I must say that I’ve loved being on Christmas break, most specifically because I got to spend so much time with my family. Although I do look forward to continuing my medical education, it is always difficult leaving my wife and 3 month old little girl. It’s definitely much more difficult making the trip back after having spent so much time together over the last few weeks. At the same time, they are constantly serving as a strong motivator to do great things with my life!

It’s absolutely crazy to see a child develop, and the impact is even greater when it’s your own baby. My little girl is already becoming so interactive, and her smile is absolutely contagious. I look forward to seeing her continue to grow into what I’m sure will be a wonderful young lady like her mother!

For any premed or med students out there, make sure to cherish time you spend with family and friends. Never get so caught up in school that you forget about the things that make life worth living. We are all meant to be sociable creatures who develop lasting relationships, whether the relationship be romantic, intellectual, or anything else. It’s the interactions with others that develop our character, and will serve us throughout our lives, including helping us to be better physicians.

Nurses Should Be Your Friends!

The Nursing Staff and Physicians

Although I have a while until I’ll be in a position to write orders and have clinical discussions with the nursing stuff, my 2 years of employment in an emergency department definitely taught me the importance of creating a positive relationship with the nursing staff. Just because someone doesn’t attend medical school doesn’t make them any less intelligent than you, and this applies to nursing staff as well. I know many nurses who are fully capable of overcoming the rigors of medical school, and several who actually considered doing so before ultimately choosing a career in nursing. Many of these individuals know medicine far beyond what is required of them, and have often taught residents a thing or two as well. The sad thing about this? Many residents not only fail to use the nursing staff as a support system, they completely isolate themselves with their arrogance. Everyone understands that the path to becoming a physician is a difficult one, and nurses are no exception to recognizing this. However, thinking that you’re a “doctor” and they are “only a nurse” is the epitome of arrogance in medicine. Assuming you automatically know what is best for a patient based on your title alone will not only lead to more patient complications, it will make nurses hate you. I have seen this first-hand. Time after time, there are a) the residents the nursing staff loves and b) the residents the nursing staff prefers to avoid. Sure, there are going to be times when a certain nurse thinks they know everything, and when this happens, I am by no means advocating being a complete pushover. After all, you need to do what you consider to be in the best interest of the patient. However, a physician and the nursing staff should be a team, and the creation of this team begins with the physician.

Increased Patient Care

First and foremost, if a nurse offers her opinion regarding a patient’s status and/or treatment, take the advice into consideration! I’ve witnessed multiple time when a resident has completely disregarded the advice of a nurse and lo and behold, the patient complications that arise could have been prevented if the resident had followed the nurse’s advice to begin with! Am I saying nurses are right all the time? No, absolutely not. But, neither are physicians. Humans are not infallible creatures, regardless of your profession. By culminating a collaborative atmosphere among healthcare employees, the likelihood of human error is drastically decreased. If you isolate yourself from your nursing staff and refuse to consider their opinions, the collaborative/teamwork aspect is non-existent. Furthermore, the nurses will be much less inclined to offer their opinions in the future, and you won’t have them as a safety net for your future decisions. Would you continue to offer advice to someone who incessantly shot you down? I highly doubt it.

Making Your Life Easier

Do not consider yourself superior to the nursing staff simply because you’re a “doctor”. Instead, learn what you can from them and develop a positive relationship. Not only will you establish a continuing education from their insights, you will make them drastically more likely to help you out. Obviously, more willingness to complete orders or offer help from the nursing staff leads to a much easier experience for you. Again, I saw examples of this time after time after time. Physicians who developed a rapport with the nursing staff received help more readily and typically appeared much happier. Physicians who failed to do so were… the opposite. Furthermore, nurses talk with each other, just like any other coworkers. If you make a bad impression on a couple, pretty soon the others will know it as well. Essentially, follow the Golden Rule and treat the nursing staff how you would like to be treated. It will make patient care much easier for you in the long run and will undoubtedly make you a much happier person. You should ultimately want to be able to call the nurses you work with your friends.

How to Create a Positive Relationship

This section contains information from an article I found through a quick Google search and I thought it was important to include as well.

In the article written for the Huffington Post by Brian Secemsky, M.D. states “…forming strong working relationships with nurses that are involved in my patients’ care has become one of the most important objectives since becoming a physician.” The article also discusses the two most common areas of creating frustration as communication and understanding the role of a nurse.

To address communication, involve your nurses as much as possible. As discussed in the article, allow them to observe your bedside rounds or provide them with a summary of your observations regarding the patient. A major contributor to frustration I regularly encountered was  physicians who wrote additional orders and/or modified previous orders without telling the nursing staff. Be sure to verbally tell the nurse about the order immediately. Furthermore, make sure you sit down, collect your thoughts, and write all of your orders at once. Coming back and writing a new order every 5 – 10 minutes is extremely frustrating for the nursing staff. It’s understandable that additional requests are necessary at times, but incessantly writing additional orders because you didn’t take the time to sit down and think everything through is annoying.

The issue of understanding a nurse’s role is a simple fix as well. Rule number one, know that they are busy and their time is important too. Don’t waste it by asking them to do something so basic a 2 year old could do it (i.e. pressing a button to get a blood pressure). Needing helping in a time crunch is one thing, but don’t push it. If you’re being lazy, get over yourself and have some caffeine. If you really don’t know how, ask a nurse and they’ll gladly show you for next time.

Secondly, recognize that nurses have multiple patients and can’t always complete your orders right away. If it’s absolutely necessary for it to be done immediately, communicate this to the nurse in a calm and non-demanding way. Yelling or making commands won’t earn you any favors.

Conclusion

If you aren’t sure about how to create a positive relationship with the nursing staff, there is an extremely simple solution.  Ask them! They will gladly tell you the things physicians do that bother them the most. This is exactly how the physician who wrote the previous article approached the situation. Keeping peace and avoiding conflict between physicians and nurses 100% of the time is impossible, as is true for any human interacts (even marriage!). However, you should be sure to remember that a positive relationship with the nursing staff is one of the most important things for your success in medicine.

5 Tips to Study the RIGHT way!

Studying…. obviously this is a must for any premed or medical student and essentially a lifelong requirement of anyone involved in the ever-changing world of medicine. The thing that most students fail to do however, is study how they study!

More often than not, a typical student will study for hours at a time, often only taking a break to use the restroom.  On the other hand, some students take so many breaks that they might as well not be studying at all!  In order to study in the most efficient way possible, the goal is to find a happy medium between these 2 extremes. Not only will you study more efficiently, but you’ll be more likely to retain the information and recall it in the future. Below you’ll find 5 helpful tips on how to study properly.

Nap Time!

Did you know that some of the most famous intellectuals in history took naps on a regular basis? Just do a quick online search and you’ll find that regular naps were common among numerous great minds including Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Lyndon B Johnson, and many more!  Research shows that naps have a profound effect on “refreshing” the brain so that it’s able to function more efficiently. A nap is essentially a booster for your brain’s ability to learn new information.  The key concept to take away from this is that you should not be studying for hours and hours and hours.  Those all night study sessions will not only hinder your ability to actually learn the information in the first place, but it will also make it much more difficult to recall it later when your brain is completely fatigued. I have done my share of all nighters and trust me, I wish I’d have managed my time and studied the correct way instead.

Blocks Aren’t Just for Toddlers

Studying in blocks is shown to be more efficient than forcing yourself to study for 2 – 3+ hours at a time.  Our minds and bodies need a break in order to recover from the information we just went over.  Study for about 45 – 50 minutes and take a 10 – 15 min break.  Make sure that during your break you stand up to stretch as well in order to rejuvenate the body.  You should never sit for more than 1 hour straight! Furthermore, try to plan an extended break every few hours or so.  The mind and body can only handle so much without taking a 30 min to 1 hour rest.  Go hang with friends, have dinner, see family, or whatever else may interest you.

Turn the Phone OFF

I know this is a challenge for many people, myself included, but to study in the most efficient way possible, you should turn your cell phone completely off before you even start.  While it may seem completely innocent to send a text here and there, it’s actually taking your mind away from the topics and causing you to lose focus.  Turn the phone back on during your study breaks in order to respond to friends & family or to check out the latest on social media.  In reality, you should be studying in blocks anyway so being without your phone for 45 minutes at a time isn’t going to be the end of the world!

Summarize to Succeed

So you’re reading your textbook and simultaneously taking notes so you can go over the key concepts later.  Notes are always a great idea.  Sounds like a good plan right? WRONG! Evidence shows that taking notes while reading the material is much less beneficial than reading the material all the way through and summarizing what you read at the end.  I’m not saying you need to read an entire book or even an entire chapter and summarize it.  However, you should break the text into segments big enough that it requires you to really think about the information you just read.  By summarizing the information after you’ve finished the entire section, your mind is forced to critically evaluate the information and is much more likely to retain it.  Taking notes while reading may seem like a good idea, but in reality, your mind isn’t doing much thinking at all when you copy something straight from the original text.  Force yourself to think critically after reading the material and summarize the key points without looking back at the text.  You will be much more likely to retain that information for use in the future!

Time to UNDERSTAND NOT MEMORIZE

Some people fail to realize that understanding something is much different than memorizing facts. Although there are times when you’ll have information that requires rote memorization, if it’s possible to actually develop an understanding of a concept, you should do it.

The easiest example to use here is an equation.  Most students see an equation they should know and immediately think they must memorize the equation.  But the better idea is to understand why the equation exists in the form that it does! Why is the area of a triangle A = (1/2)(base)(height).  Well quite simply, the area of a triangle is half the area of a square of equal dimensions.  This is a very simple example and obviously, other equations can become much more challenging to develop an understanding.  However, by developing an understanding of why the equation exists, you don’t need to memorize the equation. Instead, you can simply derive the equation from your understanding of it!

Understanding extends beyond equations, but it seems to be the easiest way to explain the idea.  The same could be said of a variety of subjects, and although I don’t want to describe numerous scenarios here, I hope the main point got across.  Don’t just memorize facts and information.  Instead, develop an understanding of it piece by piece.  Build the foundation, then the framework, and then the roof.  By building on previous knowledge and understanding how everything connects, you will be much more likely to retain it and recall it later.  Always ask the question, WHY?! Try to find the answers in the details and fully reinforce your understanding of the material.

How Medicine Is Learned: Becoming A Physician

It is extremely important to remember that medicine isn’t something you learn from reading a book, attending a lecture, or watching a video.  This isn’t to detract from the obvious benefits of doing so or to dissuade someone from attending medical school lectures. These are indeed the first stepping stones to a full comprehension of medicine.  But to truly learn how to be a physician, one must dive headfirst into the pool of medical knowledge. To learn medicine, you must surround yourself with the intricate procedures, medical treatments, and ailing patients. Medicine is truly learned by experiencing and participating in it.  Medicine is learned by living it.

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