Here are some useful tips I’ve picked up on that have truly saved my clinical year thus far.
1. Take a deep breath, I know clinical years are intimidating but it is going to be okay. It’s a new space, there’s a lot of pressure and a lot is expected of you. But what you need to remember is that you are there to LEARN and learning means that there are going to be days where you won’t know the answers, there are going to be days where you’re going to make mistakes either with a patient or paper work, there are going to be days where your consultant is going to be annoyed with you. It’s all part of the learning process. Some days you’ll love medicine and some days you’ll hate medicine.
2. No man is an island, for every rotation you go through thousands have gone through it before you. Put your pride aside and ask for help, ask which consultant, registrar, nurse or intern is very helpful and eager to teach, which textbook did they use, helpful resources, summaries, what was the exams like etc. I cannot tell you how many times just talking to my friends has calmed me down, motivated me and saved me throughout the last 8 months.
3. Share! Your textbooks, your resources, your tips, your knowledge and your time. At any given time I’m chatting to a friend or colleague who’s going through a rotation I’ve gone through before. Sometimes I get a little frustrated, I may be stressing over my own issues or struggling with my own work but I always offer help. A few texts, voice notes, emails, maybe meeting up and even tutoring them, anything is better than nothing. I know exactly what they are going through and the type of help they need, so if I can offer it, why not? I have a list of who has which summary or textbook of mine. I’m lucky to be on a bursary so they provide the prescribed textbooks for each rotation but what good is having an Internal Medicine textbook when I’m busy with Obstetrics and a friend is in Internal Medicine without one. So SHARE. Also your network isn’t limited to students in your university or students in your year, make friends with medical students from all over. I’m always talking to the final years, I study with final year students because they’re able to provide that insight and refer me to good summaries or notes. They can test me right there and can simplify concepts I’m struggling with.
Also share good series websites, eating out spots, movies to watch, events, hobbies etc.
4. Food, sleep, exercise and family/friends. You need at least a support system that is both an escape and/or a place you find motivation. Clinical years are busy and tiring, so always make sure that you’re eating, even if it’s a snack in between tutorials or seeing patients, EAT. Try to get some sleep, some days you’ve just got to clock out and postpone the reading to the next day, REST. Go for a jog, do some push-ups or go hard at the gym, it helps keep your energy levels high. It may seems as though you’ll be using up the little bit of energy you have left but it actually has the opposite effects after a few sessions, EXERCISE. Spend time with your family and your friends (especially those who aren’t in the medical field – don’t hang out with people that are going to ask you about exams when you’re trying to relax). My family loves hearing about my experiences, my crazy workload and they’re always around to motivate me when I feel low, and believe me you’ll feel low. So having a good and reliable support system is EVERYTHING. Especially when life outside of medicine starts falling apart, we unfortunately or fortunately don’t live in a medical bubble, life happens and it has to go on.
I am quite a spiritual person so going to church, praying and reading the Bible is also a very important part of my escape list.
5. Find a mentor, I reached out to one of the current final years late last year. I just needed someone who had gone through it to walk me through it, especially right in the beginning of the year. She’s been such a blessing, she’s always available to help me out with information, cheer me up with random stories and remind me that I can do this when I’m feeling doubtful. She advices me on which material to use, approach to rotations etc. She’s also the main reason why so many people come to me for advice because I’ve been learning from her since before 5th year started. She’s good people and has my best interest at heart plus she’s really smart so I trust her, even more than I do some of my consultants.
6. This may be a tad extra for some, but teaching one. One of the organization on campus asked me to conduct a GIT bedside tutorial for some of the junior students in third and fourth year a few weeks ago. It was a really amazing experience; the benefit in this is that you find yourself a leader’s and teacher’s position, it forces you to be on top of work, it’s great for revision and it also allow you to remember or be taught a few concepts you might have forgotten from the junior years from the students you’re tutoring. It’s such a fulfilling feeling when you can see them understand a tricky concept simply because you’ve taken the time to explain it. It’s a really worthwhile experience, shout out to Wits BHPA for putting together this initiative.
No man is an island, let’s graduate together.