How to avoid 10 common medical school mistakesAugust 28, 2014
Getting accepted into medical school is a great accomplishment. Even if you have good grades, medical school can still be a challenge. Knowing how to avoid common medical school mistakes can make your four years go smoother. Below are 10 common mistakes from which you should steer clear.
Thinking you know everything
Realize you have a lot to learn. If you are a medical school student, chances are you did well in college. You are probably used to excelling and achieving your goals, but don’t let confidence turn into arrogance any time during medical school. Even if you are intelligent, there is a lot to learn when it comes to medicine. In addition, the field is always changing and advances in medicine are continually occurring. If you think you know everything, you will get into trouble. Even experienced physicians realize they don’t know it all.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in medical school is arguing with a resident or nurse during your clinical rotations. If you have a difference of opinion, there are ways to express it without being hostile or arguing. Keep in mind that the professors, physicians and nurses you will encounter during your medical school career all have more medical experience than you do. You can learn a lot, not only from your professors during lectures, but from other medical professionals in the field. Nurses, therapists, social workers and technicians all have expertise in their specialties. Learn what you can from each member of the allied healthcare team—it will make you a better doctor.
Not respecting your place in the chain of command
It might not sound great, but when you are a medical student, you are at the bottom of the food chain. There is a hierarchy in medicine, with the medical director and department head leading the pack. Next in line are the attending physicians and fellows, followed by chief residents and residents. That leaves medical students with the least amount of authority. That does not mean you should let yourself be disrespected by professors, residents and attending physicians, but it may be helpful to realize that your opinion may not always be valued as you think it should. Try not to take things personally, and realize those above you worked hard to move up the chain of command and deserve your respect.
Once you get into medical school, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, especially as time goes on. You don’t have to be a slacker to fall behind. Juggling lectures, laboratory work and clinical rotations can be tough for anyone. Staying organized and on top of assignments can help. Don’t let yourself fall behind on your work or studies. Cramming for exams may be your style, but now is a good time to develop better study habits. Not only will cramming leave you stressed, but you may not retain information.
Having poor time management skills
Between classes, clinical rotations, exams and studying, you will probably have your hands full during medical school. Having good time management skills will be a must. Learning how to effectively manage your time in med school will continue to help you during your medical career. Residents often have to juggle multiple responsibilities, such as seeing patients, meeting with senior residents, attending patient rounds and completing paperwork.
Hiding an error during clinical rotations
You’re a medical student, and you are not supposed to know everything. But making a mistake in medicine is not the same thing as goofing up in other types of work. A patient’s wellbeing is at stake—if you do something wrong clinically, you may be tempted to try to hide it, but don’t.
If at any time during your clinical rotations you realize you made a medical mistake, do not try to hide it or blame someone else. Admitting what you did is essential. Not only could hiding a medical mistake harm a patient, it could harm your future as a doctor.
In medical school, you don’t want to be too shy or afraid to say something or ask a question. After all, you are paying a lot of money for an education, and you need to get the most out of it. Don’t hide in the back to avoid being called on or doing a procedure. If you are naturally shy, try stepping out of your comfort zone a little at a time.
Sticking out too much
Just as you don’t want to be invisible, you also don’t want to stick out too much for the wrong reasons. Coming in late and dressing inappropriately will make you stick out and not in a good way. You also don’t want to come to class or attend clinical rotations unprepared. Not knowing the answer is one thing, but being completely caught off guard and unprepared looks unprofessional.
Medical school may be the center of your life for the four years you attend, which can cause you to lose a little perspective. Whether you did poorly on a test, messed up on a clinical rotation or are behind on studying, it is not the end of the world.
If things don’t always go your way in med school, that does not mean your medical career is ruined. Keep in mind that there is probably not a doctor in the world who has never made a mistake, especially during medical school. Mistakes don’t mean you won’t be a good doctor. When you do make a mistake, try to realize it’s not the end of the world. Take a deep breath, learn what you can from it, and move on.
Don’t let your confidence drop
You may have been at the top of your class during high school or college, but suddenly you will become one of many top students—that may be a bit of an adjustment. In addition, it can shake your confidence if you don’t do well in class or miss a procedure. Try to be proud of your accomplishments, and remember that believing in yourself got you this far.