Hello Everyone! I hope all is well. Here is a snapshot into my life as a first-year medical student at Loma Linda University, School of Medicine. Since, each medical student will have a unique perspective, this post is meant to only serve as a general overview of a first year medical student day to day experience. I hope you find this post informative and beneficial!
I wake up almost every morning by 6:30am. From Monday to Friday, I have class from 8am-12pm. Because I attend Loma Linda University, School of Medicine, I also attend 2 religious classes and 1 chapel service a week (which cuts out an hour of lecture on those days). In the afternoon, I usually have a lab from 1pm-3pm. Occasionally, I’ll have another lab that follows right after from 3pm-5pm. Most days, I’m done with school by 3pm and begin studying soon after. I usually complete my studying by 9:30pm and am in bed by 10:30. Most days are good. Once I got into a groove, my daily schedule fell into place. There are occasional rough days, and the days preceding test week naturally become stressful. However, my goods day far outweigh my bad days 10 fold and I am thoroughly enjoying my experience in medical school!
Our program is setup to cover all the aspects of a body system. For example, we learn the histology, anatomy, embryology, physiology, clinical correlations of the reproductive system all at the same time. Thus, we usually have about 6-7 science classes running at one time. Many other medical schools run on a “block schedule”. This means students takea few classes at a time until all of the material for that subject is covered. A major difference between medical school and college is that each class you take is of equal importance. There are no “general education” classes.
To be frank, medical school is mentally hard. The amount of time spent studying and packing in countless facts does wear on the mind. I find it important to find outlets that allow me to break away from my studies occasionally. I try to make sure I exercise at least once a week. Also, I learned that is it important to take adequate study breaks. Several of my classmates, including myself, keep up with favorite TV shows in our spare time, watch movies, hike, ski, and engage in many other activities. The only way I can remain sane in this roller coaster ride called medical school is to take one day off a week just to rest my mind. It gives me the rejuvenation I need to begin another study week.
I started a habit in undergrad to have devotion for 30min in the morning and evening. Majority of the time, I am able to keep up this practice. Many may think that a lot of personal habits cannot be maintained when faced with the demands of medical school. But, this is simply not true. You can do anything you want in medical school. It’s all about how you schedule your time. I schedule to have devotion time, and so I do consistently. As stated before, medical school will be mentally challenging. It may cause some to doubt or question trusting in God during the difficult times. However, maintaining a consistent personal time with God will give anyone the strength they need to persevere through.
Despite what you may have heard, you can sleep in medical school. I get 7-7.5 hours of sleep per night. But is should warn you, I don’t think this is the average. Sleep is very important to me. I know that I can’t function properly the next day if I don’t get enough sleep. Many of my classmates sleep for fewer hours and be functional the next day. It all depends on how much sleep your body needs to function optimally each day.
I, like sleep, believe eating is VERY important. I consistently eat 3 meals a day. I know some of my classmates may skip a meal and choose to study. Also, some of my classmates eat continually throughout the day. It truly depends on your personality and normal appetite. I don’t sacrifice meals or sleep, for that matter, to study! I believe in eating a balanced, healthy meals; for to me, healthy body yields a sharp mind.
One of the most difficult transitions to make from undergrad to medical school is handling the class load. I would dare to say I’ve seen approximately 60%-70% of the material before in college. So, the classes themselves are not the most difficult part of medical school. The challenging part is studying all the material given to you each day. Each student studies on average between 6-8hrs a day. Some people choose not to study on Saturday night. It is possible to do and still do well in medical school. However, it does depend on how efficiently you study during the week. Now, some of you may see this and think that it is impossible for you to do everyday. I thought the same thing at first too. However, putting in the necessary hours to study is dependent on your attitude. Since I got here, my attitude about school has changed. I know that each piece of information I learn aids in molding me into a competent physician. Thus, I’m willing to put in the necessary time to study and learn all the required material. And when you come to medical school, your attitude will change too.
Knowing how you best study is key! But if you don’t know, it’s okay. I spent the first portion of my year just nailing down the best way I study, and still have a few adjustments to make. Some of the top ways my classmates study: highlight the important concepts in notes, make flash cards, and rewrite and condense the notes, read the book, make study questions, answer the lecture objectives, and many more options. Some come to class, some do not. Some study in the library, some study at home. The possibilities on how to study are endless.
Truth be told its hard to find free time in medical school, but it does exist! We do have few days off for Thanksgiving, 2 weeks off for Christmas, MLK Day off, President’s day off, and a week for Spring Break. Also, our school is set up so we have a study-free weekend following each week of testing. Free time outside of those planned dates truly must be created. Many of my classmates find time on the weekends to travel or do some sort of fun activity. Thus, everyday of the week is not filled with studying! All work and no play makes a medical student a dull person 🙂
I actually do a little more than just study. It is very possible to be involved in campus organizations while in school. I currently serve as the Co-President of the Student National Medical Association. It keeps me busy, so you have to be sure that you can handle an extra commitment. Also, a few of my friends and I teach a Teens Sabbath School class on Saturday mornings at a local church. My only suggestion would be to pick extracurricular that you deem worth your time. As stated before, you won’t have a great amount of free time; therefore, spend your extra time doing something you love.
We have several married and dating students in our class. Some people began dating before hand, some relationships began while in school. I have heard that medical school can be straining on long distance relationships. However, I know too many people that have made it work to say that is it impossible. I believe the a major part of maintaining a relation in medical school is having a partner that is understanding. Check out the Love & Medicine post in February for testimonies from real life physician and medical student couples that have made it work.
Well, that’s all I have to share for now. I hope this gives you a small glimpse of what life in medical school is like. If you found anything discouraging, I encourage to still continue to pursue to dreams of a becoming a physician. Just keep in mind, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13. Throughout the occasional trials I face here, I know that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else – doing anything else. May God bless you and keep as I know He will!
– KeAndrea “Kiki” Titer