Medical school, for most of us, is stressful rather than fun. But this is entirely subjective; depending on the habits, opinions, study strategy and hobbies of your average med student. Mindset, most importantly, is what determines the real answer to this question. As well as overall outlook.
Ask most students however and they’ll often tell you the experience was fun in retrospect. Especially now they find themselves in the arguably more stressful position of actually being a doctor! Those days of experimentation, struggle and working with a tight-knit group of colleagues? Suddenly missed.
This is why, personally, I try not to take med school too much for granted. Making it “fun” or not is dependent on my own efforts. Not those of the school or colleagues around me. But maybe that’s got a lot to do with my story and position as a mature student. And isn’t your typical response.
That said, if you’re someone in med school (or about to go in), you might be looking for ways to increase the fun factor. So here are some suggestions.
Make Free Time For Yourself
Fun, for most people, includes doing the things you want to do in the time available. The schedule of a med student, for the most part, is at odds with this. But, as I’ve said before, you do get free time in medical school, despite the intimidating rumours.
Shore more up for yourself by studying smartly. Don’t just pour in aimless hours thinking success is only dependent on the grind. That’s not how it works.
Then explore your hobbies, past-times, interests outside medicine etc, in that leisure time.
Work With Systems
Systems and processes, although they appear rigid, can actually be freeing and fun. Study techniques like the Pomodoro Method actively schedule in breaks. Encouraging you do to enjoyable things in the gaps between focused bursts of study.
Don’t Break the Chain, an alternative study technique, is similar too. A lot of satisfaction can be gained from charting your progress. Effectively ‘gamifying’ your study sessions and injecting a small dose of fun into the proceedings.
The more disciplined you are, the more you’ll get done too. Giving you even more time to explore your interests.
Call on Colleagues
One of the more enjoyable aspects of med school is the camaraderie of coming through it as a team. You start off as an individual. But soon after you find yourself as part of a smaller team (your classroom or lab group).
Being as open and friendly as possible toward everyone in your little group makes things so much easier in med school as a result. Making classes seem fun, rather than a grind.
This is also one of the main reasons I urge first years to remain as open-minded to everyone else as possible.
Short Term Focus
I think one of the main obstacles that prevents med school from appearing fun is the way most students approach it. Constantly reminding yourself of how long, how expensive and how much work you have in front of you? Only adds to the overwhelm and anxiety.
Instead it’s more sensible to adjust your focus to the now. And learn to love the process instead of the outcome.
Doing so puts everything else at the back of your mind.
Learn Different Skills
Being stuck with your head in a book, glued to your laptop or fixed to your flashcards definitely gets tiring. A good way to break the monotony is to have something else fresh to focus on. Preferably something outside of medicine altogether.
I’ve talked a lot about how med students might consider starting a business, blog or whatever. But there’s also lots they can do outside of those activities. Like taking up new sports. Or participating in community projects with locals outside of medical school.
Taking them out the bubble and exposing them to new, fun environments.
Choose Better Resources
Sometimes picking a better resource can make all the difference when it comes to making the mounds of material you’re expected to learn in medicine appear more entertaining or interesting. This is at least true in my case, foregoing lectures and finding better alternatives (like those listed on my recommendations page) instead.
Find a good video series or review book with nice mnemonics and analogies and suddenly that boring class gets turned on its head.
Cultivate Good Habits
This is similar to my suggestion that outlook and mindset changes everything when it comes to how ‘fun’ you perceived med school. The more energised you are however, the better position you’ll be in to judge. The tired, over-worked and stressed student in you is only likely to descend into misery.
Getting enough sleep, exercising or working out and eating healthy or all essential things to helping you strike a balance and find time to decompress. Each will certainly boost your mood too. Enabling you to look at things with a healthier sense of perspective then perhaps you did before.
Go to School Later in Life
This is a bit of a contentious one but taking time out to enjoy your life before med school might actually help you out when it comes to appreciating the experience all the more. Of course I don’t mean you have to work the best part of a decade first (like I did), but studying something else for undergrad or taking time out to travel, can help. Especially when it comes to alleviating any fear of missing out.
One of the benefits of going into medicine later is that you’ll have done (and exhausted) some of the desires for freedom other, typically younger students, struggle with. Things like staying up late drinking with friends, travelling to wherever or just taking some serious time out to explore completely different interests.
Of course it’s easiest to apply this before going to med school! But there is still the option of deferring and taking time out.
Med school doesn’t have to be the brutal grind many students (or memes) report it to be. Making it fun really comes down to the individual. And your own desire to live and study on your own terms.
Hopefully the ideas above can give some pause for thought.
Image credit: Buro Millennial at Pexels.
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.