Here‘s a NYT piece by Pauline Chen, MD regarding changes in medical school training at Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Minnesota, among other institutions. I’ll also add to Dr. Chen’s point: Not only does the current system of third-year rotation blocks reinforce fragmented care, but it also does not allow students adequate time to make informed decisions about their future specialties.
In honor of the Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign, I thought I would dedicate this blog entry to those who are in medical training and are struggling. (And who isn’t?!)
Despite the relatively warm winter many of us are experiencing, this time of year can be particularly rough for medical students and residents trying to get through classes and rotations. As a practicing MD, I want to let you know that it gets better! For every medical student, resident or fellow who has heard an attending physician say, “If you think training is hard, wait until you’re done,” I say, “Don’t believe that silly doctor!” Once you get through this tough time, you can look forward to more autonomy and a happier lifestyle.
I wish someone had told me all of this when I was going through training. It really gets better!
Medical school and residency training usually decrease one’s happiness for several reasons. Happiness researchers have demonstrated that a feeling of control and the amount of spare time one has both correlate with happiness. Both of those factors are limited during med school and residency. Relationships are also correlated with happiness, and those can be squashed during medical training as well.
I’m not trying to be a downer here! I want to encourage applicants to consider this happiness quotient when selecting an institution and training program. If you are able, maximizing your contentment by choosing an institution that fosters your greatest happiness is key. Geography; proximity to family, friends and community; and a location that provides an opportunity to enjoy hobbies during limited free time is significant.
Excellent training is important, but, in the end, many programs turn out equally qualified clinicians. At least consider your well-being as a factor in selecting where you might be for the next three plus years of your life.
This article in the NYT called “Medical Student Distress and the Risk of Physician Suicide” covers depression in student doctors, noting that pre-meds enter medical training with mental health profiles similar to those of their peers but end up experiencing depression at greater rates.Training is generally awful. (Why would anyone want to spend the majority of his/her time working and not sleeping?) Now that I am past my training and have many friends and colleagues who also are, I have the perspective to say that it gets better.
Please consider talking to a physician-mentor at your institution if you are feeling blue. If you are depressed, seek mental health help. (I have heard students say they are worried this will show up on their academic records, which is not accurate.) Knowing that you are not alone and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel can make a big difference.
The temptation is great to include patient anecdotes in the personal statement. When written well, these stories can capture a sense of common human experience that transcends economic and cultural barriers and demonstrates the empathy of the author-applicant and her sincere motives for pursuing a medical career. This can only help the applicant, right? The answer (as with most situations in life) is: it depends. [Read more...]