Dear Medical School Students

Dear Medical School Students,

Hang in there.  I think it’d be safe to address this post to PA students, PT students, Dental students, Law students, Chiropractor students, and almost anyone in the graduate school realm as well; however, I can’t speak from experience in those areas. I can speak about medical school, not as a student myself, but as a spouse of a future doctor.  My message to you students, you tired and dedicated students, is to

Hang in there.

This too shall pass.  That is an oft quoted phrase, which many use as though it is a Bible verse (it’s not), but I still think it’s applicable to hard times, even when we choose to be a part of those times.  Medical school!

When I was little, my mom would take us hiking.  A LOT.  Back then I hated it or claimed I did. Hours of walking. No television.  No food.  (Who am I kidding?) There was food.  She bribed us with food the whole way.  “Just one more mile and you can have a snack.” Parenting 101: bribery works.  Well, aside from “you can have another snack in a mile,” she also loved reminding us to not worry about “getting to the end” and to enjoy the journey.  Much to her delight, one hike in Chimney Rock, the one we revisited recently, had a sign that read, “Don’t look forward to the end; enjoy the journey.” She reminded us of that quote for years! And while it is true, I think life is more complicated than that.


Now, I’m going to do exactly the opposite of what I tell my students to do in their writing (argument writing). I always tell them to pick a side.  I’m not going to pick a side on this one because both sides are true and both sides need to be validated.

It is important to enjoy the journey.


It is also important and okay to look forward to the end.

Such as… the end of a medical school block might we say?

First year students (and spouses), I’m guessing that Neuroscience is feeling pretty tiring.  There’s irony in that while you are studying the processes of the brain, you’re wearing your own brain out.  I told Parker the other day that while studying for boards, I think reading other things like sports or news articles has to go out the window for the 8th block because the brain only has so much room for storing and retrieving information.  We need all that space and traffic for boards coming up in June.  (You all can correct me if I’m wrong below in the comments. If I’m wrong; I’d love to know.)

Second year students (and spouses), you’re almost there.  You are 6/7 of the way through normal (medical school normal) classes and then you can channel all your energy into board prep.  Now if you thought 4th Block burnout was bad, I’m guessing 7th block is bad x bad x worse x “could it be any worse?” (The burnout, not life itself). I want to remind you of a few things. And no I’m not going to say “you chose this” (So many people say that as though it will help. How is that helpful??).

My reminders:

  • You’ve done this before.
  • This is short-term.
  • Next year there will be a change of pace.
  • You’ll have a week to breathe somewhat more easily (if you can manage to forget that boards are around the corner; or at least pretend to forget).
  • You’re stronger than you think.
  • You have people supporting you.

That last one is not just for those students who have spouses or significant others.  So many people are rooting for you. Parker’s family reminded him today that they are praying for him; that’s grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, etc.  You get the picture.  I’m guessing that there is someone behind your medical dream as well.  Maybe a parent.  Maybe a sibling.  A friend. God. The vision of your future patients.  And even if all it boils down to is yourself, that’s important too.  You have worked so hard to get to this point in your life.  Don’t let yourself down now.  Hang in there.  You’re almost to a change.

The last mile is the hardest.

And this really is the last mile, academically.  I was thinking about this the other night.  There’s not much harder that you can do to yourself academically outside of going to medical school.  You have to do well in high school.  You have to make the grades in college.  And then you have to pass your classes in medical school.  Why is it a surprise that the hardest academic phase (anything graduate and above) is actually just that: hard? It’s tiring; it’s hard, AND you can do it.

So back to the argument.

Enjoy the journey in the sense that you are driven by the content you love.  Enjoy the journey in knowing that you are working hard towards realizing your dream of becoming a doctor (a dentist, a physical therapist, etc). Enjoy the journey of building stamina and endurance. Life will require that of you time and time again.

But also…

Look forward to the end.  It’s not bad to have milestones.  Own that you look forward to it.  Finish strong. Rotations will come. Residencies will follow. Fellowships will tempt you (power to you!). All of them will be hard too in other ways, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be counting down to April 3.  As a spouse, I know I am.

I am posting this on the SAA page in the hopes that anyone who may need a pick-me up can get it, but if you know of someone who may need to just hang in there, please share this with them.  You never know who needs it.


The wife of a 2nd year medical school student.


P.S. 3rd and 4th year students, I didn’t mean to leave you out.  I just don’t have your experiences yet.  Maybe you can share them with us. 🙂 Any residents out there? Want to chime in with some silver linings and hope?


2 thoughts on “Dear Medical School Students

  1. I’m a 2nd year with Parker and I really needed to hear this… the past week has been really hard, especially realizing I’m making A LOT of sacrifices in my life for this career. I have friends and family my same age that have a lot of freedoms and opportunities I will not have for the next decade. It makes me question my decisions a lot and if I could’ve done things differently.
    Either way, thank you for the reminder that it’s going to be ok no matter what 🙂

    1. I think a lot of people in society are quick to judge doctors without realizing how much goes into becoming one and what it takes to be one. Good luck this week! Thank you for your comment.

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