Medical school is great. We get to embark on a career that we absolutely love, and we get to help the members of our community for a living. It’s no secret that pursuing this line of work is intrinsically rewarding, but there are some additional benefits of med school that can sometimes go unnoticed. For instance, I’ve found that medical school has improved my own personal, non-medical life too. Here are some of the ways that medical school has impacted my life outside of medicine.
The ability to lead a healthier lifestyle
It’s no secret that being in medical school can certainly inspire you to lead a healthier lifestyle. Whether you actually do is a bit more contentious (hello stress, 4 hours of sleep, and a caffeine addiction), but on the whole, knowing all of the small lifestyle adjustments that can improve your health really does help you lead a healthier lifestyle. Of course, there are the obvious things, like knowing how bad vaping is and avoiding vaping, and the importance of staying up-to-date on your immunizations, but medical school has also taught me a lot of smaller things that also help make my life just that little bit better. For instance, I often have cracked skin on my hands due to the constant hand-washing and my distaste for ointments that made my hands greasy and left oily marks everywhere. However, thanks to some dermatology lectures, I discovered creams (which I did not previously know were different to ointments), and now I have baby-soft hands.
Faster thinking and problem-solving
I think the biggest shock I experienced in medical school was history-taking. From the very first moment the patient introduces themselves, you’re looking and listening for clues that may help you form a diagnosis. At the same time, you’re thinking of a list of differentials and you’re coming up with all the questions you need to ask to rule in/rule out a certain pathology. And all of this has to happen in around 7 minutes. While this does eventually become second-nature, first learning how to take histories was very challenging and really helped develop my problem-solving skills and my ability to think on my feet.
The ability to take criticism in stride
If you can handle an attending yelling at you non-stop for an entire teaching session or the scrub tech yelling at you for accidentally brushing against something non-sterile, you can handle any kind of criticism everyday life can throw at you. Case in point, the other day a small child pointed at my feet and said “your shoes aren’t pink and cute”, and while that level of criticism would have made me cry before starting medical school, I was able to brush it off and reply “your light- up shoes aren’t that cool”, so shout out to medical school for helping me get the upper hand on that 4 year old.
The things you do in medical school are honestly very impressive. You know a million different important facts about health and the human body; you can gather enough information from a patient coming to you with vague and obscure symptoms to form a diagnosis; and you can do a fair few impressive procedural skills, like successfully cannulating on the first attempt… occasionally. All of those things should be real self-esteem and confidence boosters.
A big part of medical school for me was self-reflection. Not only did our medical school demand reflections at the end of almost every assignment, but it’s also something you have to do whenever your own limitations get obviously and painfully pointed out to you. And that increased capacity for self-reflection has also helped me become just a little more zen in my own personal life. To use an example from before, I may have felt guilty about dunking on a four-year-old in the past, but my ability to reflect has really helped allow me to come to terms with what I did.
Improved communication and always being empathetic
This is something you just pick up from taking hundreds and hundreds of histories. And over time, it’s something that begins to creep more and more into your own everyday life. Sometimes, eventually, you begin to start being actually nice to your friends (?!), and they start to pick up on it. This useful skill from medical school has ultimately, allowed me to develop better, healthier relationships with my friends, and I’m sure it can do the same for you.
Not much needs to be said here. Just make sure to flex it on your non-medical friends.
All in all, once you look past the stress and immense workload, medical school is great. Not only is it a great career and a lot of fun, it can also really help improve your personal life. Make sure you reflect on some of the ways medical school may have helped you in your day-to-day life as well!