One Day in The Life of a Medical Student

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One day in the life of a medical student.

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One Day in the Life of a Medical Student

Let's look at medical school through the eyes of those attending it. We'll check out their schedules throughout the day and get some insight into their thoughts throughout the day. As each year of medical school passes, you find that the medical students grow as people an physicians. However, each year also brings new challenges, fears, worries, and triumphs too.

To give you some context, each of these scenarios will take a week before Thanksgiving.

1st Year Medical Student

8:11AM – Woke up. Overslept. Fortunately my roommate (a 2nd year medical student) knew I had a 9AM mandatory lecture and woke me up. Definitely stayed up too late studying for the exam at the end of this week. Feeling groggy, but some coffee helps. It’s only a 15 minute drive to school, I can shower, jump in the car, if there’s parking spots open I should be ok. Thus begins a typical day in the life of a medical student who is in their first year.

8:51AM – There are no parking spots open. I park what feels like a mile away, grab my bag, and rush in.

8:58AM – Made it into the lecture hall with two minutes to spare before our 9AM lecture. Nice. The hall is only about hall full. 

9:12AM – Lecture starts. The instructor had some problems with the microphone batteries and needed the tech support people to come. I use the time to keep reviewing notes for our upcoming exam. People continued to trickle in while the presentation was being setup and now the hall is full. Most lectures I’d study notes while they talked, but today’s lecture is mandatory because it’s on the Human Gross Anatomy exam later this week. I take careful notes on what will be tested and what we need to know.

9:55AM – We take a 5 minute break. I get more coffee. This also gives me a chance to pet the emotional support dog they bring in before exams and talk to some friends. I am a little relieved that they are also feeling the stress of this upcoming Human Gross Anatomy exam. We all plan to spend some time in the cadaver lab later today after lunch then even later after lectures. 

10:00AM – Lecture resumes promptly on time. I’m starting to really feel the stress now. This is the third Human Gross Anatomy exam of the year and we only have one more before the winter break. So far I’ve passed both, but it’s only been by a few points. I definitely don’t have any wiggle room for a bad grade. 

10:52AM – Non-Mandatory Histology Lecture is next. Our next exam in Histo won’t be for another 3 weeks. I leave with the majority of the other first years before the histo teacher shows up and it would be embarrassing. The lecture will be recorded and I make plans to watch it later – after this exam.

10:55AM – Gym time! I’ve actually been pretty bad with going for the last two months. I know I should go more, and I used to go at least 3 times a week. Now a weekly visit is about the best I do. 

11:25AM – My anxiety gets the better of me and I wrap up my time at the gym. I change into my scrubs in the locker room and get some lunch. 

11:45AM – I head to the Cadaver Lab and text my friends that I’ll be up there. I drop my bag off outside the room and head in. The lab is packed with other first year students.

11:55AM – It’s weird how used to this I’ve gotten. If I had to rate the top 10 things I was worried about in medical school, this lab would be really high on that list. Now I don’t even bat an eye as I search for a nerve and carefully dissect tissue. In fact I’m way more worried about my grades then the cadavers.

12:05PM – My friends join me in the lab. One asks if I’d be interested in helping setup the gratitude ceremony for the cadavers that we hold every year December. I genuinely want to help, but I first verify when they would need my help. It’s after the test. I agree to help setup the room and read a poem by Henry Scott-Holland. We spend the next three hours testing each other and finding structures that the teacher guaranteed would be on the exam. I’m a little wary, they guaranteed structures in the past that didn’t show up and didn’t mention a few that did. I better be sure to know everything.

2:05PM – My confidence is growing a little. I feel like I can at least point out structures to my friends. I am not confidence I can reproduce this during the exam.

2:50PM – We leave the cadaver room. I would have stayed longer, but Human Gross Anatomy (HGA) is not my only exam this week. We also have an exam on Genetics. Unlike HGA we’re not done covering new material that will be on the exam. I know that I may want to ask questions… so I really need to attend in person and not watch a lecture. So it’s time to go to Genetics class. I notice the crowd has grown around the emotional support dog as I pass her in the hall. 

3:55pm – Unbelievable. How can they cover this much stuff so close to the exam?! We have three days and the HGA exam and I have to learn all this too? It also feels like I won’t really need to know this stuff for at least 2 more years. I try to banish thoughts like that from my mind and create a plan to add genetics to my studying tonight. 

4:05pm – I head back to the cadaver lab. Most of my friends are also there and are grumbling about genetics. We plan to leave earlier then we expected to give ourselves time to study this mountain of new material.

5:30pm – I change out of my scrubs and into regular clothing. Mainly so I don’t stink up the library. Before heading in I grab some dinner before our café closes. Was thinking about attending a pediatrics club meeting today, but way too busy.

9:30pm – I leave the library. My mind has been wandering for the last 30 minutes and I’m not making as much progress anymore. I get back to my apartment about 40 minutes before my roommate. He thinks he remembers the genetics teacher doing something similar last year. He recommends we definitely focus on studying from the material from today’s class as it’s really High Yield for this exam – or maybe it was HY for the next exam? It’s definitely HY for some exam. He looks tired and I steel myself for a late night now that I feel I have more focus. 

1:25am – I head to bed. As I drift off to sleep I realized I only really studied Genetics and Gross Anatomy today. I make sure my cell phone alarm is set for 7:40AM. There’s an “optional” 8:30AM review with the teacher in the cadaver lab. Everyone’s going to be there. My last thoughts before I fall asleep are “Gotta make sure I watch that histo lecture sometime after these exams…”

2nd Year Medical Student

6:30AM – Rolled out of bed. Can’t oversleep today, we have a mandatory clinical skills exam and I got the early slot in order to get it over with. I know my roommate has a mandatory lecture this morning – hopefully the bathroom is free so I can get out of here.  

8:00AM – Woke up roommate on the way out the door. 

8:15AM – Nice. Plenty of parking getting here this early. I panic for a moment when I realize I can’t find my stethoscope in my medical bag. Realized it was on my neck. 

8:20AM – Last minute bathroom break. Then headed into waiting room to get instructions for my standardized patient (sp). This is a typical day in the life of a medical student who has exams!

8:30AM – I’m waiting outside the hallway of the sp’s room… the student in the room next door looks even more nervous then me. That relaxes me a little. 

12:05PM – Finally done! Pretty sure I failed that. I know I forget do a full neuro exam on that 3rd patient. It’s obvious now that a stroke should have been in my differential. And why did that 2nd patient keep talking about having back pain – they were there for depression?! We aren’t supposed to talk about how it went with other students, but I kinda feel out how others are looking when they walk out. Looks like I’m not alone. I go to grab some lunch, but swing by the emotional support dog first. 

2:00PM – Lots of 1st years in the halls. They seem nervous about their exam coming up. Glad I don’t need to do take anatomy again! I head into my pathology class. We have an exam this week on pathology with Pulmonology. 

2:50PM – Path wraps. I think this exam will be ok, I like pulmonology. 

3:05PM – Clinical Medicine begins. It’s also on Pulmonology. Our Clin Med exam is on Monday of next week. These back to back exams at the start of 2nd year were hard. And they’re still hard! But I think I’m getting used to the pace. 

4:02PM – Scratch what I said about getting used to the pace. I can’t believe everything we covered! How are we supposed to keep all those antibiotics straight? And we have to memorize all of this before Monday?

4:04PM – The fatigue from the exam this morning is catching up to me. I feel like I might fall asleep, but I’ve got too much to study.

6:44PM – I wake up in the library. Those chairs are way too comfortable. I text my friends to apologize for missing our dinner plans at 6PM. None of them are medical students and I’m not sure they really understand that I don’t want to miss these plans. However, I do wake up just in time to join the group tutoring session going on for pulmonology. 

7:02PM – Tutoring starts. There’s at least 30 other people here. 

8:53PM – Tutoring ends. Any feelings of being refreshed quickly disappear as we waded through all the content. I head back to the library – I notice my roommate is there. Some people haven’t left their spots all day! I guess everyone has big tests. I just want to spend an hour going over everything we just discussed real quick. 

10:05PM – I leave to go home. I try to answer any questions my roommate has about his anatomy and genetics exams. I think they changed a lot for the 1st years. But I do remember that content being really challenging on the exam around this time. Glad I’m not in 1st year again!

10:30PM – I crash. Fortunately there’s no mandatory lectures tomorrow. I can just focus on studying all day. 

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