Advice Solicited: How Do You Do It?

I have a question for medical students and doctors (and anyone else who thinks they can): How do you do it?

I am in my final (sixth) year now and it is by far the hardest year I have ever had. We are expected to work long hours, like the Interns. I am not opposed to working hard, but be reminded that a) we are not paid for this like the Interns are and b) we have to study for upcoming exams, whereas the Interns already have their degrees. So at the end of a long day we still have to study…

The Cartoon Guide to Becoming a Doctor by Dr Fizzy McFizz – click image for link.

Furthermore I feel like a lot of our work is scut. When you’re a third year and maybe even a fourth year, you don’t mind doing scut, because you need to learn all of those things. It’s exciting for you to perform any mundane little task in hospital because OH-EM-GEE HOSPITAL. But running around doing these things – even assisting in surgery – is no longer exciting because I feel it keeps me from the ultimate learning experience at this level, namely patient contact.

When you are a final year you need patient contact. I will not be examined on the ability to get IV access this year. I was examined on that in my third year. I will be examined on my approach to clinical scenarios. And I feel like I have little to no time to learn that. I get home at night and I have no energy to read up about the cases we had that day. I fall asleep on my books.

And exams creep ever and ever nearer. The biggest exams we have had. The exams they call “hell week.” Where examiners have no mercy and could turn an already-long six-year degree into a seven-year one.

I am told that hundreds of students have done and survived this before me, and hundreds will do so after me, and so too, can I.

But some days, it feels like I am not ready. Like I can’t. I’m sure it sounds like I have a huge attitude problem, and I swear I do my best every single day NOT to have a bad attitude.

So, how do you (or did you) do it?

P.S: I’m currently on General Surgery, which is no different than it was in third year. I.e. it still is killing me. Michelle Au’s cartoon about her third year surgery clerkship pretty much describes it spot on. Click the image for full cartoon.


  1. I know it probably won’t make you feel better, but I think most med students feel this way at some point or another. I know I definitely feel this way a LOT of the time. I can’t speak to your specific experience since (as you know) our med school systems are different, but I do know that it’s overwhelming and non-rewarding at times and you feel like “ARGH why are they wasting my time with this crap when I could be studying? They don’t respect my time at all!!” but I have every faith that you’re going to come out on the other side of this in one piece.

    I wish I had advice for you, but all I can offer you is that you’re not alone. 🙂

  2. I feel your pain. Our systems are different, so our last year of med school is slightly less crazy (depending on how your schedule worked) before our final exams. But, we end up writing part of our licensing at the beginning of our second year of residency, which is basically death (the falling asleep on your books working 80 hours then studying kind of death). And to me, Gen Surg is one of the worst places to be before exams… Ick.

    Sometimes I had a defeatist attitude about the whole thing, but knowing others survived made me know I would too. Someone once told me to just keep reading around cases and things that you struggle most with. Bring books to work for spare moments (ha!). The other thing is to keep doing something relaxing that you enjoy despite the craziness because that is what keeps you human.

    You can do it!!

  3. You just do it. You’ve made it this far, there is no reason to think you can’t keep going. Take a break when you need it and even if you don’t think you need one, take one!

  4. OMG
    I almost cry! Today is the first day of my final year and I just got home and … I thought I should ask you because you seem to be quite active
    ” But some days, it feels like I am not ready. Like I can’t. I’m sure it sounds like I have a huge attitude problem, and I swear I do my best every single day NOT to have a bad attitude. 

    So, how do you (or did you) do it?”
    That sum it up for me. Plus I am not sure I want to be a student anymore. I feel tired and just want to read a novel instead.

    1. Aw dear! It’s hard right? Good luck to you. I am sure we will both get through it. I am tired of being a student too. Let’s just give it that final push. We’re almost there!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s