Studying Medicine

Tips for New Student Interns: Part 2 – On Studying

Exactly a year ago, I started Student Internship. Now, we are getting ready to welcome the new bunch as we prepare to take our leave from medical school – soon, soon. That first week of SI was so exhausting. I found myself studying for hours and still feeling useless.

One year later, and I’ve become convinced of one thing: you study differently for every rotation, and there are ways to study effectively without burning out. These are some of my methods and tips that tend to work when you actually use them (I’ll leave you to interpreting that).

study si

Start at the your home base.

I’m pretty good at finding resources, but the best thing is to spend your first few days gathering resources from your own university. Why? Because you need something to use as comparison. So compile your notes in files (I sure hope you didn’t burn them after second year…) or even better, load them all onto your tablet. I can’t tell you the amount of times that I searched far and wide for study notes and only realised at the end that I should have started with some pretty good notes made by my own professors.

Technology is your friend. Free stuff is everywhere.

To be specific, I am referring to the LEGAL free stuff. I tend to share my flash cards, and I am working on uploading some of my summaries.

There are some great resources shared by universities and individuals. Examples:

You get the idea.

Twitter has also been a great help to me. One of my favourite accounts:

Youtube is GREAT, especially if you’re looking to brush up on anatomy. Yay for nerdy anatomy songs! And Figure 1. Get the app, it helped me through my surgical blocks SO MUCH.

Study in different ways

I have a problem: once I’ve read a chapter once, I’m bored with it and I struggle to study it again. You might not have the same problem to the same extent, but I do believe that using more ways of studying and therefore more ways of mental stimulation truly improves your memory retention. For example, I really struggled with pharmacology until I started using flashcards. This is as good a time as any to try some new things. When I really don’t feel like studying, I make mind-maps, because it makes me feel like I’m doing something creative.

Not by me. Thum Cheng Cheong. Click for source.

Integrate public health, economics, or humanitarian work

This is a bit cryptic because I suck at thinking up good headings. So sue me (but please don’t). Anyway, what I mean to say is that there are ways of making medicine stick, if you combine it with another interest. For example, before psychiatry I downloaded WHO’s reports on mental health around the world. Similarly, if you were studying infectious diseases you could  read some of Paul Farmer’s work. This is obviously a bit of a time-suck so I tend to do it only for subjects I need some help with and only in the first week of a rotation.

I read this for psychiatry. Click for link.
I read this for psychiatry. Click for link.

Read Journals

In Orthopaedics we had to take turns to present a journal article at morning meetings. We all disliked the idea, but it actually really put the discipline into perspective. For example, the first student spoke about Ponsetti vs. Surgery for Club Foot. Obviously none of us will go on to remember exact figures or surgical methods, but somehow it still made club foot more relevant to us. I did one of my presentations on the usefulness of ultrasound diagnosis (vs. Ortolani and Barlow manoeuvres) in developmental dysplasia of the hip and although nobody will really ask us that, in order to understand the article we had to get clued-up about DDH.

By the way, we had Ortho back in March/April… so the fact that I remember this is kind of a case in point.

Patient write ups

O. Em. Gee. I know a lot of people will kick me for saying this, but I don’t know why we don’t do more write-ups of patients.

Let me explain: the biggest challenge for me this year has been integrating my knowledge in such a way as to help a patient. So in these write-ups (which we have done for Internal Medicine and Psychiatry), you start with history, effect on ADLs and physical examination with special investigations. You then motivate your differential diagnosis and explain the steps that were followed to reach a final diagnosis.

Following that, you explain your management of the patient and you make a list of the indications, contraindications and side-effects of the different drugs used.

Finally, they ask you to describe normal physiology as well as the pathophysiology of the disease process, elaborate on the patient’s progression while in hospital, and to critically evaluate the patient management.

If you’re thinking that sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. And yeah, I left my write-ups to the last week and kinda hated myself for it. But I think if you do one write-up a week, of different disease processes of course, it would go SWIMMINGLY. As it stands, doing those write-ups, albeit three days before my Internal Med OSCE, made me feel more prepared for the exam than any of the other study methods I tried.

Be a little more annoying in the wards

I asked the physician if he would give me some advice for the coming exam-prep. He said that final years have a real excuse to be annoying in wards. Ask questions if you don’t know a drug. Walk around with one of your textbooks and read up if nobody is actively teaching you. Organise teachings among yourself and the juniors on your firm. You’re in the last stretch, you have a license to do this.

ABC

If you’re from my school, you’ve probably heard this one before.

studycat

Share

I detest medical students who gather resources like squirrels preparing for hibernation and don’t share. DO YOU NOT WANT YOUR COLLEAGUES TO BE EFFICIENT ONE DAY?! Share and ask people to share. I can’t stress how important this is. Have a class DropBox or something similar on your university’s intranet. I truly believe that medical school will grow from strength to strength once we start looking out for one another. My friends and I sometimes do summary-exchanges – sometimes reading somebody else’s perspective makes the world of difference.stand_on_quote

 Be well

A burnt-out brain does not a diligent student make. But I’ll write more on this later this week.

If you use a method that works for you, feel free to share it here. If you have something you’d like me to tackle in a similar post, I’m open to suggestions!

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14 thoughts on “Tips for New Student Interns: Part 2 – On Studying”

  1. I really like ABC. Very practical. LOL!

    I am a big flashcards fan. I too survived pharmacology that way. It was also helpful for Infectious Diseases and Hematology. I’m sure they work for other stuff but that is where I used them.

    I love learning from patient write ups. Even if not formally, I find some of my strongest rotations were ones where I really had the time and opportunity to read around and figure out my patients and their presentations. I will always remember neuroblastoma and ITP because of two kids I met on my peds rotations!

    Learning by teaching is also great. That is kind of like sharing and being “annoying” on the wards. I had a couple friends in med school who I would study with. We were all book and individual study type people, but we would take time to explain topics the others were struggling with to one another or to figure stuff out that was complicated. It helped a lot. I often will choose to offer to teach med students/other residents things that I find challenging in order to force myself to learn it all the better.

    Great list!

      1. Lol. I’ve heard paeds is pretty rough here at UP, I’m assuming it’s the same where you are. But hey, at least there are kids. And they generally paint the wards to be cheerful! So at least there’s that on the bright side…

        Have you thought about specific tips for oral exams?

      2. Yeah, it’s pretty rough here too! But I do love it nonetheless.
        I have thought of some tips for orals, so I’ll do a post about that sometime too. They’re not really revolutionary though, heh. 😛

  2. Good morning, I hope your internship is going well! So I’m fifth year, got the SI badge and August is approaching all too quick. I am scared. I am scared that I don’t know enough to be starting that final stretch. I feel as if I need to revise everything I’ve done so far, but I just don’t have that much time. Where do I start? What can I do in the next two months to prep?

    1. Hi! Oh man, I remember that feeling so clearly. It’s terrifying. I remember looking at my friends a year ahead of me, and thinking the gap between us was insurmountable.
      The trick to SI is confidence – and yeah, you don’t have that right now, but do what we all do: fake it til you make it.
      The most important preparation you need to do is mental. Prepare yourself for any situation: where a third year asks you for advice, for example. Or where you’re doing a 36 hour cardio call. Know that every year, people survive it.
      But in terms of needing to know everything: no. It’s not going to benefit you in any way to try to cram everything into your head in the short time before August. In fact, once SI starts, you’re going to have so little holiday that you’re going to wish you sucked the marrow out of this last bit.
      If you do want to spend some time brushing up on things, brush up on the basics. Improve your anatomy, physiology, histology. It’s amazing how they help to organise all the other “stuff” in your mind.
      Oh, and maybe take a little time (and I do mean little) to organise all your notes for every rotation.
      As much as SIs are expected to act LIKE interns, it is primarily there to teach you to become a doctor. Don’t go into it exhausted and shell-shocked. You will conquer this!

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