9 ways to thrive at medical school: McGill residents share top tips

During a July Orientation food-truck picnic, new McGill residents shared their top tips for our incoming Med-1s. (Photo: Owen Egan)

During a July Orientation food-truck picnic, new McGill residents shared their top tips for our incoming Med-1s. (Photo: Owen Egan)

By Anne Chudobiak with files compiled by Ishani Mitra and Grace Zhou

At this year’s Orientation picnic for McGill’s incoming medical residents, the Medicine Focus team circulated, collecting advice on how to make the most of medical school, to share with the Medicine Class of 2020. Here are the results:

1. Make your own quiet. — “My recommendation would be to start doing meditation. That’s my trick,” says one new resident with a smile. “It works. And it only takes ten minutes, max!”

2. Own your training. — During clinical training, before you approach your supervisors with a question, take the time to reason out what you would do if you had to make the decision on your own. “Whether you’re ‘right’ or not, you learn much more, such as how your intended plan of action was not right, or how you could have finessed it more.”

3. Make the most of your clinical rotations. — “I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician,” says one Family Medicine resident. “But then I did a rotation in it and it just wasn’t my field.” It is important, she says, to take these opportunities to learn more about the specialties you think you might like. “It’s important that you like it. You need to be passionate about what you do.”

4. Study in groups. — Having people to turn to when you have questions helps a lot, says one resident, who also points out that answering other people’s questions can help you to consolidate your own knowledge.

5. Keep an open mind. — “You can find happiness in many things,” says one resident, who urges students not to get too caught up on one specialization at the expense of all others.

6 Talk to people who have been through it before. —  Students should speak to residents and staff to get a better sense of their day-to-day realities. “Network a lot, ask questions,” says a resident who also made frequent use of the career advising offered at her undergraduate program, available at the McGill Faculty of Medicine through the WELL Office.

7. Listen to your inner voice. — When considering specialties, resist the urge to only pay attention to what people tell you you are good at, advises one Family Medicine resident, who chose her specialty because of the interaction with people it provides. “Also, it’s very diversified.”

8. Seek balance. — Keep fun in your life, especially at times where you find your energy lagging. Nurture your hobbies, and if you don’t have any, take advantage of the university environment to develop some. “Get involved in some extracurricular activities,” says one resident. “Continue going out, seeing friends, doing sports,” says another. When in doubt, head out: “Montreal is so full of activities! There is downtown, the Quartier des spectacles, there are festivals. For nature lovers, there are a lot of green spaces.”

9. Time management is your friend. — The most difficult part about medical school? “Managing your time,” says one international resident. “Especially while doing hospital rotations.” Make a schedule and study at certain times, says one Family Medicine resident. Plan time out with friends at least once a week and use this time as your time to relax, says another, adding, “I have an agenda and I always have a box or square that time is free time. No matter what is going on, I have my ‘free-time moment’!”

Medicine students and alumni, what do you wish you had known in Med-1? Share your tips with the Medicine Class of 2021 via email to anne DOT chudobiak AT mcgill DOT ca. Your contribution may be selected for publication in the “You tell us” section of the Spring 2017 issue of Medicine Focus, the Faculty of Medicine alumni magazine.

With thanks to the new McGill residents.






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