Working as a physician is a continuous learning process, just like studying to become a physician. Once you are a physician, although you may have finished medical school and residency, the profession demands constant improvement and optimization of your skills. Learn to be ambitious and organized. Push yourself beyond your perceived limits.
Try to become goal-oriented. Create both short-term and long-term goals. Short term goals enable you to stay focused and celebrate small wins. Long-term goals are great to keep in mind and scope of your daily work, but at the same time, can be overwhelming if not broken down into actionable, granular shorter-term goals. If you are visual, draw out a mind map. You will see the entire perspective of your goals. Keep the ultimate, long-term goal in mind, but focus on the immediate, smaller, short-term goals. Eventually, all of the short-term goals will culminate in a long-term goal achievement.
Be emotionally sensitive and compassionate, while at the same time, maintaining professionalism. Learn to relate to your patients and be sympathetic to their struggles. Utilize your compassion and sensitive awareness to build confidence in your decision making when your patients are facing adversities.
There are other doctors and attendings who have been in the same field for decades. They have honed their skills time and again. Keep yourself open to criticism and learning. Observe how senior physicians handle sticky situations. How do they handle interactions involving anger, pain, violence, sadness, agony, or trauma? It can be difficult to balance highly emotional situations with patients while also explaining your choices in care. Equip yourself to handle these weighted emotions, because you will encounter them. Ask other providers how they handle similar situations.
Each patient is different. Even if two patients have the exact same diagnosis, they each have a unique patient history that brought them to the point of diagnosis. Do what you estimate is the best for each patient. Personalized medicine not only helps the patient, but it helps you display the best qualities of a doctor and engenders trust. You will have to make quick decisions. It is not easy. Train yourself to make decisions quickly. Develop confidence and responsibility in your decision making.
In theory, it sounds easy. But the occupation of being a physician requires the ultimate respect for each of your patients. As an M.D., you are a vessel of years of education and training. This education is not a tool to build your ego, but instead, it is a special gift you can share with your patients. Respect your patients, regardless of their background. You have the ability to educate them and influence them about their health and the decisions they make to improve their situation. When your patients come to you, they are vulnerable, looking for your expertise to heal them. Respect this gift you have worked so hard to achieve.
Equally, respect your colleagues. Medicine is teamwork. Learn to communicate, share ideas, delegate tasks, and work together as a unit. Remain humble, and show appreciation to your team. Know when to ask for help. Know when you may have done something sub-optimally, and take accountability. Your team will respect you more.
Success is built by learning from failure. Assess every situation. Identify what you did wrong, and how you could improve. What could you have done differently in that situation? Analyze every experience and identify potential areas of improvement. Learn to push ahead despite any mistakes, failures, or perceived failures. The path to becoming a doctor has no end. Every day and every patient interaction is a learning experience: you are becoming a better doctor.
You may not achieve an ideal score on Step 1. Do not give up. You may struggle to keep your eyes open during your internship. Pinch yourself. Keep going. This is all a part of the process. Know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it seems very dim and obscure. Just keep pushing ahead. Every experience is teaching you.
The academic challenge of becoming a doctor is no walk in the park. Find resources within your school and community. Know when to ask for help. If you learn best by working with others, form study groups will your fellow classmates. The route to success is not direct. Learn to go with the flow and adapt to academic challenges. There is no one template or particular route that will lead you to the ultimate place of achieving an MD, and your growth and education do not stop once you achieve your M.D. Stay true to yourself. Be genuine and intentioned in what you do. Remain altruistic and humanistic.
About the Author: Dr. Andrew Nimmich is a Co-Founder of Tutor the People and Learnt. Tutor the People provides one-on-one MCAT test prep both online and in person. Tutor the People also offers medical school applications advising, personal statement review, mock interviewing, general extracurricular advising, and more. Tutor the People’s goal is to help pre-meds put their best foot forward on their medical school applications through academic excellence and altruism.