There is a certain tiredness that seems to encapsulate medical students around late April. Usually, it is because final exams are in early to mid May for first and second years and the stress and anxiety level skyrocket along with everyone simply feeling burnt after a long year of studying. However, even as a third year I am feeling tired, and I don’t have the worry of upcoming finals. After finishing my very busy surgery rotation, I started my pediatric rotation (my last rotation of third year!) hoping I would be less busy and have more off time. While it’s true I am no longer stuck in the OR for hours at a time and I no longer have to be at the hospital by 5:30 a.m. for pre-rounding and updating lists, my 11-hour days on inpatient pediatrics are still no joke. One of my classmates told me during the start of rounds at 9 this morning, “I am so weary. I feel like I have been here all day and it should be time to go home, yet we are just starting rounds.” Unfortunately, with this weariness and tiredness, my motivation to study has dissipated. While I studied decently during surgery (likely more out of fear as surgery is known to have one of the hardest exams at the end), I have had zero motivation to study when I get home after another long day on pediatrics, preferring instead to check sport scores, listen to music, or do anything but study efficiently. Part of the problem is my four weeks of outpatient pediatrics with its Monday-Friday 8-5 schedule starts in a week, and my mind keeps telling me I’ll have time later to catch up. Of course, this is a terrible way to look at time, as I have Step 2 looming in two months and the pediatrics exam isn’t easy either.
Even with this tiredness that has captured my classmates and me, we all agree on one thing: We are excited to be almost done with third year and to move on to fourth year in two months. Upperclassmen will tell you that fourth year is the best year of your medical school life with all of its electives and vacation time. It is basically a chance for you to explore medicine, try out new things, and actually enjoy life without worrying about an upcoming exam. After almost three years of hard work, we can begin seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and seeing the fourth years who have already matched and are about to graduate confirms it.
Looking back, however, I can honestly say that even without the promise of fourth year, third year has been 100 times more enjoyable than the first two years of medical school. Although my time is no longer my own, and I have times I must report to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, I am no longer a slave to my desk and sitting there studying all day. I may work 12 hour days on rotations, but I easily put in 12 hours a day during the first two years trying to cram in the insane information load we have to learn. Instead of finding variety in mixing up which subjects to study (e.g. pathology, pharm, or micro) and the mode of learning (watching a video, answering questions, or reading a book), I now find variety in patient populations, disease categories, and the types of services (inpatient, outpatient, OR) I am on. Being able to see medicine in action and actually seeing my knowledge and thinking put into action with my patient encounters and management plans is very rewarding. Too see how much knowledge and skills I have accumulated in the past 3 years compared to when I entered medical school is very humbling. In almost a year, our class will graduate and then become personally responsible for the lives of those entrusted to our care, an exciting and also scary proposition.
To all first and second years, I remember being tired and weary at the end of April when I was furiously studying for the final exams at the end of the year. Stress and burnout are high then, as is anxiety with all of the exams looming, but know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that third year is WAY better than the first two years. I have yet to find a third year at LLU that says they wish they were still a first or second year. Just continue to persevere and rest on a God who always gives us strength to get through the challenges of life.
“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
(If you are feeling depressed, anxious or otherwise overwhelmed, Loma Linda University provides free and confidential counseling to all students through the Student Assistance Program. In emergency situations, 911 should be called. Associate Dean for Student Affairs Dr. Henry Lamberton is also available to all School of Medicine students as a point of contact to discuss school or personal concerns and to make recommendations for mental health professionals.)