Establishing Balance in Medical School
Published on Aug 29, 2019. Updated on Jul 11, 2023.
2nd year medical school student Percy Takyi discusses the importance of finding balance, from making time to working out to maintaining his friendships, all while being a medical school student.
While medical school is comprised of many difficult topics, perhaps its most difficult aspect is learning how to deal with the pace of the material. I’ve always been told grasping material at medical school is like taking a fire hose, sticking it in your mouth, and turning it on full blast. And after my first year of medical school, I can say that pretty much sums up my experience!
Medical school is particularly different from school as an undergraduate, in that you simply do not have as much leisure time and must stay on schedule or as close to it as possible to be able to survive. For me personally, this whole year was about survival. As a result, it made it difficult for me to balance all of my other obligations. Below are a couple of my personal struggles that I learned to cope with during medical school, and my advice on how to attack them.
Making time for working out in medical school
Perhaps one of the hardest tasks for me to complete on a regular basis in medical school is a consistent workout schedule. This past year, I would start off strong during the beginning of each trimester or during my breaks, but as soon as exam time came around, I began to become inconsistent and would stop working out altogether. I noticed that this occurred because I didn’t feel fully prepared for my exam and felt that the time that can be used exercising can be better spent on reviewing material.
Something that I did begin to do that worked for me was using my stationary bicycle while I reviewed material on my flashcard decks created via Osmosis and Anki. Supplementing with these two resources has made a huge difference in my fitness life, and has allowed me to kill two birds with one stone. For anyone who struggles with implementing a successful workout regimen and study schedule, I highly recommend incorporating ways to study and stay active simultaneously.
Maintaining your friendships as a medical student
Another area in medical school that I have difficulty thriving in is nurturing my friendships. I’m used to being able to call my friends and speak to them for hours at a time, while being able to complete all of my other tasks. I learned quickly that this simply is not possible in medical school, at least not for me. As the school year progressed, I began to see that I knew less and less about what was going on in my friends’ personal lives. Some of this occurred due to my own doing, and some of it was because my friends didn’t want to distract me because of the stigma of the rigor of medical school.
The truth is, I need to interact and speak to my friends periodically to maintain happiness and avoid burnout. I’ve been more intentional and direct in letting my friends know that there are certain time periods in which I just cannot be as available. I also let them know at the beginning of a phone call that I may only have five or ten minutes to speak. I’ve also encouraged friends to feel free to call or text me whenever they want, and that if I’m too distracted, I will let them know.
Just like any relationship, communication is key and sometimes our friends just want to know what you need. You have to be willing to acknowledge that your schedule has changed dramatically, and that this may require you to have conversations with those people close to you, in order to establish an understanding of one another.
It's all about perseverance
The reality is that pursuing a career in medicine is going to be a long, hard, and demanding journey. I believe we can make our lives easier, however, by maintaining balance and being open to one another.
In December 2018, I launched a podcast titled Behind the White Coat: Failure and Percyverance where I bring on guests that detail their own personal failures and how they’ve been able to persevere through them. These failures encompass many topics, including exams, relationships, physical activity, and more. Each story is unique and each person has the opportunity to explain how they have persevered in their journey prior to starting school, during school, and post-school. I also delve into more of my own personal failures and how I’ve dealt with them.
Feel free to subscribe and reach out to me if you have any questions. Good luck on finding your balance!
About PercyPercy is a 2nd year medical student at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He is originally from West Orange, New Jersey and plans on going into the field of Psychiatry. In Percy’s free time, he enjoys podcasting, dancing, and binge watching TV shows.