Hey! I’m Tiffany, currently a third year medical student at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. You might see me on Instagram as @tiffanyjoy8! When Med Couture asked me to write about a day in the life of a medical student, I polled my followers to see what they wanted to read. They were split between a studying day and a hospital day, so Med Couture has kindly agreed to let me do a two-part series.
I recently just took my first set of board exams, so I’m going to tell you about a day in the life of studying for my boards. In medical school, we take one step after second year, two after third year, and one after graduation. The first board exam is based on the science knowledge behind medicine and is less clinical, so it tends to be very detailed and tricky. We have several weeks of no classes or clinical rotations to focus on studying for it.
On a typical study day, I woke up around 8AM, which is later than I maybe should have slept, but I struggled with sleeping at night during boards studying because I was stressed out. Sleep is absolutely crucial to a properly functioning brain! I probably studied away from home over 70% of the time, usually at one of our school’s libraries. All my best friends were studying for the same exam, and it was almost comforting having other people around doing the same thing.
When I got to the library, always with an iced coffee or Red Bull in hand, I started with doing a practice question block. I get bored quickly so I did my best to alternate what I was doing. Doctors in Training (DIT) was my absolute favorite resource, so I spent a hefty amount of time going through that program. After I did a question block, I would watch 4-6 videos from DIT. Then, I would go over the question from the morning, then watch more videos, then do another question block, etc. I have to mix up what I do otherwise I get really distracted! I tend to get a lot done at night, so I often stayed at the library until 11PM or midnight.
Throughout my library days, I usually took a 10-15 minute break every couple hours. My friends and I spent our breaks in the Florida sunshine walking around the lake or to the nearby coffee shop. It’s so important to surround yourself with a great support system for a rough couple months of studying! Almost every day, we would go out for dinner, usually to places similar to Chipotle or Panera. It seems excessive to have been going out to eat almost every day, but I struggled to get myself to eat during my study months because of stress. During the day I ate yogurt, sandwiches, popcorn, veggies, and fruit. Going out was a fun way to have a little break with my friends and also get some decent food into my body. We all looked forward to that hour break every day; it kept us sane!
Study days are much harder for me than long hospital days because I enjoy being active and running around. As I mentioned, I struggled with stress that hindered my normally good sleeping and eating habits. Several other medical students do not struggle with this and wake up earlier and cook at home. This was my own journey, and I wanted you to see the daily struggles of one medical student’s life. My solutions to these struggles were to sleep in and eat dinner out. Everyone’s journey looks different! Spending all day every day studying for one exam is hard, honestly probably the hardest part of medical school, but it is possible. Studying alongside my friends, texting my parents and brothers, and watching an episode of The Office before bed every night were crucial to my sanity. More importantly, when I was down and needed a reason to keep going, I would take a few minutes and think about all the dying and sick patients I have encountered that desperately need a doctor’s care. When I looked at my study material and envisioned a patient who needed a physician’s knowledge, it was so much easier to learn.
If you are in medical school or hoping to go to medical school, I hope that hearing a little about my journey through studying motivates you to find ways to make studying more enjoyable. The path to becoming a doctor is hard, but it IS doable! Surround yourself with positivity and things that keep you happy, and it will be that much better.