What Medical Students Wish They Would Have Done In Their First Year

Trinity student practicing medical experience with a child during a clinical

Arthur Conan Doyle once wrote, “It is easy to be wise after the event.” This holds especially true for medical school. While in the throes of the first year, many medical students can feel like they are in a whirlwind of exams, clinicals, and classes. However, many graduating medical students look back and see how a few different actions could have made things much easier.

Incoming medical students who want to be wise before they start can learn from the experiences of others. Below are some of the things that graduating medical students wish they would have done in their first years:

Find a Note Taking Method that Works for You

As a successful student, you know how important note-taking is. Whether you already have a solid method that works for you or you are looking for a better way to stay organized, here are some considerations. Some of the top-rated note-taking apps are Notability, OneNote, Evernote, and Goodnotes. All have their strengths, but the common theme is about to elevate your note-taking beyond the pen and paper. Functionality such as adding pictures and links combined with your own handwriting make for a consolidated and personalized experience.

Start Building Your Professional Network

While residencies may be years away, it’s never too early to start building a professional network. First-year students can start by getting to know their professors and doctors they meet during clinical rotations. Trinity prides itself on our small class sizes and individualized teaching approach. This allows students to make connections with the students sitting next to them and their professors early on. Trinity’s professors encourage open communication and collaboration that fosters student success.

Get Time in Front of Patients

Lectures and exams are vital in learning to become a doctor, but nothing can replace face time with patients. That’s why Trinity School of Medicine allows students to start clinical immediately. Trinity students interact with patients under the close supervision of senior clinical and basic science faculty. Students gain context for the study of the human body and how it works, enabling them to better connect the concepts learned in the classroom with their own experiences and observation in patient care. These future physicians see what symptoms truly look like in a variety of patients during their time at Trinity.

Develop Relationships with Second-Year Students

Medical students tend to spend most of their time with people in the same terms as they are. This can be beneficial for several reasons–moral support, study groups, etc. However, there is value in creating relationships with second-year learners. These students can act as mentors and give practical advice for surviving the first year.

Finding a mentor can be intimidating, which is why two second-year students paved the way for others to follow. Vincent Shieh and Matthew Barvo started the Trinity Think Tank, a student-run organization whose mission is to inspire student engagement in research and academic activities. Think Tank meetings allow students to break into focus groups based on their specialty of interest to design and complete research projects. Peer mentors offer assistance on a wide range of topics, from research, to journal publication, poster presentations, statistical analysis, and medical conference attendance.

Find Something Fun To Do

A lot of work goes into the first year of medical school. Students often feel like they are struggling to keep up, so they neglect anything relaxing or fun. This only leads to more stress and frustration.

Instead, first-year medical students should set aside time to do things that bring joy. Whether it’s simply being around friends, enjoying time at the beach, or getting involved in intramural sports, spending time unwinding can help students thrive in the first year.

At Trinity, there are several organizations to get involved with that allow students to pursue passions that extend beyond the classroom. These groups serve as networking opportunities and philanthropic outlets, where students devote their time to a shared mission or project. They include student government, Vincentian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, American Medical Student Association, and others. Additionally, there is no shortage of island adventures from hiking, to scuba diving or participating in Trinity’s student activity groups. 

Try Different Study Styles

The way a learner studied in undergraduate school may not cut it in medical school. Some students find that they need to implement new strategies in order to do well in school. Try a few new things out before settling on a study routine. For example, learners who used to prefer writing notes by hand may learn that they need to type notes in medical school.

Avoid Comparisons with Other Students

One of the worst things that first-year medical students can do is compare their success to that of other students. It’s vital to remember that people often do not know each other’s struggles. The student who aces every test could be sacrificing their own mental health to do so, for example. Furthermore, worrying about someone else’s success is the fastest way to lose sight of one’s own path.

Medical schools are often viewed as survival-of-the-fittest environments where statistical outcomes are the key measure of success.  At Trinity, our mission is to help each student who enters Trinity achieve his or her personal goals for medical practice.  We measure success each time a Trinity graduate enters their chosen practice specialty and carries the Trinity commitment to service to their home communities.    

The first year of Caribbean medical school can put students to the test. However, with smart strategies and an open mind, learners ultimately thrive.

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