Taking the Lead as a Pre-Med: Early Steps to Be Prepared

Choosing to be a doctor is a minimum fifteen years in the making.  It is never too early to prepare yourself to be a doctor in high school or college. A goal without a plan is just a wish. Here are some helpful tips in order to prepare yourself for a future in medicine:

1. Schedule your classes wisely.

If you are in college, it is important to plan your class schedule wisely. Try not to take on too many science classes at once or else you will be stressed and risk not getting an A because you could not manage the workload of each class. Space your science classes out so you can focus on biology one year, chemistry the next year, and physics another year. Some students find it helpful to only have physics or organic chemistry in the summer. That way you are not distracted with other classes and can focus quality study time on organic chemistry or physics by itself.  

  1. Join Pre-Med clubs or other student organizations

Be with like-minded individuals. Discussing opportunities with other students who also want to be a doctor helps you gain a support system and find friends relating to the struggle. Joining a pre-med club, global health, or lab research club will help you learn from others and share tips on finding great opportunities to boost your resume.

  1. Gain clinical experience

It’s important to work in a hospital, clinic, or lab setting so you can gain a glimpse of what being a doctor is truly like. Be sure to shadow a physician and understand how their job is larger than seeing patients, but includes dealing with paperwork, insurance companies, the health system, and the team.

Try to work as a medical scribe to gain clinical experience in a hospital. As part of the team, you will experience how to work with nurses, physicians, techs, secretaries, and other healthcare professionals. You will also realize whether you can handle patients dying, seeing blood or vomit. Scribes have been helping the physicians tremendously for years in documenting patient charts and the skills gained being a scribe will aid greatly in medical school.

  1. Shadow a physician in different specialties

Try to shadow physicians in different specialties because every specialty is drastically different. Radiologists do not see patients but sit in a dark room interpreting radiology results. ER doctors see many patients per hour, from colds, to heart attacks, to suicide attempts, etc. They work in shifts and do not have to follow up with patients after their shift is completed. Try to see what kind of medicine peaks your interest. Do you like clinical research or public health? Do you prefer working in a team or individually? You do not need to choose a specialty until you begin applying for residency programs in the final year of medical school.

  1. Explore healthcare fields

In the last fifteen years there has been a tremendous growth in various healthcare professions. From being a nurse anesthetist, to physician assistant, to a C-arm tech, and pharmacists, there are many healthcare professions that offer a comfortable salary, require less schooling, and offer a flexible career. Speak with people in these health professions to understand their lifestyle, career demands, and attitude towards their profession.

  1. Review MCAT concepts in flashcards

Although you may be some time away from taking the MCAT exam, it is never too early to begin. Download MCAT study apps, keep flashcards of every science concept, and purchase some MCAT books to mentally prepare and to remember your science material long-term.

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  1. Great tips! Number 2 is my favorite. I think its very important not just in medical school but in life to have groups (discussion groups) where you can share ideas with others and learn from others. Same goes for med school, study together, ask eachother, help eachother.