This week is anxiety awareness week, so we thought it would be an opportune time to sit down with Meredith Meyer, an LMFT who has extensive training in DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). We asked her some questions that we hear from med school students about anxiety. Here is an excerpt from our conversation:
Being a medical student is one of the most anxious times of your life, and not without good reason. Medical school is stressful, from the rigor of the material to the constant testing to the frustrations of grades to residency applications. Unfortunately, these things are inherent to medical school and out of your control, and having anxiety in this situation is understandably very normal. However, much can be done for you to combat this anxiety as a medical student.
Congratulations – you’ve faced the challenges of the med school admissions process and are finally living your dream of attending medical school. Unfortunately, things are not going as planned. Your professors are hard to understand, there’s a ton of lecture material, and let’s face it – you performed poorly on your first set of exams, and you feel like you’re struggling. At Med School Tutors, we’ve worked with many students just like you, and we’re here to help put your mind at ease by responding to the top 5 concerns that students in your situation express when they reach out to us. Here goes!
Want to avoid floundering on your USMLE? Here are six reasons students sometimes do, and how best to avoid these pitfalls:
Taking practice exams is an important part of preparing for the USMLE Step 1 exam. While key resources like UWorld, First Aid, and Pathoma are great learning tools for students, practice exams are needed to provide a benchmark of progress before taking the real exam.
At some point in our lives, we will all fail at something in our medical career. For some this might be failure to gain admission into our favorite medical school, to match at our first choice residency, or to get hired for our dream job. Many students will fail a test or two in medical school. And, every year, hundreds of students will fail a USMLE exam. While all of these failures may seem devastating at the time, some may find failing Step 1 to be the most heart wrenching. However, it is possible to recuperate from a failed Step 1 exam, come back stronger, and successfully match into residency. The following are some tips about how to recover from a failed USMLE Step 1 exam.
Talk to your school.
From the day most students start medical school, they learn about the USMLE Step 1 exam. As the months go on, talk of the exam becomes an almost daily occurrence. It’s not surprising, then, that many students feel they need to devote as much time and energy to preparing for this exam as possible. For some, this manifests as weekly USMLE practice questions and frequent skimming of review books as early as first year. Others may spend their entire first summer preparing for Step 1. Some students sacrifice Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring breaks to prepare. On the contrary, other students do little prep before their dedicated Step 1 study period.
So, the question remains – what do you need to know about getting a head start on USMLE Step 1 exam prep? The following offers some myths and truths to guide you through the process.
MYTH: Excessive, early worry about the USMLE Step 1 will lead to a higher score.
Updated Post from 2015:
At some point in our lives, we will feel anxious. It's part of being human. The ability to prognosticate and think about the future gives us the power (or burden) to reflect upon what might happen. And, as survivalist instincts have led to our evolution over millions of years, we are always prepared for the worst of what might happen.
Not too long ago, a young man came into my office for the first time. We'll call him John. After taking a thorough medical history, I asked him what brought him in that day.
"Well I'm trying to figure out if I'm depressed," John said. "Do you have a measurement tool for that?"
We do, actually — in our office we use the PHQ 9 to diagnose and quantify the severity of depression. While the tool certainly has its flaws, it does allow us to track a patient's symptoms over time. I went through the questionnaire with him and he scored a 4-5 (it was difficult for him to answer the questions). The tool would consider this to be no depression or very mild depression. However, anytime somebody is not sure if they're depressed, I want to find out what is actually going on.
It’s that time of year. No, not the beginning of the countdown to the return of Game of Thrones. Rather, the beginning of your countdown to Step 1.