Top Ten Essentials For Surviving Medical School

So, you decided to go to medical school. Congratulations! Work hard and stay humble, and you will become an excellent physician.

While I am no expert at medical school or being a doctor just yet, I AM a seasoned third year medical student, and I have discovered there are some "must haves" for medical students.

If you're starting medical school soon or in your first or second year, take a look at this list of things I found helpful to have during my first two years of medical school! (Some I found out a little too late - oops!)

1. Stethoscope

Your school actually probably requires you to have a stethoscope upon beginning medical school. Usually, they want a cardiology grade stethoscope, my school in particular actually recommended the Littmann Cardiology III, so I got that one. However, once I discovered ERKA stethoscopes (retailed here by Medelita!), I haven't gone back to my Littmann. I can hear heart sounds SO much better through it. The ERKA Precise is the one I recommend for medical students, as it meets the criteria most schools expect!

2. Colored pens and highlighters

You will eventually develop your own system for highlighting or underlining, but I think almost all of my friends utilize different colors of highlighters for different things. I personally underline or highlight different things with different colors (all drugs are green, all enzymes and mechanisms purple, diseases in blue, etc), but I also have a friend who highlights with a different color each time she goes over content to keep track of things that continually stand out. Buy those colored pens and highlighters in bulk!

3. Good tablet or computer

This is SO important in today's education. There are less and less actual textbooks and more online books, lectures, and videos. The majority of my day studying is spent using my iPad or computer. My school actually required us to have an iPad to take all our exams on. I have friends who use their iPad for absolutely everything and love it, especially now that the iPad Pro is out! I personally purchased a new MacBook between first and second year because my old one was dying, and I didn't love using an iPad all the time. I use my MacBook or iPad literally every day for studying!

4. Scrubs

This is almost a no brainer! My school expected us to wear scrubs to class, so I had several pairs of scrubs just starting off. However, some of my friends at other schools didn't have to wear scrubs, so they had to scramble to get a pair if they got a shadowing opportunity and needed them. I recommend finding out if your school has a specific color requirement, and then pick a super soft pair or two to buy! (Medelita's Modern Fit scrubs are known for being extra soft, so that's a great option if they carry a color you need!)

5. Comfy study clothes

You will be pulling marathon study days quite frequently. I started off medical school wearing jeans and cute shirts, and I quickly realized that would not do for extra long days! I still don't understand how some people can wear crop tops and jeans to the library. You'll now find me in scrubs, leggings (Lululemon is my jam), my college soccer zip-ups, or my Medelita Core One tee! I get hot and cold pretty quickly, and this particular long sleeve tee is thi enough to not make me sweat but still cover all my skin. The most important thing is to make sure you have comfortable clothing so you can study all day long!

6. USMLE Step 1 First Aid book

I didn't buy this til the end of my first year, but retrospectively I wish I would have at least looked through the topics that we learned during first year to get a feel for what I needed to retain long term for board exams. It was particularly helpful when going through systems courses during second year, but I do wish I had skimmed over microbiology and biochemistry during my first year. I highly recommend going to Office Depot and asking them to spiral bind your book! Best $10 I ever spent.

7. Portable phone charger

Okay, I know this sounds silly, but for whatever reason sometimes outlets aren't that accessible in a lot of places, and having phone apps constantly at your disposal to look up drugs and facts and things is super helpful. My phone has died at the worst possible times. I bought a $12 portable charger on Amazon, and it has literally saved me so many times. (If you're wondering which apps I use, my favorites are Up to Date, Epocrates, Essential Anatomy, and Firecracker)

8. A good study spot

This one also seems self explanatory, but I cannot stress how important this is! I struggled a lot first year to find the right place to study. I ended up getting a nice desk, chair, and lamp for my bedroom and keeping candles and coasters for my drinks around to keep it nice. I also studied a lot in the library when I needed a change of pace. I found that being around other people studying the same thing was encouraging as well as helpful if I had questions. Whatever your style is, find your study spots early!

9. Comfy business shoes

You will be dressing up constantly during your third year of medical school, but I was surprised by how many times I had to dress up prior to starting my clinical rotations. I was trying to save money when I started medical school, so I bought cheap dress shoes to wear. I spent the first semester with blisters constantly on my heels, thus quickly learning that I needed to invest in some quality shoes. I have never regretted a single dollar spent on quality shoes since then! Some of my favorite brands (at least for female shoes) are Tory Burch, Calvin Klein, Lucky Brand, Clarks, and Naturalizer.

10. An escape for your mind

Escaping from the stress of medical school every once in a while is SO crucial to succeeding. Maybe your escape is the gym, or maybe video games, a Netflix show, or the beach. You need to have something that gives you moments of forgetting the stress of school and makes you happy.

Me? I do work out a lot at the gym, but I would say my actual escape is being outside- going to the beach, playing soccer, rollerblading, etc. Make sure you have your escape to keep you sane through medical school!

Some of these things are serious, some are practical, and some are preferences. All in all, these are what I found necessary to get through my first two years of medical school! I agreed to write this blog because I wish someone had told me all these things before starting medical school. Perhaps this list will help you out as you begin the long haul of becoming a doctor, or at least give you a guide as to how to prepare for the years ahead.

I wish you all the best on your journey to becoming a physician!