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12 Things Only Medical Students Will Understand

12 Things Only Medical Students Will Understand

If you are an S1 (and only a med student will know what this means), then there are just some things that no one else will understand about your life, and how could they? Who else could learn to get comfortable being alone in an anatomy lab with nothing but dead bodies to talk to?

Who else could understand that holding a kidney in one’s hand is really kind of cool? Who could possibly understand that a First Aid text has nothing to do with the Red Cross course? Who else could be thrilled that a library is considering staying open 24 hours? And who else could possibly understand that anyone would actually choose 4 years of nothing but study, eating, no sleep and gallons of caffeine?

But the med student’s life is filled with many things the “lay” person won’t understand, and here’s 12 that are definitely on that list.

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1. You begin to speak in a foreign tongue.

A lot of your language seems to be related to Latin or Greek, but odd words are spilling forth from your mouth – words like integumentary, lingual artery, and glossopharyngeal nerve. And a lot of your words begin with things like “histo,” “lapar,” “hemat” and so on. People may not understand why you have a book on Latin and Greek etymology on your kitchen table, but it is one that you commonly use. Studying Greek and Latin roots, prefixes and suffixes lets you learn and remember medical terminology.

2.  People you went to undergrad school with are getting married and having kids, and you’re still living the “single life”

Though it isn’t their common definition of a single life. Your “singleness” is not comprised of being a “player” in romance and fun; it is having almost no social life for long periods. And you’re really happy every time one of your friends has a healthy, normal baby, especially after you begin to study all of the birth defects and genetic issues that exist. In fact, there are times when you wonder if you want to take the chance of having kids at all.

3. People who are leading “normal” lives may not understand what the “nightshift” really means.

Especially after they watch the TV series of the same name. Having the nightshift and/or being on call means you learn to depend heavily on caffeine and to take short power naps in strange places – a supply closet, a lounge chair, even standing against a wall. It does not mean that you have romance and personal drama that somehow gets resolved within an hour that is also filled with commercials; it does not mean that you magically come up with a difficult diagnosis and “save the day” and a really sick patient. It means you “shadow” an attending or monitor patients’ vitals.

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4. You take odd jobs to pay the bills that your loans are not covering.

You hire yourself out as a pet or house sitter while people with normal lives take vacations. You mow lawns, and everyone thinks you are enjoying sun and fun from the tan you now “sport;” you tutor high school biology students while worried parents are wringing their hands over their kids’ grades. You don’t particularly like these jobs, but the alternative is eviction or Ramen noodles for the next four years. Maybe, it’s time to change something? Anna Maria College offers its personal list of jobs you can be engaged in and that actually pay well. They will be extremely helpful both for you and other people.

5. Hypochondria is a permanent condition.

People who develop “symptoms” get on Web.MD and read about all of the things that their symptoms could mean, and sometimes they rush to their doctors only to find that there is really nothing seriously wrong. These are amateurs compared to medical students. Imagine being in Pathology class every day and studying every disease known to man and its symptoms. Med students have “symptoms” on a daily basis and don’t need WebMD. They have their pathology texts to give it to the “straight.” This is what professional “hypochondria” is – developing new symptoms every single day!

6. “Normal” people can tell you why they chose the careers they did.

They are passionate about teaching children; they love programming and developing new apps; they love the challenges of accounting or engineering. You, on the other hand, spend time wondering why indeed you chose this profession. Here you are bleary-eyed in class, after an “all-nighter” at the hospital, knowing that your refrigerator is empty and wondering when you will find the time even to grocery shop; here you are in the anatomy lab looking at diseased livers and lungs. And you have pretty much figured out how much debt you will have when you finally do graduate and begin life as a pauper doing an internship and residency. But, somehow, the passion for medicine really does “trump” it all, and you move forward!

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7. Talking to “lay” people just got a lot harder.

When you find yourself in social situations, you tend to talk about your latest successful diagnosis of a disease only you can pronounce, while they are talking about politics or the latest movie the saw. Worse yet, they begin to list all of their symptoms and assume that you can be the “resident” diagnostician. You resist the urge to tell them that they obviously have cancer, even though you will later tell them that it was just a joke.

8. You become somewhat of an expert on how to remove stains.

You take your lab coat off as soon as you leave your anatomy lab, because you know that there are creepy fluids and stains on it. You wad it up and stuff it in your bag, along with the other lab coats that have blood, urine, and other stains from hospital rounds, knowing that you cannot afford dry cleaning. But you do know which products will get those stains out, and you keep a constant supply of them when you go to the laundromat.

9. You develop some strange mannerisms when you study.

Others in the library or at Starbucks hear you talking to yourself; you walk around spouting mnemonics so that you can “cement” the lists of symptoms you must remember for every disease being covered in pathology class; your First Aid text goes with you everywhere, and you read aloud to yourself as your put your class notes in it. You have discussions with yourself, as if you had some invisible study “partner.”

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10. You over-analyze.

When you are presented with a set of symptoms, you conduct a crazy amount of research, coming up with rare and little-known horrible diseases, when, in fact, they are the symptoms of some pretty common “ailments” – pregnancy, basic gastroenteritis, diabetes, etc. You learn that looking for the obvious should be the first step in a diagnosis!

11. Time becomes the major focus of your existence.

You try to schedule everything that must be done; you underestimate the amount of time it may take to review and re-write your course notes; you end up cancelling dates and meetings with friends because you are running out of time; in your hurried life, you may forget you brother’s birthday; your car “dies” because you haven’t had the time to get the routine maintenance done; you don’t return phone calls and haven’t checked your email in days. “Normal” people don’t understand why you can’t just drop everything and take care of some basic personal and social needs.

12. You hate “gunners”

Those students who must consistently brag about their grades, who always have the really “high level” questions to ask in class, just to “suck up” to their professors. The jerks who make everyone else “look” bad because they volunteer for extra time at the hospital. You vow never to become one of them and refuse to reveal your latest scores to your peers; you plug along happy with your “average” status, refusing to take the “bait” that “gunners” always throw out there. But, you also realize that no one else likes the “gunner” either, and the camaraderie you are developing with your peers is something they will never enjoy.

Featured photo credit: Okko Pyykkö via flickr.com

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Elena Prokopets

Elena is a passionate blogger who shares about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on August 12, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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