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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 January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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