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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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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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