How Hard Is Med School?

Ever since I’ve started studying medicine, I got asked this on a daily basis, so I decided to address this here as well. I’ve been thinking a lot about how and what to write so I hope the following will be helpful.

It’s hard to say whether some college program is “hard/difficult” or not because this mostly depends on the individual and his or her interests. For example, to me studying physics seems harder than medicine because physics is something, I’m just not that good at or enjoy it as much as medicine even though I find it interesting, so I would probably struggle more. However, there is a difference between the programs in how much work you’re expected to put in and how much knowledge are you expected to have at the end.

Here’s how studying medicine is like for me, how things go in my school and then you can decide for yourself how “hard” you find it.

TIME – yes, it’s very time consuming, we spent a lot of time in practices (before covid) and lectures and seminars can take a lot of time as well. Studying and writing papers is also very time consuming since I’ve been studying for about 4-8 hours a day, depending on how much time I had left when I got home and whether we had finals or colloquiums at that time. But I wouldn’t say this was the hardest part for me because I actually enjoy studying the things that I’m interested in so I rather study physiology for 6 hours straight than history (which was one of my least favourite subjects) for an hour. I also enjoy taking and editing notes so taking more time for that wasn’t such a problem for me and I also knew that I would have less time when I was applying.

INFORMATION – this was one of the major shockers for me because there was just so many things to remember at once and everything is connected so you can’t forget anything. There are so many details and they’re all so important and then there’s also this voice inside your head saying “you have to know everything because one day someone’s life is going to depend on it” that just adds up the pressure of having to know and remember as much as I can. When I started studying medicine, I really didn’t expect there’d be so much more to learn and so much more to remember in such a short time. The biggest shocker by now was probably physiology since it’s such a comprehensive subject and so important for practising medicine.

INTERDISCIPLINARY – most people I talk to think medicine is just very detailed human biology and that if you were good at biology you could easily master medicine. Which kind of is partly true since good biology knowledge definitely helps but it’s also not enough. There is a lot of physics (by which I was very surprised but now that I think of it makes perfect sense), especially electricity, liquids, pressure, etc. and a lot of other sciences, especially chemistry, biochemistry, we also had some computer sciences for some reason and psychology.

EXHAUSTION – I would say that med school is more exhausting rather than difficult. I often feel like I could use another few hours in a day just to get everything done. There are no breaks, except for summer, but that is only if you pass the exams. There’s always something you need to study and there’s always a paper to write so it’s often hard to find time for anything else. 

RESPONSIBILITY – even though you’re not a doctor yet and people’s lives don’t depend on you YET, you still feel the responsibility to learn everything as good as you can, t do everything as best as you can, practice a lot so you could give you patient the best possible care in the future. Not every med student may feel that way in the beginning but I sure did so I always made sure I did my best which maybe took me a little bit more time and energy but at the end of the day my conscience is clear and I know that by doing and studying the way I do I’ll be more confident with patients and be more sure of myself which means a lot to me since I can be very insecure most of the time for some reason.

SELF DOUBT – this was the one thing that was very hard for me to fight with and I still am. Am I good enough for this? Am I going to make it? Am I going to be a good enough doctor? Am I even smart enough to do it? Would it be better if I just quit now instead of wasting my time?

Those and similar questions have been on my mind even before the first day of med school and only got louder as it started. I was making myself think that I’m not cut out for this, that I’m not going to make it, so why even bother.  But I believe that at some point we all go through phases like this, so we just have to get through it. 

Another thing is that in order to get into med school in my country you have to have the top results in the national finals that we all have to take after high school so everyone that got in was at the top of the class in high school. When the first exams started it was truly odd seeing people who were always used to getting great grades suddenly failing and dropping out because it seemed so out of character. It also turned out that a lot of those people applied only because it sounded fancy and because their parents expected them to but if this is not what you love and find interesting then, of course, you’re not going to put as much time into it as you should and your grades will fall.

To sum up;

It’s not the easiest school in the world

  • It’s going to be time-consuming
  • It’s going to be energy-consuming
  • It’s going to make you question yourself
  • It can be exhausting
  • It’s totally worth it