Wayfaring MD

I am a family medicine resident who likes to highlight the hilarious in medicine as I write about patients, medical school, residency, medical missions, and whatever else strikes my fancy.

HIPAA is for reals, folks. All of my "patient stories" have been changed to protect patient privacy. I will change any or all identifiers, including age, location, race/ethnicity, sex, medical history, and quotes. Also, I am an anonymous internet person. Why should you trust an anonymous internet person to give you medical advice? Don't ask me, ask your doctor!
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How can I make myself care enough about my undergrad classes (chem, ochem, physics, bio, etc.) to do well in them so that I get into medical school? Right now I’m having trouble getting motivated enough to study them. –amputatedwings

Motivation is a hard thing to find. You can’t just create it out of thin air. It’s something you have to continually work on to be able to keep it.

Before I get into how to grow and maintain motivation, let me strike down some misconceptions. 

  •      “I hate this biochemistry stuff, but when I get into studying things I’m interested in in medical school, it will get easier.” 
     When I got to medical school, though, the motivation was no easier to find than in undergrad. I couldn’t go off of pure curiosity, because curiosity wasn’t enough to make me excited about the function of the alpha subunit on the cholera toxin molecule (which I learned in my first week of medical school). It wasn’t interesting to me. There’s TONS of stuff in medicine that is boring to me. Case in point: eyeballs. Gluconeogenesis. Toenail fungus. Biostatistics. Rhinoviruses. I could go at this all day. The point is though, if you hate pre-med, you very well may hate medical school. Figure out what you really love and do that. 
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  •  ”My future patients/sick grandma/history of childhood illness will motivate me.” Heh, not so much. I love my patients, and I love patient care, but it was definitely not on my mind at midnight while learning the bleeping histologic appearance of the terminal ileum or about the 500 different foramina and fossae of the skull (both tidbits of knowledge which I have yet to use in my clinical work, btdubbs). image
  •  ”My significant other / mommy / puppy will keep me going.” Son, yo mama doesn’t have a CLUE what med school is like, unless she’s a doctor, and in that case she will probably have even less sympathy for your butt. I had friends with extremely supportive families and significant others, but at the end of the day, many times they’d be calling other med students saying, “I’m ready to quit. I’m putting in an application at Starbucks.” 
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Ok, so where do we get motivation from?

  • Set (and meet) goals. Have a career goal, 5 year goal, 1 year goal, semester goal, week goal, daily goal, next 20 minutes goal, whatever. The point is, don’t set your goals too far off, because then they seem nearly impossible to meet. If they’re close and you meet them, it gives you the boost you need to get to the next goal.
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  • Keep track of your progress and celebrate how far you’ve come. You are not too old to post good grades on the refrigerator. Keep a journal of your accomplishments, compliments, and accolades. Don’t show it to anyone but yourself. But have it available for you to peruse when you’re feeling particularly dumb and unmotivated. Why do you think I have a #compliments tag? 
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  •  Find enjoyment in your work. If you like what you’re doing, you are likely to keep doing it. Now as stated above, you’re not going to enjoy EVERYTHING, but hey, if you’re having a low motivation day, switch to studying your favorite subject for a while to get you going again. 
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  • Give yourself something to look forward to. Reward yourself for study time with a night out with friends, watching your favorite show, exercising (if you’re one of the freaks who actually enjoys running), etc.
  • Don’t let yourself dwell on the momentary failures. So you got a C. So you failed a test. Life goes on. Hakuna Matata. Focus on fixing the problem, but don’t beat yourself up about something you can’t change.
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  • Understand why you are learning what you’re learning. Figure out how it plays into the big picture. Why do I need to learn acid base chemistry? Well, if I ever have any hope of understanding metabolic diseases, potassium balance and renal function, I gotta learn this acid base stuff. Who cares about the physics of circuits and pressure inside a cylinder? Your future patient’s nervous system and circulatory systems do. 
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  • Do some shadowing. Get a taste of what you’re working for. Let it whet your appetite and give you the curiosity and motivation you need to keep studying organic chemistry nomenclature rules.
  • Realize that your pre-med classes are not just a means to an end. What if you don’t get into medical school? Hopefully you will have found something you love to learn about besides medicine. Hopefully you will be able to use what you have learned in an alternative career. Don’t just look at your classes as a hurdle to get over. They have value in themselves. You are paying for them, so get your money’s worth.

 So, amputatedwings and all you other pre-medders out there, I hope you all can use this to find some motivation to keep plugging away at the boring stuff. 


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  9. blacknewblack reblogged this from wayfaringmd and added:
    this totally helped! Newton’s 3rd law, I’m coming for you!
  10. beautyandcolour reblogged this from wayfaringmd
  11. paforfer reblogged this from wayfaringmd and added:
    Great points made here regarding pre-med & med school - easy transfer of thought to our pre-PA and PA school realm.I...
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  13. nontraditional-premed reblogged this from wayfaringmd and added:
    Love this post for those days where you need a big motivation kick!