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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Posts tagged "med school"
Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hi! I'm a 30 year old freshman with kids and a husband. Over the last few years It's become clear that I can't shake my interest in medicine. I love the use of science for healing. It's absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately I feel selfish and indulgent considering pre-med with the intention of applying to med school. It's a really long road to drag my family through. In your opinion, at my age, am I fooling myself thinking that I could start a career as a doctor?
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

It’s certainly not too late to start a career in medicine. There’s a guy in my program who didn’t start college until his mid-30s and is now a 2nd year resident! From what I’ve seen, the non-traditional students tend to be the best ones because they’re the most driven and serious about their studies, plus they have some life experience under their belts. 


It’s gonna be hard though. It was super hard going through it single, so I’m sure going through it married will be tough. But you have a built-in support system, which is awesome! And people do it all the time, so don’t feel like you’re the only one. 

If going back to school makes you feel selfish, you need to have a talk with your husband and kids. More than once. Like before the beginning of each semester. They’re a part of your life, and their opinions count too. If they are fully supportive of your aspirations, then go for it! You still have several years before you have to decide about med school, so y’all have some time to see how things work with you being in school.  



if there is one thing med school has really taught me to appreciate it is the post-ten-hours-of-holding-it-in pee/poo.

wish i had done bladder control exercises in high school or something man

Things not usually spoken of…but very seriously true.

Especially if the hospital bathrooms are a bit manky.

Hence the importance of finding your secret bathroom. It’s like the room of requirement, guys. It’s been there all along in a fairly obvious place but no one has been using it and it’s wonderful. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Any anecdotes/advice for going through a bad day in the medical field? Whether it be getting yelled at by an attending, a patient, feeling like you don't know anything, feeling like you're the only one who knows anything, etc?
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Step 1: SLEEP ON IT. 


Bad days happen fairly frequently, but you can’t let them stick with you. Sometimes crappy stuff happens because other people are having a bad day and they take it out on you. Do your worrying and fretting for that day only, and then sleep on it. Choose not to obsess over it the next day. However, if you sleep on it and it still really bothers you, proceed to step 2.

Step 2: Complain to someone else about it.

Ideally, this person would be a fellow student who can commiserate, or maybe your mom. Moms are good at giving appropriate pity or telling you to suck it up and move on. Fellow med students can understand your situation better than your mom can (unless your mom went to medical school too) and support you through it. Then, if you are still bothered, move to step 3.

Step 3: Do something about it.

Was your attending just being a jerk? Let it out on your rotation evaluation. Or maybe you got yelled at for a good reason. Examine your own actions. Did you not know your patient’s labs? Work on being more organized so you can keep track of that stuff. Did you make a mistake? Read about the problem and learn from it so you don’t do it again. Ask someone who is getting things right to help you and give you direction. Let that bad day motivate you to do better next time. 

Chin up, greyface. 

I saw your other question about being young and being in medical school. What exactly is a young age? And how do they treat you differently? Is height a problem? Because I'm going to be 20 when I enter medical school (I'll be 21 that December I enter school). I am also 4' 7", I've heard comments about it but I usually ignore it but I just want to know if that's going to be a problem in medical school for the staff? Like seeing surgeries and stuff.
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

According to many of my patients, anyone who doesn’t have some gray around the temples or wear bifocals is too young to be a doctor. How quickly we forget Dougie Howser.

Most folks in my class starting medical school were between 24-29. I was a week into being 22. Don’t worry about your age. If you show a patient that you are competent and confident, they have no reason not to respect you.

As a doctor still in training, some patients are always apt to treat you with less respect than they would attending docs. I don’t think I’ve ever had a patient be outright rude to me about my age though. Mostly people just mistake me for a nurse or a student.

Your height may be a bit of a problem. There are always stools and things to stand on in surgery, but you may have difficulty doing procedures. There was a guy in my class who was an achondroplastic dwarf, and he was allowed to sit out of procedures because he had decided that he wanted to do psych, so he didn’t need to know how to suture and retract.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hey! I'm in high school and have have rheumatoid arthritis. I really want to be a pediatric rheumatologist but my entire family doesn't want me to go to med school because of my health. Is medical school really as bad as they say?
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Um, yes, it really is as bad as they say. That’s why they say it. Med school is HARD.  And that’s even if you have the grades and extras that it takes to get in. Getting through is tough

That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t go for it though. It just means you have to be really sure you want to dive in and can dive in before you actually dive in. You have to be aware that your illness is going to affect your ability to study well or manage the stress or work extremely long hours without a break. 


Realize that you will incur mountains of debt (if you are like the vast majority of med students who are not independently wealthy) and that there’s the possibility that you may not finish school if your health becomes prohibitive. 

I don’t mean this to sound harsh or pessimistic. I want you to be realistic. Your health conditions don’t have to keep you out of medical school, but you do need to realize that you can’t make it through on optimism and hope alone. There is a lot of struggle and stress that comes along with med school.

My best advice for you would be to talk to your own rheumatologist. Ask him or her how stressful med school was for them, and whether they think you can handle it. Talk to them about getting your rheumatoid under the best control possible to lighten the burden on you a bit. And ask to shadow them! See what they do on a daily basis and decide for sure if it’s really for you. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
so how long would it take to pay off all the crippling debt on average
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Depends on what payment plan you pick. Most of us go with the income-based plan now, which requires you to make 120 payments (yup, 10 years) and the amount is based on how much money you make. The new deal is that after those 120 payments, you’re done, even if there’s a balance left on the principal payment.

Then you’ve got the Standard plan, where your payments are based on how much money you owe. They are often structured over 10, 20, or even 30 years. But people who are really motivated or who have great jobs sometimes pay them off in as little as 5 years.

Right now I’m doing the income based plan because my debt is so high it’s the only way I can afford to pay anything. I haven’t paid anything on my principal yet. Not even covering my interest actually. It’s still compounding.

Asker breakempire Asks:
What was your fav part of the first year of medical school? (I just started!)
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

My favorite day was probably the afternoon that I found out I passed my first test—when I realized, hey, maybe I can do this. 

Overall though, my favorite things in first year were the times that I was allowed to work with real people instead of books. I loved anatomy lab and I loved my community medicine placement in a family practice office. I didn’t love the massive paper I had to write on community med, but I did appreciate the break from the books and the fact that my preceptor let me see patients on my own even as a first year. 


Today I was studying in Panera, facing the wall, and a friend of mine from school who was studying at a table about 5 feet from me sent me the following IM:

there is the cutest little doctoring family behind you (im assuming)

and the guy looked a little older than the girl so i had the following daydream…that i would marry my handsome attending and we would have beautiful babies and i would work parttime at some clinic that needed me and we would meet up for lunch at panera. the end.

I cracked up, and she looked up and said, “I can’t believe I followed that daydream all the way through back to panera.” 

Cardio is making us all loopy.

Update: she did not marry an attending. She committed the ultimate act of medcest and married a fellow med student and currently have a litter of furbabies. I’m sure they occasionally meet up for lunch at Panera. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Any tips on how to deal with "you're too young to be a doctor" / insidious ageism ? I'm 23 (and 10 months! ha) and in my second year out of medical school...
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

You must be from somewhere where people go into medical school straight from high school to have finished so quickly. Or maybe you skipped some grades in school. Either way, go you! I was 25 when I graduated med school, and I was the youngest in my class, as I have always been. 

So when people give you flack for being young, remember that you’re one of the lucky ones. 

You’re one of the ones who didn’t have to apply over and over again to get in.

You didn’t have to repeat a year or take time off.

Your patients should be proud of you for making it through and being so young. 



The following conversation took place tonight at dinner:

Me: Mo, you’re such a slacker. You’re going to fail the test. (Just my way of encouraging her to study. It works, I promise)

Roomie: yeah, I know. But I’m going to get up really early tomorrow and get some good hours in.


Me: Ooh, I’m not. I’m sleeping in till 8 or 8:30. (I get up at 6:45ish normally on class days)

*Roomie gives me a sad, embarrassed look*

Me: What?

Roomie: I was planning to get up at 9:30.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I read your answer about a user asking about Aderrall (hope I spelled it right) and it got me thinking: How is it possible to survive med school with little or no caffeine? Especially among med students who cannot take caffeine. :)
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Um, prioritize sleep? 


I’ve never been a huge caffeine drinker (and really not a coffee fan), but I pretty much gave up all but the occasional diet coke or caffeinated tea (most of my tea is decaf) in med school because caffeine made my heart palpitations worse. 

I had to prioritize sleep. Sometimes that meant giving up fun things or going to bed right after I got home from a late shift so I could get a solid 8 hours and wake up early again in the morning. But it made it so that I could function. I had to use my awake time wisely and study when I was supposed to. 

You don’t have to have caffeine. It’s not an essential vitamin or anything. You have to learn how to wake up without it and how to stop pushing yourself to the limits and get the rest you need. If it’s 3 in the afternoon and you’re feeling a little sleepy, take a 20 minute nap. Or if you’re like me and naps make you sleepier, get up and go for a 10 minute walk or take a dance break. That will wake you up for sure. 

Sure, you’ll be sleepy sometimes. Guess what? That’s your body telling you you need to sleep! It’s amazing how we fight our body’s needs sometimes. Now of course, you won’t always be able to go to sleep, like at 5am when you’re on surgery, so during those times you’ll just have to be tired. But you can make it through. It can be done!

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hello...I've got a few questions I was hoping you could give me some advice on....I'm working on completing my undergrad education right now...I've struggled with a learning disability since I was a child and continue to this day. Did any of your classmates have learning disabilities and if so, were they accommodated within reason? Also I'm a transgender male, is the LGBT community frowned upon in medicine and med school?
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

I think the answer from Md-A was excellent, and to it I will add:

Yes, people with learning disabilities and other conditions that make learning difficult get into med school, and yes, med schools are required to accommodate them. I remember one student in my class with ADHD who was allowed to take their tests in a small private room to minimize their distractions. 

No, the LGBT community is not frowned upon in medical school. But depending on where you apply, some interviewers may not be as accepting of your lifestyle as others. Legally, they can’t deny you admission on the basis of your gender identity, but it does still happen, I’m sure. Look for schools in more liberal states and cities, where you will have a better chance of being accepted. And if you get the vibe during an interview that your interviewer does not seem very accepting of you, remember that at most schools you can request one “redo” interview with a different interviewer. But I’d agree with MD-A: if the school doesn’t want you because of who you are, then you don’t want them either. 

Asker ramacero Asks:
In my health care ethics class I am currently taking, we are discussing medical enhancements and our book mentions the use of Adderall in medical students just to keep up. How many students would you think use Adderall in medical school, and would me not using it hurt my performance in my future career? It makes me nervous to think that I could be shoved out of competition because I refuse to use a medication for ADHD, which I don't suffer from, to make myself better in the medical school.
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

I’m not sure what percentage of people use Adderall (prescribed or not) in med school. In my class I knew of a few, but I expect the numbers have increased.

Let me rephrase your question a bit to this: will using a medication illegally or obtaining it under false pretenses for a condition I do not have possibly negatively affect my career?

The answer to that is a definite yes. I’m a big proponent for using the brains God gave you without using drugs you don’t need. Now if you truly do have ADHD, then by all means, take your medicine. But abusing a medication (and the system) is not a great way to start out a medical career. What will you do when you start residency or go out in practice and the stress and pressure increases? Keep searching for more and more substances to give you a boost? Sounds like a dangerous path to start down if you ask me.

Using meds that aren’t prescribed to you is not only dangerous to your health and illegal, it’s also cheating. And you certainly don’t want cheating on your transcript. That don’t look so pretty to residency programs. 

Thousands— millions—of doctors made it through without using stimulant meds. Heck, Cranquis made it through without caffeine, and I made it through with very little caffeine as well (and no coffee what?!). It absolutely can be done, and you don’t have to be a super genius or a 24/7 studying gunner to make it happen. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I'm an incoming ms2 and I was wondering how you learned to accept things as they come and not fret about it. There's not a day/moment that passes by over the past year that I haven't incessantly thought about my residency prospects, and the thing is, I'm doing pretty well in school---I just feel burdened by this pressure that I feel my peers don't have as bad. I think the prospect of not meeting my expectations/becoming the doctor I envisioned myself as worries me most. Does it ever get better?
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Hmm, that’s tough. 

I’m generally a very laid back, go with the flow kinda gal. I never had much confidence in myself, but I always believed that if God got me in medical school / residency, He would also get me through. It’s a lot easier to not stress when you’re trusting in someone else’s capabilities and not your own. My abilities are pretty mediocre, but I believe that if I’m doing what God wants for my life, He’s going to provide what I need to get through (here I am preaching this to myself on a daily basis as I start to look for post-residency jobs now). 

Sure, I still worry. Ask cranquis. He has had to talk me down quite a few times as I was blubbering on about trying to figure out what my next step after residency is. I still stress over these things occasionally. We all have days when we think we’re not smart enough or confident enough or compassionate enough or whatever, but you’ll have good days too. Your peers probably feel the pressure just as heavily as you do, and they’re bottling it up just like you are. 

My mantra has always been “do my best, do what God wants, and what happens happens.” If I truly do the best I’m capable of and am in God’s will for me, then I can’t really worry about the outcome. If the outcome sucks, it’s out of my hands. There must have been a plan besides mine in the works. If the outcome is awesome, well hey, yay me. 

It is completely okay to have these worries. Use them to motivate you to learn more and be the best student or doctor you can possibly be. You should always be striving to be better at what you do. But if your worries are consuming you or interfering with your work or are your main focus, you gotta do something to release them. You need an outlet. Blogging is great. Quiet nights in with a friend are great. I’m a big fan of coloring books and tea myself. Heeding the counsel of someone who has been through it or is wiser than you is always a good plan too. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hi- the anon with BPD and depression here Our medschool makes us show all medical health records every year, and makes our GP sign off to say we haven't had any mental health issues - Is there anywhere to get anonymous mental health help without having to go private... Also (sorry so many questions) do you think BPD will have any impact on my medical career? The associated symptoms etc? Thankyou!!
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Um, I’m not sure about anonymous mental health care. Normally, all of your medical records would be private, but if your medical school requires them, then it would be pretty shady to go behind their backs to get care. That sounds like that would be against their policy. And think about this: hiding a medical condition, mental or physical, could potentially put your future patients at risk. Right now, the docs at your school know more than you do. You sort of have to trust them that they know which conditions are worth knowing about. 

I’m not sure if “BPD” here refers to Borderline Personality Disorder or BiPolar Disorder. Either way, yes, they could have an impact on your medical career if you go without treatment.  Personality disorders are not really treatable by meds (though some docs try and also wrongly  label them as other disorders so they can use different meds), but tend to improve with intense cognitive behavioral therapy. BiPolar disorder, on the other hand, generally requires medication. People with bipolar disorder can become extremely unpredictable, take big risks, and exhibit very damaging behavior during mania episodes. Clearly, this isn’t a good state to take care of patients in. But with good treatment and good insight into the condition (and caution around your patients), you could still practice medicine.