The Benefits of Academic Coaching for US Medical Students

academic-coaching

Most people associate the idea of coaching with athletes. Those athletes determined to be “coachable” tend towards having the most success in their pursuits. Why?

The idea is very simple. Through the art of coaching, a naturally talented athlete can refine their skills and work on their weaknesses. The same premise can be applied to medical students.

Why Medical Students Need Coaching

Medical students who seek out academic coaching opportunities show a strong, innate desire to improve themselves. This self-improving eagerness shows dedication towards their chosen field of study, which most often translates towards a more skilled physician.

Those students who do not pursue academic coaching opportunities while in medical school, however, would not benefit from the experience anyway. Coaching is a “program” of sorts, which requires absolute want. If a student does not want coaching, they will not dedicate themselves in such a manner as to make it beneficial.

The Benefits of Medical Coaching

There are numerous benefits associated with medical coaching. Below we look at some of the biggest benefits.

Achieving Goals: Students who participate in academic coaching are advised to create both long- and short-term goals. This gives the coaching a direction and ensures that those goals are met. The coach will help align studies, extra curriculars, and activities towards achieving those goals students set.

Improve Test Scores: Medical coaching can help significantly improve test scores, which are vital in the quest to become a licensed physician. While many students and coaches warn not to set benchmarks on tests, the results are the same. Students who took advantage of academic coaching opportunities while in medical school saw higher test results.

Create Higher Self-Confidence: A coach is not like a teacher or mentor. They will not tell you exactly what you should do, nor will they lay out some grandmaster scheme which aligns all their pupils on the same path. The true key in coaching is the creation of higher self-confidence and a better realization of what needs to be done. This is vital, as it equips students with vital self-regulation skills necessary for the workplace after schooling.

Understanding and Developing Strengths: Each person is a unique individual possessing specific strengths. A person’s strength, for example, may lay in an ability to ace tests. Alternatively, a person may do amazing at studying but has testing fears that lower their scores. One student may excel in textbook studies while another does better in hands-on clinicals. Coaching can help students understand and develop these strengths, so they become the most beneficial.

Understanding and Mitigating Weaknesses: Just as everyone has their own unique strengths so do they have weaknesses. While it is never possible to entirely do away with weakness, it is possible to mitigate them. By understand where a person’s weaknesses lay, it is possible to hone them to be the least disruptive. For example, if someone suffers testing fear than learning coping techniques would be highly beneficial.

How to Maintain a Healthy Work/Life/School Balance in Medical School

medical-students-balance

Medical school can slowly take over a student’s life. If you don’t believe it, just ask any student! The extreme amounts of information needing retained comes in waves of classes, studying session, and exams. This doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

Unfortunately, this single-minded life can have devastating effects. Suicide and depression are alarmingly high among medical school students. The key to avoid this in your own career path is to maintain a healthy balance between work, life, and school. While studying is, undoubtedly, important, it should not be the only thing in a person’s life.

Learn to Prioritize

Everything in life has a certain amount of priority but knowing how to properly prioritize life during medical school can be trying. Here’s a secret: your studies are NOT number one. Your very first priority should be to take care of yourself. Without a healthy physical body and emotionally state you won’t do well in your studies, anyways.

Studying should come second to personal health and well-being, and work (if necessary) should come after that. Students will be surprised to find out that putting themselves first will actually get more studying done – and that studying will be more efficient, too.

Schedule Everything

Creating a schedule that includes everything helps you ensure that there is always time for everything. That may sound a little silly, but people often don’t realize there is free time in their schedule until they see it on paper.

Get a daily planner and start by filling in those things you can’t move around. That includes classes, work shifts, and any appointments you might have. Then, fill in your study times. Instead of scheduling a big block of studying you should try to space it out throughout the week. Maybe you have half an hour in the morning and in the evening, five days a week. Leave room in the evenings for a leisurely shower and bedtime routine – about half an hour to an hour should do.

Finally, you can see where time is available to socialize. Maybe you have every Saturday afternoon free and can take an hour or two to have lunch with your siblings or parents. Maybe each Saturday morning is free, so you can stay up a little late on Friday to hang out with friends.

Know Your Limits

Knowing your limits (and when to just say “no”) are incredibly important for mental health. Before you enroll in full-time classes, consider if you know this to be within your realm of capabilities. Some may find it easier to take a class or two during the summer and (if offered) during winter break in return for a slightly lighter class load during the main school year. Others would much prefer to do it all at once and have extended break periods.

If you’re already operating at your max capacity, then don’t agree to take on that extra work shift. Or, don’t accept additional responsibilities in your extracurricular clubs. It’s very important to both know and accept your limits if you want to stay physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy.

University of Alberta Changes Indigenous Student Policies

medical-students-policy

 

A new admissions policy was placed into effect by the University of Alberta recently. The new policy will eliminate a quota system which put a cap on the number of indigenous students allowed into the university per year. The old policy was in effect for more than three decades, so many are wondering how this shift in policy will affect the medical program overall.

The Old Policy

The thirty-year-old policy that the new one will replace kept five spots specifically for indigenous students who met program requirements. The reason it was put into place was a vast under-representation of said indigenous peoples in secondary schooling. This lack of academic representation was seen most strongly among medical students.

The premise of this old policy was a good one. It ensured a place for indigenous peoples in the medical community and allowed for increased diversity during a period in which there was not much.

Why Change the Policy?

The old indigenous student policy has slowly become irrelevant. As post-secondary enrollment of indigenous peoples has risen steadily over the last thirty years, the policy has become less a blessing and more a burden.

It needed changing for a few years now, but it takes consideration (and research) to ensure such a momentous change in policy is worth it. The University of Alberta did finally decide that it was and instituted a new policy to replace the old one.

The New Policy

The new policy will allow all indigenous students into the medical school, so long as they meet the standard eligibility requirements. The standard requirements for all medical students include applicable academic eligibility, a secondary medicine application, and online assessment.

Indigenous students must undergo a second portion of eligibility, however, according to tradition. Once passing standard requirements, they then undergo an interview with tribal elders and community medicine practitioners. This group will then pass on their recommendations to the standard university board.

Some individuals have stated that there are still not enough indigenous peoples attending medical school, despite a drastic increase in the past three decades. In an effort to continue assisting an increase of indigenous medical practitioners, the University of Alberta has implemented four new scholarships to these students after dispersing their five held slots. These scholarships will cover the full cost of tuition, to ease any financial burden medical school attendance may incur.

The School’s Actual Word on Their Policy Alterations

Due to a small amount of confusion as to how the policy would actually change the medical program (including admissions), the University of Alberta released a clarifying statement. It read as follows:

“The University of Alberta is eliminating a quota system that limited the number of Indigenous students admitted… through the Indigenous Initiatives Program Process (IHIP)… Starting in fall 2019, all Indigenous students who meet all eligibility requirements… will be offered a place in the medical school. The faculty previously held an upper limit of five Indigenous students admitted… per year through the IHIP process…”

 

5 Ways to Get Ready to Go Back to School After Summer Break

Med Students Back to School

Though medical students don’t get to take entire summers off school, they do have less to do, and they tend to really enjoy their summer breaks when they can. However, as summer ends and the full fall semester looms on the horizon, you might find yourself struggling to get the motivation you need to study and prepare for medical exams. Here are five things you can do to help get in the back-to-school frame of mind.

#1 – Get on a School Day Schedule Early

The number one way to get yourself ready to head back to school for the fall semester involves getting your body used to your daily schedule ahead of time. This means getting to bed early enough to wake up early while still getting a solid seven to nine hours of sleep. Be sure that you have enough time in the mornings to have a cup of coffee and some breakfast so you can get your bearings before heading out to face the day.

#2 – Meal Prep

Though it may seem silly for a college student to worry about meal prep – especially if you’re in a dorm room with no stove or oven for real cooking – there are things you can do that will reduce your stress and save you time (and money!) all throughout the fall semester. Check out sales on things you have the means to prepare and buy your groceries based on those sales. Get enough for an entire week’s worth of meals, take it home, portion it out, precook it (if possible) and store it in your fridge. This way, everything is ready to go and all you need to do is pop a meal in the microwave. It’s cheaper than eating out, and a good diet is key to keeping your comprehension and memory healthy, too.

#3 – Register for (and Set Up) Question Bank Software

If you haven’t already set up your question bank platform, now is the perfect time to do so. All you need to do is register your account and then choose one of the numerous subscription options designed to fit a college student’s budget. You can even ask a school representative whether an institutional discount is available. Once you have it set up, download it to all your devices and familiarize yourself with the interface.

#4 – Find a Study Group

If you take the time to find a group of people to study with even before the fall semester starts, you’ll be that much more prepared, and that is one of the numerous ingredients in the recipe for success. Try putting up notes on message boards in local coffee shops, the school library, and even the school cafeteria, and don’t forget about online message boards, as well. You can take turns quizzing each other with question bank software or you can watch fast, informational YouTube videos to help you absorb more information.

#5 – Get Your Shopping Done

Shopping for things you need for your room can be a pain, as can buying new clothes and school supplies. Although much of your work will be done on a computer or tablet, the basics – pens, paper, highlighters, and index cards for making your own flash cards, if desired – are always a good idea. To get what you need on a budget, try dollar stores for your supplies and thrift stores for gently used clothes. You might even find discount or salvage grocery stores close to campus, and don’t pass up an opportunity to shop at a farmer’s market, either.

Going back to school can be a bummer, especially if you’ve had a wonderful, relaxing summer. However, if you follow these tips, you can reduce the shock to your system, which will help you feel better about the first day of class – and all the consecutive days after that, too.

 

Helpful Advice for a First Year Medical Student

first-year-medical-students

If you’re about to head off for your first year of medical school, you’re probably a ball of emotions. Excitement, nervousness, and in some cases even fear can all leave you feeling apprehensive about your first year. Below, you will find some advice from physicians and surgeons about how to survive your first year as a medical student – and how to succeed in the process.

Medical School is a Very Important Job

If you convince yourself that medical school is exactly like an important job, you’re far more likely to succeed. Leaving class early to go to a friend’s birthday party or playing hooky because you were up too late are simply unacceptable as they can leave you too far behind in the material to catch up. Treating medical school like a job does require some discipline, so you’ll need to practice before it become second nature.

Get Access to Study Tools and Question Banks on the Very First Day

No matter which exam you’ll need to take at the end of your academic career, you will have a far better chance at success if you get all the tools and question banks you will need starting with the first day of medical school. The more familiar you become with the interface, the better off you will be. Look for customizable questions that you can sort by topic so you can stay up-to-speed with what is happening in the classroom, too.

Eat, Sleep, and Meditate

Medical students around the world do not get enough sleep, and most of them either don’t eat enough or eat too many things that aren’t very good for them. If you want your first year to be as simple as possible, eat a balanced diet, sleep at least seven or eight hours each night, and meditate or find some other way to disconnect your mind and relax. You might try yoga, mindfulness exercises, or a quiet hobby that takes your mind away from school for a while.

Don’t Forget to Have Some Fun

While there’s little doubt that medical school is hard – and we mean really hard at times – you can’t be the best version of yourself if you never get to have any fun. It’s important to balance things appropriately, so just as you make time for studying, you should also make time for fun. Get involved with a group on campus who shares similar interests or take up a hobby that you enjoy. If you’re going to school away from home, consider getting out to see the sights and explore new things.

Your first year as a medical student does not have to be fraught with fear and anxiety. For the most part, it’s all about your mindset and how you choose to approach each day. Looking at classes like a job, taking care of your body and mind, and preparing yourself for your medical licensing exam well in advance will go a long way toward making your experience as a first-year medical school a great one.

Evolving AI Technology is Keeping Med Students from Pursuing Radiology

Radiology

While most of the world agrees that breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (also known as simply ‘AI’) have made life considerably easier, there are a few drawbacks for certain individuals. One set of individuals who feel at a slight disadvantage are med students.

Reduction in Radiology Demand?

A great number of medical students are under the impression that new breakthroughs in AI have reduced the demand for radiologists. If ongoing trends are to be believed, these students say that demand will continue to drop, thus making radiology a very cut-throat field.

A recent study published in Academic Radiology says that the fear of an AI takeover (so to speak) has gone so far as to discourage some current students from even considering radiology as a possible concentration.

About the Survey

The survey was conducted among the students of seventeen different Canadian schools in March of 2018. Three hundred responses were recorded among the potential student pool, and two incredible statistics stood out.

First, 67% of all respondents stated that evolving AI would generally reduce the demand for radiologists. That’s more than half of people surveyed, which says quite a bit about what the next generation of medical professionals feel.

But that wasn’t even the craziest response. An incredible 29% of all respondents stated that they believed AI would replace the need for radiologists entirely. In other words, AI would replace radiology completely with no more need for an actual person anymore.

Some people were still considering radiology as a possible (or definite) concentration. Among only those who are still considering this career path, almost half of them said that evolving AI has made them feel anxious about their future.

Among those who no longer consider radiology a choice, 14% stated that it would be their top field choice were it not for ever-advancing AI in that particular field.

What the Survey’s Authors Had to Say

Bo Gong, the leading author of the survey, had this to say about the survey’s results: “Our study revealed considerable anxiety among medical students’ interest in radiology, caused by their perception of the impact of artificial intelligence… Such anxiety discouraged a significant number of medical students from considering a radiology specialty.”

The authors stated there are steps the current radiology community could take to help med students understand the true impact artificial intelligence may have on their chosen specialty. In fact, they went as far as to create a list of possible ways current radiologists could help students to understand more on this topic.

Yet despite anxiety regarding their future careers, most responding students did support the idea of collaboration with the IT industry to support the role of AI in radiology and in improving patient care across all medical sectors.

As for whether or not AI will replace radiology all together, most practitioners are doubtful. This isn’t to say it couldn’t happen far into the future, but for now AI is complementary to radiologists and do not displace the need for human care.

 

Why the MCATs Are So Important for Medical Students

Canadian Medical Students

MCAT stands for the “Medical College Admission Test,” and it’s a major milestone for all premed students. In fact, it can be argued that it is one of the most important (and difficult) exams potential medical school students will ever take. But why is this test so important?

Why the MCAT Matters So Much

The MCAT is the first step in medical school. After a traditional four-year college program in premed, students must pass the MCAT to obtain entrance into medical school. If a student fails their MCAT they will probably not be accepted into any reputable medical school, and their hard work up to that point will be for naught. But why is this single test so very important?

The answer to this question lays within the test’s ability to predict the future, so to speak. Studies have proven that a student’s ability to perform well on the MCAT correlates with their performance on the all-important USMLE.

The USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) is a three-part test which must be taken to receive licensing, prior to obtaining a doctorate. The parts are broken down into steps, and are as follows:

  • Step One: Typically taken after the second year of medical school. This first step assesses basic understanding and application of important concepts regarding basic science and the practice of medicine – including underlying health, modes of therapy, and disease.
  • Step Two: Typically taken in the fourth year of medical school. This second step assess the ability to apply the knowledge and skills accumulated during schooling, with special emphasis placed on physical patient care.
  • Step Three: Typically taken during an internship or during the first year of residency. It is the culmination of everything learned, from book knowledge to patient care and beyond. This final step will also test a student’s knowledge on laws and regulations as it pertains to physicians and patient care.

Keeping this study in mind will make it clear why medical schools place such an emphasis on it. If performance on the MCAT directly correlates to the USMLE, and the USMLE is the most important test towards graduation, then schools who wish to ensure a high graduation rate will want students who have proven they can do well.

Other Variables

The good news is that the MCAT is not the only indicator of how well a student will do on the USMLE. While it definitely factors in, there are a number of other variables which will influence a student’s final score. These might include:

  • What type of test-taker a student is. Those who are naturally better at taking tests will obviously do better than those who do not.
  • How well a student prepares through studying in the days, weeks, and months prior to the examination.
  • How dedicated a student has been in their studies. Those who are more attentive in class and hold higher grades tend towards doing better than those who slack or do not pay attention.

15 Quick Tips for Better Studying in Medical School

medical student studying

Medical school is challenging, and not just because it’s time-intensive. The material students must memorize to pass the multitude of tests necessary for certification is extensive and difficult. With so much needing remembered it can seem like studying encompasses all a student’s free time.

But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. While studying should take a considerable amount of a student’s free time, it doesn’t have to take all of it. The idea is to “study smarter, not harder.” Here we offer 15 quick tips to help med students do just that.

  1. Space out studying, don’t binge. If you space your studying out throughout the weeks or months leading up to an exam you are more likely to retain the information versus suffering extreme burnout.
  2. Take a fifteen-minute break after 45 to 60 minutes of studying, depending on what works for you. During this time, you should do nothing but sit back and relax, to allow your mind to process information.
  3. Use a “smart studying” program like CanadaQBank.
  4. If you’ve memorized a section or topic area, don’t waste time repeating it. Focus effort on more difficult areas and do a quick once-over the day before your exam.
  5. Take a night off to socialize. This is good for mental and emotional health.
  6. Instead of staying up all night to study, focus on getting a solid eight hours whenever possible. This allows the brain to function adequately.
  7. Create an organizational method for your notes which works for you. It can take some trial and error but having all your notes and other studying tools organized can save a lot of time. It also makes the entire process significantly easier.
  8. Use a calendar to keep track of important upcoming dates, like exams. Pin it to the wall in a place you’ll see it every day.
  9. Get a study buddy. It will help keep you on track by providing both motivation and support.
  10. Before and after studying, take time to stretch. This will help keep good blood flow.
  11. Don’t forget to eat! Carbohydrates and protein are both great brain fuel. Snack often and eat a good breakfast the day before an exam.
  12. Don’t become discouraged if it takes a little extra time to nail a topic that is difficult for you. Stressing over it will actually make it more difficult to master!
  13. If you find yourself in a rut, go study in a new place. It could be on the lawn, in the library, or at a coffee shop. The change of scenery will help get your mind moving again.
  14. Figure out your learning style and leverage it to its fullest potential.
  15. Take ten minutes to go over your most difficult subject matter right before bed. Science shows this can help you memorize it, since the brain processes your day backwards!

If you incorporate the above tips into your normal studying routine, you’ll find that subject material is memorized quicker, and that the risks of burnout from over-studying are decreased.

Are Canadian Medical Students Studying Abroad Finding Residencies More Difficult?

Canadian Medical Students Studying Abroad

A Supreme Court case has been filed, alleging that Canadian residents who have graduated from medical schools abroad (outside the US or Canada) are finding it difficult to obtain residencies. This, of course, places a large hurtle in the path of these students towards their chosen profession.

Since these students are unable to obtain residencies, they have been forced to work in other fields while pursuing potential programs. One court petitioner states he has had to work in construction, as well as an ICBC claims adjuster. Another petitioner says he has both had to walk dogs and foray in the film industry.

The Problem & The System

The issue does not lay in the fact that the two above-mentioned petitioners are any less qualified. Instead, they underwent their medical schooling abroad and the current system gives strict preference towards those graduated from Canadian medical schools.

The current system was set up with a great purpose in mind, as many things are. The idea was to ensure that Canadian school graduates weren’t unemployed after undertaking so many years of training. Unfortunately, that has backfired. While these graduates may not see unemployment, those Canadian residents who studied abroad are.

SCSMA Fights For The Rights of Canadians Studying Abroad

A group was formed to help protect the rights of these students, called Society of Canadians Studying Medicine Abroad (SCSMA). The group is led by Rosemary Pawliuk whose own daughter was forced to do a residency in the US after she graduated from an Irish medical school. The SCSMA argues that all Canadian citizens (and permanent residents) should be able to compete fairly for access to postgraduate training (like residencies) “on the basis of individual skills, knowledge, and attributes relevant to the practice of medicine.”

The Lawsuit

The leaders of the lawsuit are Dr. Oliver Kostanski and Harris Falconer. Kostanski is a native of Vancouver but attended medical school in Poland so he could live near his grandparents. Falconer has been attending medical school in Vancouver. The men’s lawsuit was filed against the Association of Faculties of Medicine in Canada, the British Columbia Ministry of Health, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Kostanski and Falconer argue that the numerous barriers facing them upon return to British Columbia are a violation of their rights, as laid out by the country’s constitution. The University of British Columbia, who only accepts 10% to 15% of all applicants, has even admitted that the odds are stacked against those native Canadians who decide to study abroad before returning to their home country to practice medicine.

Just how hard is it to get a residency? Overseas graduates are given only an arbitrary 58 residency positions in British Columbia during the first round of matching. Those students who graduated from the United States or Canada, however, are guaranteed exclusive access to 288 positions. This number is equivalent to the number of students accepted into the UBC’s medical school each year.

How Premed Students Balance Life

Pre Med Students

Pre-med is not for the faint of heart. Students studying medicine are under a constant amount of extreme pressure, which only becomes harder as they reach medical school. Besides being an incredibly competitive field, students are required to study for months without end, work well in high-pressure situations, and deal with a lot of emotional hardship.

Even during clinical practice, the emotions can be nearly debilitating. Compassion is a necessity, but it must be done while also keeping your emotions in check.

So how does one survive these grueling years? How can students not only ace their schooling but ensure it doesn’t completely take over their lives?

Here we look at a few proven ways pre-med students have learned to balance life. Many of these can also be applied to the next step on the journey to become a doctor – medical school.

Get Help if Necessary

High stress environments can wreak havoc on even the most resilient people’s mental health. A study from 2010 shows that 15% of pre-med students meet the strict guidelines for clinical depression. A 2016 study saw that this number only increases once students reach medical school, with the percentage with depression reaching 27%.

If you need help, get it. Never be afraid to speak up and tell someone you are feeling depressed…. And always remember that suicide is never the answer.

Become an Expert Studier

There is an adage that says the volume and depth of information a student is expected to learn in medical school is like drinking from a fire hose. To put it short: it can be very overwhelming. Therefore, it is vital to become an expert studier while still in pre-med, or else you will drown once you reach med.

A few quick study tips:

  • Avoid all-nighters. While it may seem like a promising idea, you aren’t as productive after a certain point – and it is much more valuable to get a full night’s sleep.
  • Find an organization system for notes, papers, books, etc. that works best for you.
  • Take regular breaks while studying to keep your mind fresh. Every 45 minutes you spend steadily studying, you should take 15 minutes to breath. Walk around the room, grab a snack, take a quick shower, or whatever you need to do to clear your mind.
  • Study smarter. If you have something down, skip over that and focus on the areas you need the most help with. There are some programs which allow you to do this in an organized, effective fashion – like CanadaQBank.

Take Care of Yourself

Do not neglect your physical health while in school, as this can haunt you well into the future. Even if it means having half an hour less time to study, it is vital that you prioritize your physical health as the most important thing. This includes getting thirty minutes of moderate exercise daily, eating a balanced diet, and drinking plenty of water. Also, don’t forget to get those eight hours of sleep each night.

Remember “Me Time”

Between school, clinicals, maintaining a social life, exercising, and possibly even working, your “me time” can disappear. Make every effort to ensure it doesn’t, however. At least once a week you should be spending a few moments caring for yourself. Do something you enjoy. Take a long, hot shower or read a book. Visit your family for the afternoon or catch up with your siblings. You’ll feel much better after.