Dear Medical Students,
You may be gearing right now for the most feared “death march”. Probably, it hasn’t even started yet but you can’t wait for it to be over. I know. Been there done that. It was so draining and stressful that after 1st year death March (2012) I cut my near-waist length hair to short bob and dyed it real light and flew straight home to Saudi Arabia. I even went to watch a Kpop concert the weekend right before my 2nd year comprehensive exams. On my 3rd year, I’d sit at the edge of my bed, cry for 27 secs and hurriedly pull myself together because “sayang sa time yung umiyak ang haba pa nung trans.”
In med school there were days we were determined to perform well and there were days we were forced to settle just for the passing. Most of us would resign “Gusto ko nalang matapos ito”. Losing the enthusiastic spirit of a pre-med graduate who just entered his/her dream med school. Times seemed gloomy but of course, there would be sunny days as well. The day you will officially be promoted to junior internship; the day you will receive your diploma with glaring “Doctor of Medicine”; and your days as a free elf, a post graduate intern.
Fast forward to 2016 when I was about to face the biggest battle, Physician Licensure Exam. Oh hello there old friends, pressure, panic, stress. I went through my review materials at least 3x. Yes, cover to cover. Because gosh! This is “The PLE”. I tried to be strict in following the schedule given by Topnotch Review Center. I didn’t skip the review lectures (except when I had to attend my PGI graduation ceremony). I was diligent in answering the Super Exams as prescribed even others were discouraging me because they say the Super Exams were way way way more difficult than the actual exam. But I believe that
“the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war” (Norman Schwarzkopf).
The day has come. For some parts, thankfully I didn’t forget my “pilit” mnemonics and the important points from review lectures. But for most parts, its actually what I read from Robbins or Harrison’s, or the voice of my profs ringing in my head as if I was just in class yesterday, or the case I encountered in the hospital and made a presentation, or simply the supposed task of the nurse that I unwillingly did that helped me pick out, I believe, the best answer. And the rest is history.
I realized at the end, more than the board preparation it’s our time in medical school and internship that truly matters. Nevertheless if we’ve had failures during the process of getting our degrees, as Dr. Banzuela would always remind us “the boards is an opportunity to redeem yourselves”.
Because I strongly believe that whatever season you are in right now is a preparation for the next, here are some practical tips on how to prepare for the boards as early as now:
- Do your best not to skip in classes. By simply sticking to your class schedule births discipline on time management. Also, your professors are actually doing you a favor by simplifying things for you and sharing buckets of knowledge from their well of medical experience.
- Read your books. They may look intimidating but trust me it makes everything more interesting. It’s like Discovery Channel enacted by your own imagination. It will fuel your heart to crave for learning more than the bullet points of your class trans. This specially works if you are not good on memorization. And besides PLE questions are case-based. Understanding concepts rather than just memorizing them is the way to go. Once you understand something you cannot “un-understand” them haha!
- Stop whining. I was guilty of whining. A lot. But during the boards there were case questions that thankfully I know what the nurse or the medtech or the “kuya” does and it helped me analyze the case further. Undeniably, during internship you will be the lowest in the medical food chain but learn as much as you can even if you are an “uod”. Remove your sense of self-entitlement. Take every circumstance as an opportunity for pruning. It may not directly add to your knowledge to becoming a doctor but sure enough it will mold your character. If there’s one thing internship teaches which is not taught by our medical books, that’s humility.
The physician licensure exam preparation starts while we were still students: three years of medical school, 1 year of junior internship and 1 year of post grad internship. We cannot cram 5 years of knowledge and experience in 2-3 months. Just like in anything, foundation matters. Don’t just go through the process just for the sake of getting by. Be passionate for learning. Love what you are doing. You are called to do this, embrace your calling.
When days get difficulty, cry, breathe, pray. Take it one step at a time but bring faith and excellence with you.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1
“Excellence is a resolve to faithfulness and the reflection of Christ’s character in our lives” – Dr. Cabarles