Work-life balance in your first year at medical school

This is the start of your journey to becoming a medical professional, so you should feel proud of yourself that you’ve come this far! Not only are you starting a medical degree, but you are probably living away from home for the first time, managing your finances, taking care of cooking and cleaning, and making new friends. Did I forget to mention study?! To stay physically and mentally healthy, it is vitally important to strike a good balance between your work/study and the rest of your life, especially as you start out in the first year. Fresher’s Week aside, there will be many exams, coursework and practicals to prepare for, so it is important to ensure you take an organised and professional approach to your academic year.

Study, study and more study…

As you start your course, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed with all the lectures, required reading and constant tests of your knowledge. But this pace is to be expected given the amount you need to learn to progress into your second year. Many med school students comment on their packed timetable, especially compared to other courses. In fact, the medical degree has a lot of student-tutor contact hours, whether in lecture halls, labs or small tutorials, due to the complexity of the subject. This is to make sure you develop your learning at the right speed and have the opportunity to ask questions and seek feedback.

Take time out

Whilst you will undoubtedly be studying hard, university life is also known for its social side. And of course med school students are no exception to socialising! However, it’s not always about the late nights and the parties. It can be a good idea to start a new hobby or interest that gives you something to look forward to outside of studying. This could be a sport, for example, and most universities have extensive sports facilities. Or just attending the gym or pool. Perhaps you want to join a society or club that represents your interest and engages you in student life.

A trusted friend

The first year of medical school can be full of highs and lows, so it’s always a good idea to develop a reliable network of friends from your course. This could develop into a valuable study group or just friends with whom you can discuss upcoming projects and exams. It’s much easier to deal with the more stressful times when you have friends to talk to and share your concerns. Because no doubt, they are feeling the same too! Some students have also said they found it invaluable to have a close friend or family member to talk with and confide in during their time at medical school. Often they have more perspective as they are not engrossed in the degree, but are close enough to you to provide encouragement and words of wisdom.

Look after yourself

Don’t try and burn the candle at both ends! At various times of the year, especially during the exam period, all your attention will be focused on studying and achieving your best. Even at this point, don’t forget to take some time out for yourself, even if it is just chatting to a friend or watching a movie, because in order to become a good doctor, you need to ensure you also look after yourself.