Why American Doctors Are Quitting

As the US heads inexorably towards a doctor shortage of catastrophic proportions, the last thing the country can afford is for experienced and established physicians to quit their jobs early. However, NBC News have reported that this is exactly what is happening.

Limited residencies, increased desirability of competing jobs, and suffocating bureaucracy have combined to drive compassionate doctors into early retirement, while at the same time ensuring that fewer young people enter the medical profession. Here are a few reasons why this is happening:

Competition from STEM Jobs

The problem starts with competition. With the USA entranced by a fever of innovation, jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (so-called STEM jobs) have gained increased appeal and frequently pull down high wages.

Given the catastrophically high cost of medical school, many young doctors would prefer to study for four years to become an engineer than eight years plus to become a doctor. Fewer new doctors entering the profession puts more pressure on older physicians, who may be driven to leave the understaffed clinic in search of a better work life balance in a scientific or technological field where their medical training will be put to lucrative use.

Lack of Residencies for Graduating Students

For those students who do still choose to attend medical school, this by no means guarantees that they will go on to become doctors. Medicaid caps on subsidized residency programs in teaching hospitals mean that there are far fewer available residencies than there are graduating MDs.

This “bottleneck” means that every year, there are thousands of people who have the drive, the work ethic and the intelligence to pass medical school (not to mention the fortitude to acquire six figures worth of loans) but who are kept out from completing their training and becoming fully fledged physicians. At a time when the US desperately needs more doctors, this is a point in the funnel that is in most urgent need of mixing.

Doctors Want to Work with Patients, Not Forms

Established physicians who have successfully completed every stage of their training and gone on to have distinguished careers are also quitting long before their retirement age. Technological changes are one driving force behind this.

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) have for the most part replaced pen & paper patient records, but the upgrade has come with its fair share of glitches which often restrict doctors from being able to efficiently do their jobs.

Doctors report spending more time dealing with paperwork and insurance companies than with their actual patients. For someone who entered the medical profession in order to work with communities and help people, it can be extremely disheartening to end up feeling more like a bureaucrat than a healer.

“It has gotten worse for all of us, unfortunately — whether you work in the hospital or in the outpatient setting,” Dr Nicole Swiner told NBC News. “We are burdened more by non medical business or insurance professionals without any medical training. It’s disheartening. ​I have transitioned to more part-time clinical work [so as to focus more on] speaking, writing and consulting.”

Doctors and medical students alike experience shocking rates of depression, with up to 43.2% of resident clinicians experiencing depressive symptoms. Given this plethora of pressures, is it really surprising that medical professionals are searching for alternatives?

The US cannot afford to keep hemorrhaging medical professionals. At this rate, as the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) grimly predicts, we will be short by as many as 120,000 physicians by 2030. We depend on doctors to heal us. But now the medical industry itself is sick. It’s time for our corporations, institutions and legislators to urgently find a cure.

Opinion: America Needs an Online Medical University

In 2015, a user on the website Quora.com asked the question: How can I become a doctor online? The answers she received were simple: you can’t. A medical student named Shikha Sharma wrote the answer with the highest number of upvotes.

He begins: “Can you be a driver by reading “how to drive” articles and not touching a car? Can you learn to play a guitar without touching one?[…] Can you cook without entering the kitchen?”

The point made is clear. Being a doctor is a highly skilled, hands on profession. In order to become one, you therefore need hands on training. Learning by yourself in front of the computer screen just won’t cut it.

But is the concept of an online medical university really as far-fetched as it sounds? Afterall, there are plenty of other hands on professions which allow you to train online. If being a doctor is hands on, then nursing certainly is too, but the Open University offers several online nursing courses.

Medical Education Already Happens Online

The internet is already used to supplement mainstream medical education. With lectures from universities being streamed online and apps that help students study, it is an accepted argument that the internet can enhance and contribute to the learning process.

Medical lectures on YouTube – such as my own Future Doc House channel – make medical knowledge accessible for free, and frequently garner thousands of views.

Many established schools are also accepting the importance of information technology in helping students learn. Vanderbilt School of Medicine even completely redesigned their entire IT infrastructure to be inline with their new curriculum,

“We launched a redesigned, tightly integrated, and novel IT infrastructure to support a completely revamped curriculum at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine.”

Much Of Your Medical Training is About Memorization

A major portion of a doctor’s education, particularly in the earlier years, involves memorizing complicated facts and scientific processes.

This kind of training can certainly occur online. With some hands on aspects being incorporated into the training element, such as hospital and laboratory visits, it is not hard to imagine how an online medical university could actually look.

No, the real reason that there are no online medical schools is not because it is impossible to acquire the skills needed to be a doctor online. It’s a matter of regulation.

Becoming a Doctor is, Rightly, Highly Regulated

As any medical student will tell you, becoming a doctor is a convoluted process. In the USA, students need to first acquire a bachelor’s degree, then complete medical school, then complete a residency program, then participate in the three step United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

If you want to train and qualify as a doctor in the US, the above is the only way to do it. While most countries in Europe do not require students to first acquire a bachelor’s degree, meaning they can begin medical training right after high school, they too have a strict series of licensing tests and requirements, with no room for compromise.

It is of course good that medicine is a highly regulated field. When we or our loved ones are ill, we need to trust that the person caring for them has the skills to do a competent job. The difficulty of the qualification system gives us confidence. It is right that only those who can rigorously prove their competence should be licensed to practice.

But is the established system really the only way that it is possible to effectively and thoroughly train doctors?

The Established System is Inefficient and Expensive

While there are benefits to the established system, there are also critical flaws. It takes as much as 10 years to train a doctor in the US. Too few new doctors are entering the profession, and an aging population means that the US already faces a serious doctor shortage, with the problem only set to get worse if things do not change.

Another issue is student debt: medical student’s routinely graduate with $200,000 or more in loans that they may spend decades struggling to pay off. For students from lower income backgrounds, this is a terrifying financial burden that prevents many talented and hardworking people from entering the medical profession.

An online medical university, if properly set up, could make the process of training a doctor cheaper and more efficient. Online training is cheaper, with no need for campuses, and the replication of lectures and reproduction of digital material requiring less staff and administration.

The lower costs for the student and the convenience factor of being able to complete the majority of one’s training at home at one’s own schedule means the possibility of becoming a doctor will finally become open to those who are, for financial reasons, excluded from the current system.

How Could an Online Medical University Actually Happen?

In order for an online medical university to work, changes would have to be made of the existing qualification and licensing requirements. A system would have to be designed that would allow for practical, hands on elements of doctor training to be made available to students whose studies are primarily online, for example with visits to partner campuses, and occasional meetings with doctors and hospital tours.

The residency system would remain in place – this part of the training must of course be done in person at a real teaching hospital – but with students who studied online and those who studied in traditional campuses now working side by side.

American healthcare is in a state of crisis. The country faces a shortage of up to 35,600 primary care physicians by 2025. Wait times for doctors are as high as 52 days in cities like Boston. Entire states including Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming are designated as medically underserved. Healthcare costs are skyrocketing for individuals and employers. Things desperately need to change.

Things Desperately Need to Change

If the medical educational establishment paused for a moment and took seriously the idea of an online medical university, they could create a system that trains more doctors for less money, bringing massive benefits to the whole country.

Working with QUPI.com, I aim to expand their platform to create a comprehensive destination for medical learning. Hopefully this will begin the process that inspires other educational companies and institutions to explore new ways to push medical education forward.

Why We Need to Put the Joy Back into Medical Education

Doctors don’t just care for a patient’s symptoms. They provide comfort and reassurance. Patients want smart, competent doctors, but they also want happy doctors, real people who they can feel a connection to. And yet doctors and medical students suffer from staggeringly high rates of depression.

The problem begins in medical school, where the high pressure environment seems almost designed to break even the most hardworking students. While changes need to happen on the institutional level, there are things we as individuals can do to help reverse this worrying trend.

It’s about remembering why we chose to become doctors in the first place, and putting the joy back into medical learning.

Rates of Depression Among Doctors and Medical Students Are Extreme

According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention as reported by VOX, doctors are between 1.4 and 2.27 more likely to commit suicide than the population as an average.

Evidence shows that the problem begins in medical school, where as many as 1 in 3 medical are students affected by depression. Patient’s want happy doctors, and as human beings we are entitled to happiness. So WHY are doctors and medical students are statistically miserable?

How We Got Here:

Medical school is tough. The amount of information that students need to learn in a very short time period is astounding. Combine that with the pressures of exams and intense competition, and you have an environment that advocates like Pamela Wible describe as resembling a military boot camp. The fact that medical students tend to be smarter than average, actually makes the problem worse.  Medical school brings together the smart kids from across the country. Suddenly, you may no longer be the best student in the room. All the best and brightest are now competing, facing pressures that they’ve never been adequately prepared for.

By the time students make it to the residency stage, the pressures just keep piling on.  Many students have to move away from home to do their residency, losing the social support and comfort of being at home. Making life and death decisions about real patients adds a whole new world of stress and anxiety. After graduation things don’t always get brighter. Students frequently enter the real world saddled with enormous amounts of debt, and already burned out before their careers have even had the chance to begin. Elizabeth Poorman put it most bluntly in her conversation with Vox. “Fundamentally, medical schools and residency cause mental health disorders,” she said. “They cause depression.”

Doctors and Medical Students Seldom Seek Help When They Need It

The very factors that make medical school so traumatizing to begin with are the same factors that too often prevent students and doctors from seeking help.

Doctors from the USA to the UK are terrified that if they are caught reaching out for help, they will be perceived as weak. They worry that may jeopardize their chances of becoming licensed, and sabotage their future careers. Nathaniel P. Morris, a former student at Harvard Medical School, wrote an article about his struggles with depression, and his decision to seek help. Discussing the article in the Washington Post, Morris writes: Last spring, I wrote publicly about my own struggle with depression during medical school. The days leading up to the article’s publication were terrifying. I worried I might lose the residency slot I had matched into or forfeit the trust of future colleagues. Again and again, I checked the medical licensing requirements in California to make sure I wouldn’t lose the ability to care for patients. Yet my fears have gone unfounded and, in the days that followed, I received nothing but support from colleagues and mentors. Fortunately, others are speaking up as well. There are two apparent lessons here. The first is that we as a community need to be more open. We need to encourage conversation about the pressures we face here, without being afraid of judgement and what others may say. The second is that we as individuals need to take confidence in the example of Nathaniel Morris and the many others who share his experience.

The consequences of seeking help  are as nothing compared to the consequences of not seeking help. [Find a List of International Suicide Helpline Numbers]

The World Needs More Doctors – So Let’s Put the Joy Back into Becoming One!

The world desperately needs more doctors. An aging population globally is putting massive strain on the medical profession. As older doctors retire and too few young people enter medical school, the situation gets worse every year. The World Health Organization estimates that we’re already short 7.2 million healthcare workers, with that number expected to rise to almost 13 million within the next two decades. And yet we’ve created a paradigm in which becoming a doctor is often a traumatizing experience. People entering the profession are already burned out! So how can we change that? One way is to start putting the joy and love of life back into medical school.  To put back the love of learning medicine that made students want to become doctors in the first place. There are many aspects of this paradigm that can only be solved at the institutional level. But in this article, we’ll look at something we can all do, both as individuals and as a community. It’s a simple matter of attitude. It’s about giving students permission to be human and rediscover the joy and excitement that learning and life can bring. Being a doctor isn’t just about knowledge and technical skills. Patients want happy doctors because they want to feel a connection. Doctors need social skills. They need to listen. They need to have empathy and they need to have compassion. They need to see the whole patient, and leave that patient feeling reassured, uplifted and like they are in safe hands. Students who succumb to pressure and spend all their time locked up in the library are unlikely to become good doctors. They may acquire a lot of knowledge, but they miss this fantastic opportunity to develop the human, social skills which are just as important in the real world. Of course the knowledge element is essential. But studying is not everything. Good doctors need to develop into complete, rounded individuals. And yes, this means having friends. It means going out occasionally on the weekends. It means playing a sport and pursuing a hobby. And it means not feeling guilty every time they dare lift their weary eyes from the textbooks, and decide to do something fun.

Technology Can Make it Easier to Acquire Knowledge with Less Stress

In addition to my medical lectures on YouTube, I work as a spokesperson for QUPI, a medical learning startup.

What QUPI have done is compiled basically everything students need to know to pass medical school into a bunch of exam style practice questions. One of the reason I chose to represent QUPI was they share this attitude of fun, of bringing the joy back into medical learning. check them out at QUPI.com

If practicing medical knowledge can be made fun, if we can relieve some of the pressure and replace it with joy then the world won’t only have more doctors, it will also have better doctors. Patients want happy doctors. As members of the medical community, we owe it not only to them, but also to ourselves, to stay positive, and to keep innovating.

Interview with QUPI CEO Damian Ratajczak on How and Why He Runs His Startup

QUPI is an ambitious startup that plans to change the future of medical education. Their online platform contains 10,000 practice questions which medical students around the world use to prepare for their exams. They’re working on a mobile app and a series of international university visits to help take QUPI to the next level.

The CEO, Damian Ratajczak is a 28 year old technophile from Poznan, Poland. Recently he sat down with the people of TechAMA for a no-holds-barred AMA on medical education, business, and life as head of a startup. Here’s below is an edited and condensed version of the conversation, containing tips and insights for entrepreneurs, medical students and anyone interested in how medical education is evolving. Enjoy!

Medical students statistically end up with the most debt. What solutions exist to help make studying medicine more affordable?

The world desperately needs more doctors, yet studying medicine is prohibitively expensive for too many students. This needs to change.

A few interesting projects exist to try and make a difference. One that comes to my mind is Compendium Medicine which covers all basic medical knowledge in about 1200 pages with a decent price tag.

At QUPI we’re mindful of the financial pressure on medical students, which is why we have created the most affordable study tool on the market. Our question bank covers all 12 medical discipline and is based around the in class and licensing exams that students have to face (like the USMLE, NBME, NBDE, MCCQUE, etc). We’ve capped the price at $400 for an annual subscription, which our market research indicates is within reach for most medical students. It’s small fraction of what textbooks cost each semester!

What do you enjoy most & least about running a medical education startup?

What I do love about my current job is its versatility. I never get bored, there are so many things to do. Lot’s of planning; without proper planning you can’t execute anything. In general, one day you work on PR and marketing of your company, next day you are a web developer, and finally, you shoot and edit a video to advertise your product. And the whole time you need to keep an eye on the finances, so you know that your business is being managed properly.

What do I enjoy least? Funnily enough, I would say the same as above! But only when I get exhausted by working 12+ hours a day. Although, it’s not like I have to. It’s my own choice and I’m driven by a passion for what I do. Just, as a human being, I do have my own limits too.

What inspired you to get into the medical education industry?

It was my partner in the business who uses the nickname Future Doc House and gives free medical lectures on YouTube who first inspired me to enter this field. He loves medicine and always wanted to make a significant difference in a medical world. His motivation convinced me that this is a good cause. My background was always related to management and IT/communication. I love tech and keeping an eye on figures, so I feel like I’m in a right place!

Where does QUPI source its practice questions from?

A major part of the question bank is sourced from validated sources and paraphrased from medical reference books. Others are submitted by medical students based on what they are facing in their exams and classes, and validated by our expert panel. Our goal is to create a community around QUPI, so everyone can participate in adding questions, reporting mistakes and submitting feedback to help us create the best platform for medical students.

How did you get into this line of work?

After finishing yet another demanding project for a big corporation, I took a pause and thought about what I really wanted to do with my life. This was a pivotal moment. I decided to be a part of something meaningful and gain more control over my life and more influence in general. I was very motivated and started to learn and discover what’s current in IT. Then the magic happened, I partnered with Future Doc House, and the idea of QUPI was born.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? (Sheryl Sandberg)

What part of business do you feel you need improvement in?

The biggest challenge for every new business is building credibility. We are working very hard to gain people’s trust, looking for promising collaborations and good media coverage. We need the world to see as we are – a group of well meaning entrepreneurs who are here to make a difference, and who have something that will last.

Have you got a detailed business plan in place already?

I’m a ‘lean startup’ evangelist, so my business plan has been created based on the lean canvas method. It’s much more efficient, easier to come back and edit when necessary and I personally find its usability very satisfactory. In a turbulent environment having an easy to use and adaptable business plan is a must.

Does your job afford you the ability to travel and work remotely?

Yes, it does. Moreover, my business partners are from California and Scotland, so travel is a must. Frequent changes in environment inspire creativity, as does working with a dynamic team from all over the world.

How did you come up with the name QUPI?  Does it mean anything in particular?

We think the best acronym based on QUPI is:

Question

Understand

Practice

Interact

But we’re open to other suggestions!

What is the essence of your business?

The essence is in our slogan – Practice Your Medical Knowledge. Medical students are overwhelmed with the amount of content they have to learn, and lack an easy, fun way to practice this knowledge and prepare for the exams. We’ve traveled to medical schools around the world and met hundreds of medical students and listened to the challenges they face, and tried to create a platform to address this.

Our question bank is a database of 10,000 multiple choice medical questions for students to practice before their examinations. A number of tests medical students have to take constantly increases and we help them to gain confidence, strengthen their knowledge and pass with ease.

We also sponsor a series of Free Medical Lectures, which you can find on YouTube, created by our friend Future Doc House. This channel helps medical students to understand some more complicated medical issues in an enjoyable and accessible way.

Who finances your startup?

We were lucky enough to acquire two Angel investors from Silicon Valley in California in the early days of the business. Because we’re confident in QUPI’s success, several members of the team have also invested their own funds in the business.

We ran a Kickstarter campaign in the early days which helped give our fundraising a boost. All this together puts us in a healthy position, allowing us to focus on our customers and developing our platform without too many financial headaches.

Where do you see yourself and QUPI in 5 years?

QUPI exists to change the future of medical education. In addition to being a successful platform and the default choice for all medical students, we hope that our ideas and attitude around putting the joy back into medical learning will have a global impact. At QUPI we think big; we want to change the world and we’re not afraid to admit it! As Steve Jobs said, we’re here to “put a dent in the universe!”

Why The World Urgently Needs You to Become a Doctor

An aging population globally has left countries from the USA to China desperately short of medical professionals. As older doctors retire and too few young people enter medical school, the situation gets worse every year.

TechCrunch, citing a recent study by the American Association of Medical Colleges, reports that by 2025 the US could be lacking as many as 35,600 primary care physicians. Globally speaking, we’re already short 7.2 million healthcare workers with that number expected to rise to almost 13 million within the next two decades.

As this video from the AAMC puts it, because of how long it takes to train a doctor, a 2025 problem is actually a 2015 problem. And guess what: it’s almost 2018 and we’re still nowhere close to a solution. But there is hope.

If you have ambitions of becoming a doctor, you’re not only setting yourself up for a rewarding career; you’re also helping to make an important difference in the world. In this article we’ll look briefly at how this situation came about, and explore what we can do to fix it.

How Did We Get Here?

Basically, we’re all getting older! Right now, there are already 46 million Americans aged 65 and above. By 2060, this number is expected to double, meaning that almost one quarter of Americans will be over 65. Japan is already there.

In China, the demographics are more complicated with factors like the one child policy putting massive strain on people of working age. With just 189,000 doctors [source] in the entire country of almost 1.4 billion people, China is in even worse shape than the US.

Government policy has also played a role. In 1997, the United States Congress imposed caps on Medicare which have drastically restricted the ability of teaching hospitals to take on new residents. The AAMC says budget caps and related resident limits are “impeding teaching hospitals’ educational mission.”

This combination of an aging population and a lack of medical residents is a 1-2 punch. The world needs more doctors than ever before, while at the same time governments like the US make it harder for young people to get educated and become physicians. Clearly, something needs to change.

What Can We Do About It?

While we can use our votes to try and guide government policy, there’s nothing any of us can do about the global aging population – that’s a reality that the younger generation are going to have to live with.

What you can do about it is to become a doctor and make yourself a living part of the solution. Today’s doctors are armed with the best medicines and medical technologies in history. Ironically, this is one of the reasons why an aging population was able to occur in the first place! It’s also the only way to effectively solve this problem.

Advances in Technology Have Helped Cause This Problem. They Can Also Help Solve It

Medicine helps people live longer, which in turn creates an imbalance where there are many elderly people requiring medical care, but not enough young doctors to provide it.

Advances in medical technology are also making their way into education. The internet is a great leveler – anyone can now go online and watch lectures from some of the finest professors in the world (check out the Future Doc House youtube channel!) Because of this we’re moving closer to a world where anyone with the motivation and talent to become a doctor has access to the resources they need in order to do so.

stethoscope wallpaper

Picture courtesy of Freepik

Medical Education Should Be Fun – Right Now It’s Not.

There are many heavy, tragic and painful aspects to being a doctor. You deal with people at their worst, and will not be able to cure everyone who walks into your clinic. On the other hand, there’s also a real joy associated with the practice of medicine.

The best doctors – and the best medical students – enter the profession out of a passion to help others, and an insatiable curiosity to figure out the cures and solutions to complex problems.

Those medical students who drop out and never make it as doctors do not fail because they are not academically up to standard – that’s almost never the case. They quit because medical school is a long, arduous and tedious process.

Many burn out, others get put off by the mammoth amounts of paperwork demanded by governments and insurance companies. Others are simply denied residential spots due to government policy. The situation is tough, but technology is already helping.

How Innovations are Helping to Solve the Global Doctor Shortage

During my time as a student I frequently traveled, and spent several semesters abroad experiencing medical school in different countries. From my time in the USA and Europe, I learned first hand the challenges faced by medical students and the gaps in the education process which need to be addressed.

One of the things I saw lacking was an easy, fun and engaging tool to practice medical knowledge in a way that directly prepares students for licensure exams like the USMLE in the USA and the MRCP in the United Kingdom. Recently, new technology has started to address this. One of the tools I’m personally involved in is QUPI.

QUPI is a medical education startup founded by entrepreneurs from the UK, USA and Poland. It aims to solve this problem by providing a fun and efficient study tool for medical students, particularly for those in their first few years of study.  

An online question bank with over 10,000 questions covering the 12 disciplines medical students focus on, QUPI uses a clean interface and the principles of gamification to make their study tool as compelling as a videogame or social media platform.

They’re also working on a mobile app which will let students practice their medical knowledge on the go – imagine getting in an essential 5 minutes of microbiology study while waiting for the bus or standing in the queue at Starbucks! You can learn more about it at QUPI.com

With tools like this, as well as the abundance of invaluable education resources and lectures available online, now is the best possible time for you to become a doctor. And if you have the desire to embark on a medical career, then the world has never needed you more!

7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Medical School

Lasse Hodne is a fifth year medical student at Poznan University of Medical Sciences. He mentors younger students, and is Poznan spokesperson for the Norwegian Medical Association (NMA). He’s only 23, but in barely one year he’ll be a doctor.

The team from QUPI sat down with Lasse for a chat about what he wishes he’d known before he began his journey. If you’re in your first few years of medical school – or if you’re wondering whether or not being a doctor is the right choice for you – then Lasse’s tips and insights will help.

One: You don’t have to be a perfect student to be a great doctor

I often hear things like ‘I’d love to be a doctor, but I just don’t think I’m smart enough.’

Maybe you’ve had similar moments of self doubt. If so, that might actually be a good thing. Humility is a major asset in a doctor. The fact that you’re willing to question yourself is a sign that your ego is under control. Trust me, that’s not something all future doctors can claim!

I don’t believe for a second that the students I’ve known who dropped out, did so because they’re not intelligent enough. I think many of them realized that being a doctor simply wasn’t the right choice for them. They discovered that they’d be happier in another profession – and that’s totally cool.

If you have the passion and drive to become a doctor, if you know how to study effectively, then it doesn’t matter if you’re not Albert Einstein. You could still have the makings of a great doctor.

Two: More than anything else, doctors need to care

When you become a doctor, you’re going to be pulling 18-hour shifts at the emergency room. Imagine you’re exhausted, it’s 3 am at the end of long shift, and a patient comes in, yells at you, acts aggressively, causes problems. Can you see through your frustration and exhaustion and still feel empathy?

Instead of asking yourself if you’re smart enough to be a doctor, ask yourself if you care enough. At the end of an 18-hour shift, can you still find that compassion and manage to motivate yourself to keep doing your job? This level of caring matters far more than raw brainpower, and it will keep you going through the tough times.

Three: 70% of what doctors do is paperwork!

Ok, that number is probably an exaggeration, but I was shocked when I learned just how much time doctors have to spend filling out forms. Insurance forms, drug records, social reports, applications and so on. Especially if you want to be a family doctor / general practitioner, paperwork is gonna be a big part of your day!

Editor’s Note: Lasse is not the only one to be surprised – an article in Forbes recently joked that, if medical school was based on what being a doctor is actually like, then ‘Medical school admissions essays would be on “why I really want to do paperwork when I grow up.”’ We asked Lasse if this discovery affected his desire to become a doctor:

There’s a reason paperwork is such a major part of the job: it exists in order to maximize communication and minimize the risk of mistake and wrongdoing. Yes, it’s a bummer, but it doesn’t make me want to be a doctor any less. It’s that other 30%  – when you get to be there for your patients and sometimes even save their lives, that matters most.

Four: Medical school does NOT have to mean giving up your social life

Many new medical students get terrified by the expected workload, and shut themselves out of university life. In the long run, this is counterproductive. Sure, you have to learn a tonne, but you’re still going to have free time! Don’t hide away in your room all Friday night with your textbooks. Instead, go out, have a beer and make friends.

Effective doctors need to have good social skills, and making friends is one of the highlights of your time as a student. You’re definitely going to be putting in a lot of long, hard hours in front of the books, but don’t feel guilty about checking into the pub every now and then as well. The people who go on to succeed as doctors are the ones with balanced lives. You need to be happy too.

Five: There’s a HUGE difference between being a doctor and studying to be one!

I’m not a doctor yet, but I’ve started to work side by side with them during my rotations. I see now that the difference between being a medical student and actually being a doctor is the difference between night and day.

As a medical student you’re safe. Even when you do start seeing patients, the hard decisions are made by someone older, with more experience. But eventually, you’re going to graduate, and you’re going to be on your own.

One day you’re going to be alone in the emergency room, and someone’s life will literally be in your hands. Medical school will teach you what to do, but you have to have the courage and presence of mind to actually do it.

Now that I’m nearing the end of my studies, I can see this as the next stage ahead. It’s frightening, but it’s also exhilarating.

Six: Being a doctor is a hands-on job

In some ways, being a surgeon is like being a really sophisticated plumber. Both careers demand that you can push, pull, screw, drain, block, twist, fuze and, well, you get the picture. Plumbers also need to have stamina, the ability to think laterally, and of course a strong stomach! Again, all traits that are essential for surgeons too.

Obviously, there’s a massive difference between the two careers, but it’s important to remember the physical demands of being a doctor. You need to have strength, and you need to have dexterity. At the risk of sounding too much like a doctor before I’m qualified… look after your health! Play sport, exercise, and keep fit. Being a good doctor (or medical student) is about the body as well as the mind.

Seven: Don’t feel guilty about using technology to help you study

There’s a whole world of knowledge out there and, while you need to be discerning and critical, there’s no point in ignoring such a vast resource as the internet. My classmates probably spend more time watching video lectures than reading textbooks. We are millennials after all, might as well embrace it!

The people who make the best students are those who use these resources to channel their natural curiosity. If you’re the type of person who encounters or hears about a new illness, or a new medicine, and spends that evening looking it up online, then that’s a great sign that you’ve chosen the right career path.

Conclusion: The World Needs More Doctors

By the time many of us are in our 40s, the world will be short almost 13 million healthcare professionals. Becoming a doctor is a long and sometimes scary journey, but it’s a rewarding one as well. Hopefully these tips from my 4+ years of medical school will help make your time there that little bit easier.

lasse_hodne_profile

Lasse Hodne is in his fifth year of medical studies at Poznan University of Medical Science. Originally from Norway, Lasse frequently mentors younger students from his home country, and in recognition of this has been appointed spokesman for the Norwegian Medical Association. He believes that compassion is a doctor’s number one asset, and that the future of medical learning is digital. He is an advisor and brand ambassador for QUPI.com, the world’s largest medical question bank.

What You Need to Know When Choosing Your First Stethoscope

From the moment you enter medical school, you look forward to the day that you get your first stethoscope. Like a wand to a wizard, the stethoscope is the symbol that you have arrived, and that you can finally start using your hard-earned skills in the real world.

Your first stethoscope is an important decision; here’s what you need to know to make it right:

Important Criteria for Choosing Your First Stethoscope

When the time comes to finally buying your first stethoscope, the confusion arrives. You see different doctors wearing different stethoscopes, your seniors give different bits of advice, your friends search in google and come with conflicting reviews, you yourself search and get confused. In the end, it becomes a massive dilemma as to what to buy.

Long Term or Short Term?

First thing first, you have to decide whether you are buying your stethoscope for temporary use or for a long-term use. Some students decide that they will buy a stethoscope to use while they are in college, and they will invest in buying a good one when they are actually out there in the hospitals. So you have to be very clear as to what is the purpose. Is it long term or short term?

Know your Budget

You need to know what your budget is. You have to make up your mind on how much you want to spend on this and again this connects with the decision you take as to whether this is a long-term or a short-term investment. If it’s a short-term investment, then you don’t have to go for a big budget. You can manage easily. So this is an important decision you need to make.

Remember The Purpose of the Tool

Most importantly you should remember why you need a stethoscope in the first place. We need it to hear the sound of the heartbeat or the sounds inside a patient’s body. The first thing you need to do when you’re testing a new one is to listen to your own heartbeat and see how loud it is. It should not be like whispering. It should be like someone talking next to you. There is a critical difference because if you can’t hear clearly you want be able to make accurate diagnoses.

Is the Tubing Stiff?

If the tubing of the stethoscope is stiff that is not a great sign. Hang it vertically and see whether there are any bends. Squeeze it and see whether a bend stays there permanently or whether it is flexible enough. If there is an issue with the tube that can affect the long term functionality of the equipment.

Are The Ear-tips Comfortable?

When you are a doctor you’ll be wearing your stethoscope for hours on end, so it’s important that the ear-tips are comfortable. Check whether the ear-tips hurt you and if they do then means it will make you uncomfortable over time and that’s the last thing you need at the end of an 18 hour shift at the emergency room!

Does the Headset Fit?

You should be able to adjust the headset so that it fits and it’s comfortable. You should be able to gently squeeze the ear-tips and adjust the headset so that it fits comfortably and does not hurt you.

Is it too Heavy?

It is important that your stethoscope is light. If it is too heavy when the days are hectic it will be a trouble for you. So try to go for a lighter stethoscope.

Ok, now it’s up to you to make your own choice! The wand may choose the wizard, but as a doctor you need to make sure you have the right equipment for the job. Hopefully this list of criteria will help you choose a first stethoscope that you will be able to wear with confidence and pride.

USE IT or LOSE IT, future Docs!

Have you all ever heard the phrase: “If you don’t use it, you lose it”? To what degree is this true? When it comes to medical knowledge, it makes perfect sense–specially by considering the amount of info involved.

Each med student has many tasks to deal with so keeping up with the updates and refreshing one’s core knowledge doesn’t seem that easy. Yet, it isn’t that hard if you integrate it into your lifestyle. In view that what works for some doesn’t work for everyone, I’ll present a few best practices for you to decide wisely.

Try to think of knowledge as a lifestyle

In fact, learning should be a lifelong practice; just like the lifestyle changes you’ll be asking patients to make when they are diagnosed with a chronic condition. Let’s put it simple: make it a habit naturally incorporated into your daily life and then it won’t look so overwhelming.

If you are not the kind of student who likes sitting down with a pile of books in a room at the end of the day or during breakfast/lunch/dinner, you might be one of those who prefers learning while being on the go. For example, you could do it on the elliptical machine at the gym or on your daily bus/tram commute. As you sweat it out on the machine, you’ll absorb relevant information that could be beneficial afterwards.

While exercising, you could also listen to specific podcasts. Some suggestions are the New England Journal of Medicine podcast with Steve Morrissey or the one with Joe Elia: NEJM Journal Watch, as well as general news podcasts from NPR or The Economist. It’s not about listening to them all every day; just some of it.

Your smartphone can turn into a useful learning tool while commuting

For instance, you may read Journal Watch content in general medicine, hospital medicine, diabetes, etc. This method might be interesting for those who hear something once and don’t have it down cold, so they need to reinforce the information they get (e.g. some of the daily headlines from First Watch get explored further in Journal Watch stories).

Others are more of visual learners and for that, I would recommend using some question banks as you’d be able to go through a great deal of questions at a manageable pace. You’d also have more time to review what you didn’t answer right. Speeding up your test-taking skills is as critical as increasing your knowledge, as advised by Judi Kesselman-Turkel & Franklynn Peterson in their bestseller work Testtaking Strategies.

Keeping up with the latest information is just part and parcel of the job, and that’s when Qupi enters the game. It makes students review essential topics; the core medical info that is to be constantly reviewed if you want to be a respectful clinician right after your med studies. I believe that is your main goal, isn’t it?

It may sound like doing all this means spending countless hours on learning

Yet, it’s not really the case. It amounts to maybe 15 minutes a day (or a bit more depending on your availability). Just put in a little time up front by signing up for alerts from products like Qupi and it will all come to you. My advice to someone who thinks this is too much work: start small, and build a habit. Don’t bite off more than you can chew (:

Some YouTube channels are handy too

For example, Future Doc House explains medical issues and shares the knowledge he gained through his medical studies. You can also find material linked with microbiology via easy-to-understand and straight-to-the-point practical videos. In this way, you’d benefit from the net.

Go find the sources that suit you better and discover your personalized routine (remember not to compare yourself though, as per my previous article). Once you set it up, sticking to it turns out not to be that tough.

Does any of the recommendations above make sense at all? If so (or if not) please leave your comment or any doubt/question below. A last phrase I’d like you to remember: practice makes perfect, so keep trying and assess your own outcome as you move forward. To subscribe to Qupi, click on the link that follows => Continue with Facebook

DEPRESSION & MEDICAL STUDENTS – stay mentally healthy during your journey to becoming a doctor

Medical school is mentally and academically demanding so it is not surprising that rates of depression and burnout are higher than in other schools. Not only are there a considerable number of depressed students but those who are, believe that they would lose the respect of their future colleagues and professors if they spoke out.

A research published in Journal of the American Medical Association shows that out of 505 med students in Michigan, at least 1 out of 10 were depressed which is almost three times as many as in the general population of the United States.

Yet, more than half of those who were depressed felt that telling a counselor would be risky and that other medical students would respect their opinions less if they knew. Based on that, here are three pieces of advice to stay healthy mentally during your journey to becoming a doctor:

Do physical activity to get rid of stress

Stress is a common problem: it affects negatively not only med students but also the general population. It can lead to sleep problems, irritability, weight gain, and put you at a higher risk for burnout. All around the word medical students report multiple stressors in their lives, many of which are linked to academics. There are many effective stress management techniques that do not take much time. Exercising is a critical technique—not only does it help to control your weight; it is also good for nearly every bodily system.

It is worth mentioning that medical students often forget about it due to their hectic schedules and little time. Yet, it is feasible to reach healthy activity levels during your med studies. The key here is to be multitasking, that is: combining exercise with other activities. For instance, prefer the stairs over the elevator and you might be surprised about how much extra activity this gives you. If possible, walk or bike to university instead of taking the car. When you are shopping, park at the end of the parking lot so that you must walk in. Bring your book with you to the gym or fitness center, place it on your treadmill and start walking. Try to bring friends to make something regular out of this. These tips can help to fit activity into even a busy schedule.

Make friends and you will not regret it

Friends are an invaluable resource for keeping you on top of your med studies, as well as providing vital stress relief. There are a million opportunities available for you to meet new people right from the start of the first year. As you will be studying together for many years, there is a good chance you will be making some life-long friends. Be proactive: hang out with your peers after lectures, start a conversation with whoever you sit next to in class, sacrifice a few bucks and buy someone a coffee. The important thing to remember is that everyone is in the same situation: nervous about starting med studies, often new in town, and shy about sparking up a conversation with a stranger.

Isolating yourself is one of the worst things you can do in med school. One of the best pieces of advice I got from my friends who studied medicine was to not neglect the community surrounding you. Spending quality time with others will also help you find reasons to be thankful and remember why you decided to go for med school. Just try to avoid comparing yourself to anyone. “He is already doing research and I am not.” Rather than being jealous, try to appreciate them. You may think that some med students have everything put together but everyone is struggling.

Are you overwhelmed by all your medical learning material? There's an easier way - learn more

Be consistent but have some rest too

Finding your own way to study is pivotal. Are you a flashcard person? Or do you like making outlines? Maybe you are all about doing as many practice tests as possible and for that, question banks like QUPI are worth to check out. Regardless of how you study, do not be too stubborn to not change your ways if you realize that the one you chose is not effective. You might have heard/read this before but here I go again: being consistent by sticking to your schedule is important. However, do not beat yourself up when not doing that perfectly. Schedule study time but also know when to take breaks. And do not forget about scheduling time for rest. Rest does not just mean sleeping or lazing around. It also means finding rest for your mind and soul which is different for each person. Some people (for example myself) let loose and find rest by going clubbing and dancing the night away. Others like to have Netflix marathons and ordering food in.

Whatever you go for, resting well is just as important as both studying and working hard. If you love yoga or going to the gym, do not start neglecting these activities just because you are in medical school. Keep doing the things that make you happy! Just remember to prioritize wisely and remember that they are just as important as doing well in school.

What do you think about these 3 tips? You can leave your comments below and also join medical students from all over the world who use QUPI to practice their medical knowledge and prepare for their exams.

Which study aids you should use to help master medical school?

Studying in medical school is what I call “an inexact science”

Although the concepts you will learn are backed by evidence-based studies, the way in which they should be gone through is still trial and error. Due to the bunch of information students of the medical school are exposed to, they are prone to cram material for exams and as a result, they forget stuff when shifting subjects.

Flash cards, question books, anatomy images…

You could use a great deal of old-fashioned visual aids to attempt mastering medical school. The truth is that there’s no right or wrong way to study because each medical learner is different. With that in mind and by taking advantage of this virtual era, here I propose the best study apps that I gathered after interviewing medical graduates. Do you want to rock in med school? Check it out and good luck, folks:

Medscape is the first app that my doctor friends recommended

After checking its ranking in Google Play (4.4) and its reviews, I can write: “Argumentum ad populum.” I think it’s worth to try as it features peer-reviewed medical journal articles, daily medical news, major conference coverage, and more. Upon registration, you can use it right away.
Medscape - Google Play Store - Medical School

Medscape – Google Play Store

 
Medscape - Google Play Store - Medical School

Medscape App for Android

 
Medscape - Google Play Store - Medical School

Navigation in Medscape App

Are you overwhelmed by all your medical learning material? There's an easier way - learn more

MedCalc is a more technical app designed for statistics linked to biomedical sciences

And it’s not only in the English language, but also in Spanish, Italian, French, German, and even in Polish (by the way, I live in Poland so it caught my attention). It has a spreadsheet for data input and can import files in several formats (i.e. Excel). Fancy statistics? Then this is for you.
MedCalc Screenshot - medical school

MedCalc screenshot of the app – https://www.medcalc.org/

 
MedCalc description - medical school

MedCalc description taken from their website – https://www.medcalc.org/

 
Medcalc pricing - medical school

Pricin of MedCalc – https://www.medcalc.org/

 

Last but not least there’s QUPI

You know what they say: “Last will be first”. There’s a brand-new tool that my friends both in the USA and Poland are trying out: QUPI, which is described as the largest user-generated medical question database. If you visit its website you’ll find medical knowledge quizzes to help you succeed in passing medical schools or license exams. There are also tutorial videos, step-by-step explanations, and more useful medicine-related features.
QUPI Home page - Medical School

QUPI Homepage – qupi.e-msi.pl

 
QUPI features - Medical School

QUPI features – qupi.e-msi.pl

 
A medical quiz on QUPI - medical school

A medical quiz on QUPI – qupi.e-msi.pl

  Hopefully, these tools are able to somehow ease the stress caused by studying medicine. Whether you want an app to read the latest news, for complicated biomedical calculations, or to access a handy database to review specific terminology and questions, these three tools were highly advised by some of the medical graduates I know. Remember: “Advice when most needed is least heeded.” Hence the sooner you start getting used to any study aid, the better. As usual, I’d like to get your feedback. Have you heard of other apps that every medical student should download? Which ones do/did you use the most? Let’s exchange best practices!
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