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 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.

The Best Way to Learn Medical Terminology

Medical terminology is a complex part of learning medicine, but is a critical foundation for your medical knowledge as well. Many students get intimated by the towering task of memorizing medical terminology. However, there are simple ways that you can use to learn medical terminology fast. Yes, you can actually master these complex words faster by following a well curated medical terminology course, attending a special medical terminology class or by taking a medical terminology test. This particular manner of learning helps you to learn and reinforce your knowledge of medical terminology, allowing you to remember information for the rest of your professional life.

Medical terminology course

There is a specific course that you need to follow in order to get the most out of your medical education. There are specific books that actually collect all the different definitions and present them in alphabetical order. Repeatedly learning them and revising them constantly will help you to seal them into your mind. It acts as a convenient method of allowing your brain to view and review the information so that it fixates in your long term memory.

Medical terminology class

Teachers at your university or college realize the importance of learning medical terminology which is why they are likely to conduct a medical terminology class at the start of each section. This is done to help you form a basic understanding of all the complicated words that are likely to come in the text. A relatively easy way to learn medical terminology is by attending these classes, which allows you to gain knowledge by a relatively easy and convenient manner.

Medical terminology tests

Finally, once you are done with the learning process it is important to test yourself. Try out some medical terminology tests online from a range of tests offered at our site. Stimulating your brain to recall knowledge allows you to realize the deficiencies and fill in gaps in your brain. You may have noticed how you know everything once you open a book but forget half or more once you close it. Well, to prevent this from happening try and quiz yourself so that you know what you need to work on more and what you have already learned.

too much? studying medicine can be easier

Group discussions

The ultimate way of learning and fortifying your knowledge is by teaching it on. This fulfills all the basic requirements needed for good memory. As it allows you to learn, revise, recall and finally correlate your information, all the medical terminology that you memorized transfers from your short term memory, into your long term memory.

These simple ways of contouring your study allow your brain to progress through the stages of learning and claim the full knowledge. Medical terminology course, classes, and tests, all play a vital role in fortifying the information in your brain. Growing through them progressively will help you learn medical terminology by heart easily and fast!

How to Study Biochemistry?

Biochemistry takes matters down to the molecular level. It’s all about the enzymes and reactions and every bit of detail around it. Basically, you get to learn about how the complicated machinery of the body is kept in constant motion. The subject can be one of the easiest you have ever studied or one of the hardest, all depending on how you take it. A major factor that is important when studying this subject is correlating. You may not know it at first, but all the cycles link together and it’s this aspect that is usually tested. This is why even after memorizing cycles repeatedly, without the critical co-links, finding answers to the test can be challenging. Here we present some easy ways that you can counteract this problem.

how to study biochemistry 2 - pixabay.com

Flow charts

One great way of learning the cycles as well as the links between them is by making flow charts. Get all the cycles on a large chart and then join the links in between to create a visual representation of the words in the textbook. This will allow you to memorize the whole process as a whole and will also introduce the links to you so that you know how they are connected.

Repeated revisions

Biochemistry is a volatile subject and unless you repeatedly analyze the information and learn it frequently it’s hard to remember. You need to put the entire chapter together countless times and learn all the information repeatedly to be able to perform well on the test. It may seem ominous at first, but after a couple of revisions, things simplify and get much better. In the end, you may be able to revise whole sections without effort.

too much? studying medicine can be easier

Medical terminology quiz

More than half of biochemistry is about learning what the words mean. Once you get the basic meanings down, understanding its function is the easy part. A great way to do this is by using a medical terminology quiz that assesses all the complicated names of the topic. This constant recall makes it easier for you to learn and remember the problematic names in the long run.


Some aspects of the book like nutrient deficiencies and important enzymes can be learned by putting them on flash cards. Recalling information from scratch will help your brain stir up all the information solidifying the synapses to create the long-term memory. Flash cards are helpful in a number of scenarios and they can work great for biochemistry too.

A medical student is usually bothered by the complex interactions of biochemistry. However, if you follow these steps, you are sure to Ace the subject. Not only will it be easier to learn, but it will also guarantee you great marks on the very next topic or sure!

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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