Learning through theory is important. But life experience may be the thing that sets you apart from other candidates when you’re applying for a position at a medical school. Some things are better learned through experience and out in the real world. Numbers, scientific data, and statistics are cold and distant; the people you will help in the future as a healthcare professional are flesh-and-blood human beings with fears, anxieties, and needs. Therefore, you can better service your future patients by witnessing or going through specific experiences before, such as the 5 life lessons listed below. The good news is that many of these skills can be obtained simply by participating in extracurricular activities during school.
1. The Power of Positivity
The healthcare environment is not the best place for a pessimist, as you will often have to deal with complex situations and transmit delicate news to patients or their families.
At these times, being positive and conveying hope rather than sadness is essential. Smile more, try to see life on the bright side, and maintain good relationships with family and friends.
During your preparation for med school, you learn to be positive in the face of some adverse situations. For example, is your MCAT score too low, and could it compromise your future application?
Well, you can despair, give up and even cry. But if you choose to face it positively, you will roll up your sleeves and work hard to change that by studying more or taking an online MCAT prep course.
2. All Bets are Off
At school, you work with theoretical variables and examples; in real life, anything can happen. When you start working in healthcare, you realize that nothing is guaranteed, and clinical conditions can change (for better or worse) in a matter of hours.
The best way to develop experience in “expect the unexpected” is to take advantage of your free time as a student to volunteer at a medical clinic, hospital, or other health care institution – such as nursing homes for the elderly or psychiatric wards.
This experience in a natural clinical environment will prepare you to deal with some of the unforeseen situations that sometimes happen in healthcare if you can get the opportunity of shadowing a doctor or nurse, even better. This way, you will watch their routine, understand their interactions with patients, the difficult decisions they need to make, etc.
3. Change is Certain
In certain areas of knowledge, such as mathematics, data is definitive. In medicine, however, changes happen all the time. Certain diagnoses, treatments, or drugs can be quickly improved or retired. Look at what happened during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So it’s a beneficial life lesson for a healthcare worker to know that change is constant and certain and be prepared to update constantly.
An extracurricular activity in research will help develop the curiosity to learn more and increase your knowledge. Try to develop skills by conducting new research, analyzing theories and reports, even writing articles about medicine for journals or academic publications.
4. We’re all the Same
As a healthcare professional, you will need to see all your patients equally. Sometimes you may come across a person with costly health insurance and a humble worker who needs help with the same treatment and cannot handle them differently.
An extracurricular activity that helps see people equally and develop empathy is tutoring. When helping classmates or other students struggling with some classes, you interact with different people facing difficulties, need to communicate clearly to help them and empathize with other people’s problems.
All these skills will be necessary later in your career as a healthcare worker.
5. The Power of Teamwork
Healthcare is not about individualism. A healthcare worker needs to recognize and value the power of teamwork. During an emergency, you will need more people around you, all working interdependently with the common purpose of saving a life.
An extracurricular activity that helps me understand the importance of teamwork is joining a sports team. During a match in any game, you will be challenged to communicate clearly with your teammates, remain calm under pressure, and leverage the team’s strengths to achieve a positive result. All this will be very important later as a healthcare worker.
Don’t like sports? No problem: teamwork can also be learned by participating in the board of clubs or school committees and even joining a musical band, where everyone’s performance with their instrument is essential for the final result.
Be a better Human to be a better Professional
You may be the top student in your class and know all the theories by heart, but working in the medical field will completely change your perception of everything. Your actions as a healthcare professional directly affect other people’s lives and your teammates.
Medicine is not an area for cold, overly technical people or “machines.” Some life lessons you learn throughout the school can help you become a better person who will be a better professional in the future. Remember that these life lessons will stay with you forever and cannot be learned from medical books.
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