There are many different types of relationships you will be confronted within as a pre-medical and medical student. You will have to decide how to establish good relationships with professors and mentors. You’ll make steps to keep friendships alive while you are busier than ever. You’ll have to stay in touch with your family and figure out how to juggle having a significant other. Each of these relationships requires a different approach to be successful.
The biggest piece of advice I can give on fostering good relationships with this group of people is to always stay professional. A great relationship with someone who is higher than you on the totem pole can be ruined by one unprofessional act. An unprofessional act could be any of the following: showing up late, not attending things deemed mandatory, wearing unprofessional clothes, swearing in front of professors, talking negatively about others, lying or cheating. The last two seem pretty obvious, yet I’ve still heard them happening at the level of medical school. The first few are a little less obvious but just as important. I always remind myself that I’m in a professional school now and anything I do can compromise my future. I also remind myself that I wouldn’t want a doctor who shows up late, wears scandalous clothing or lies. If you do that you will never screw up. Keep in mind becoming a professional person is a work in progress. People will understand if you make a few (small) mistakes on the way because we all have to start as beginners. Other things to do while building a relationship with a mentor or professor are:
Send professional e-mails and follow-up in a timely matter
Send thank-you notes when appropriate
Visit office hours
Send a personal congratulatory note when you hear of an accomplishment he or she made
On a day to day basis to say hello and see how this person is doing
Choose them wisely. I’ll be the first to admit to having some not so good relationships with friends over the years. I think what I’ve learned from this is that you must surround yourself by people who are genuinely happy for you and have the same values as you do. I’ve had a number of friends who can’t be happy for me or won’t allow me to do my own thing. These types of friends are not the ones you want or need. I can’t stress how important this is. In medical school, you will have limited time and you need friends that will understand this. Of course, most other medical students will, but your friends who have careers need to also. I have several friends who are more than understanding of my limited time. They bend over backward to see me or help me out because they know that’s what I need at this point in my life. These are the people that will get you through the tough days.
Once you’ve found these amazing people make sure you put time and effort into developing these friendships. This can be small things like making a personal phone call for someone’s birthday or sending a cute card in the mail. This could be following up and making sure your friend who just started grad school had a great first week. This could also be dropping everything when you have a friend whose suffering. One other note on friends, in medical school you have a lot less classmates than in undergrad. I go to school with about 100 students in my year. Even if you don’t love someone’s personality or demeanor in your class, make sure to keep it professional. You could be colleagues one day and the last thing you want to do is have a poor relationship with them. If the person chooses to be unprofessional, at least you tried on your end.
Thank goodness for them. I’ve leaned on my family countless times for support during my first year of medical school. Be sure to make time for them even when you are busy. I’ve had several instances when my parents wanted to visit at “inconvenient” times for me, but I made it work. Since I knew time would be limited as medical school continued, I made it a point to spend a large chunk of my summer between M1 & M2 year with my family. I visited my mom’s house several times and got to spend more time with my brothers. I went on a vacation with my mom and hosted my brother at my place for 2 months while he took summer classes. I also spent a few weekends with my dad. This may not seem like much, but it really does make a difference. I constantly talk to my family on the phone or via texting so I never feel too far away from them. I’ve had several friends just during my first year of school have truly devastating things happen to them in the realm of family. It’s incredibly difficult to go through a personal or family crisis during medical school, so my two cents is to spend as much time with the people you love as you can.
Okay, so I’m going to leave everyone on kind of a cliff hanger on this one. I realized that I really need an entire post to talk about how to successfully manage a personal relationship before and during medical school. I’ll give you tips on how to make it, but also how to survive the turkey drop (if you have to). So, stay tuned on this one. For now, I’ll tell you all that I currently live with my boyfriend of three years and am happier than ever!
Mom and Dad at the white coat ceremony!