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You’re About to Graduate Med School—Now What?

Written by February 25, 2020
students graduating

Use These Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Time Off

It’s been a tough journey through med school, but finally, you’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You should take time to celebrate and let the enormity of your accomplishment sink in. You’ve done something a very small percentage of the population has been able to do, and you have every reason to feel proud and revel in it—for a bit.

This first phase after graduation is all about feeling human again. First priorities? Sleep, travel, catch up with friends and family, and enjoy all the things you missed out on during school.

But, as far as you’ve come, you have a long way to go. What a lot of students don’t realize is that you’ll be expected to hit the ground running as an intern. Residency is not a continuation of school and you won’t be taught how to get through it. You’ll be expected to be prepared like it’s the first day on the job. 

Use these tips to strike the right balance of fun and function during your well-deserved time off.

Take a Vacation

Woman reading on beachUnsurprisingly, one of the first things on the mind of a newly graduated medical student is the prospect of not having every day planned to the minute. This is likely your first chance in a long time to sleep in without feeling guilty or pressed to be somewhere by a certain time.

But, it’s important to be present to get the most out of it. Put down the phone, don’t drink all day, and truly feel the sand beneath your feet (or grass, depending on where you choose to go).

Bring along your favorite books and revel in the fact that none of them are medical textbooks. Spend time outdoors or going on adventures, or anything else that makes you feel whole.

If you have time before you graduate, start planning! It’s not too early to plan ahead so you can take advantage of your time off from the moment you graduate. Walking off the graduation stage and onto an airplane for a trip of a lifetime can serve as the perfect reward for all your hard work during med school.


Start Building Good Habits

Woman doing yogaIf you think that the basis of healthy living are hard now with everything you have to do, like getting eight hours of sleep, exercising, and eating well, you’re in for a surprise once you start residency! Ideally, you practiced self-care and other healthy habits while in med school, but if some of those habits didn’t stick, use your time after graduation to start building them into your routine.

Living a healthy lifestyle is easier when it’s second nature. The more small good choices you make, the more “second nature” they become and the more you can build on them. The goal is to get to a place where You won’t have to think about them as often, and they’ll feel more like a normal part of your day. When healthy habits take less effort, you are more likely to stick with them!

Some healthy habits to prioritize are:

  • Making healthy food choices. You’re a doctor, you know what they are. And psychologically speaking, the more you flex your willpower muscle, the stronger it will become.
  • Check in with yourself. How are you emotionally? Now is a good time to express yourself to friends and family. It’s okay to tell them how hard med school was! It might also be a good time to meet with a therapist if you don’t have one. Med school takes an incredible toll on the body and mind. 
  • Meditating to reduce stress and clear your mind. Journaling also helps.
  • Do what you really enjoy and don’t get to do enough. Bubble baths, anyone?

You can probably add to this list, but the point is to start building these habits while you have more time to devote to them. 

For example, you might use your break to take some cooking classes or discover fast, healthy recipes that will help you stick to a healthy eating routine. Or, you might look into different meditation techniques to find which one best suits you. 

When life gets hectic in residency, you’ll be glad to have reduced the amount of effort it takes to take care of yourself so you can deliver better care to your patients.

Treat Yourself to Something Special

Gift with confettiRewards can be powerful incentives, and no one knows what your heart desires better than you do. The time after graduation is a great time to treat yourself for all the late nights, long lectures, tough exams, and ongoing stress you put yourself through to make it to the next step in your career.

Though you still have a long way ahead of you, and things might be tight financially, graduation calls for a special treat. This doesn’t have to be expensive. See a movie, get a haircut, or book a day at the spa and enjoy getting pampered for the day. Your reward should motivate you for the next phase in your journey and prove that hard work really does pay off.

Do Volunteer Work Abroad

Person getting blood drawnIf there’s enough time between graduation and beginning your residency, consider adding to your CV by traveling to another country to do volunteer work in the medical field.

Volunteering as a medical professional offers several benefits. For starters, you’re not resting on your laurels after graduating med school—you’re opting to keep your skills sharp and your focus on your career as a physician. There’s also great personal reward in delivering care to those who may otherwise not have access to medical treatment. This can be a fulfilling way to put your medical skills to good use while beefing up your resume before entering residency.

Prepare for Residency

Student outside carrying booksGraduating med school is just the next step in your career. Going into residency (and then potentially pursuing a fellowship) will consume the next few years of your life before you start operating as an independent physician. 

If you didn’t match into a residency program, you might have to take up to a year off from your medical duties. In fact, one study showed that 8,640 out of approximately 29,000 applicants for a first-year residency program do not get placed, which means they had to take a year off and wait for the next round. 

As a med student, this much time off might sound like a dream come true, but a lengthy break can be disruptive to your medical training. It’s hard to regain your momentum if you have to wait another year for a spot in a program, and you risk forgetting valuable knowledge that can help you along your residency journey.

Whether you’re taking a few weeks off or an entire year after graduation, it’s essential to keep your skills sharp. OnlineMedEd’s Intern Boot Camp and Case X can help you prepare for the next phase in your medical career so you can hit the ground running on Day 1. 

For more med school guidance, explore more of our blog posts.

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