4 Skills Every Premed Student Should Develop Before Medical School

Medical school is a time of growth and professional development. It is also highly structured and regimented.

Particularly in the clinical years and during residency, trainees are expected to follow predefined and often rigorous schedules. There is a lot to learn and a great amount of stamina needed for staying up long hours to take calls, running between hospital wards to coordinate the care of patients, making rounds and assisting in procedures.

Most premed students are consumed with what they need to do to get accepted to medical school. They spend little time, however, focusing on how to prepare for the rigors of it. The premed years are an important time to develop useful habits for success in med school and to reduce the stress associated with being a medical student.

As you study for your premed courses, prepare for the MCAT and participate in extracurricular activities to put together a strong medical school application, make sure you also develop habits that will help you excel as a medical student.

Waking up Early

In most fields of medicine, doctors and other members of the health care team get an early start to their days. Med students and residents are expected to arrive at the hospital earlier than more senior members of the team to make their patient rounds and prepare for the day’s activities.

[Read: 5 Key Characteristics of Successful Medical School Applicants.]

Once, a very bright student struggled to transition into his medical training because he had a hard time getting up early. As an undergraduate student, he studied late into the night to prepare for exams. In his third year of med school, he had difficulty going to bed early and learning how to study in the earlier hours of the day.

If you are in the early phases of your premed career and have not yet developed very fixed sleeping habits, you may want to get accustomed to going to sleep earlier, waking up early and using the earlier hours of the day to study. Alternatively, if you are a night person and find that you are more productive in the evenings, consider gradually transitioning to a schedule where you can go to sleep earlier and become accustomed to studying in the mornings.

Developing a Routine Exercise Regimen

Exercise has positive benefits for virtually everyone, but it is particularly important for doctors in training. Research has shown that lack of exercise among medical students is associated with higher rates of depression and burnout. Similarly, med students who engage in self-care, including physical exercise, report a higher quality of life.

Premed students often say that they will start exercising more regularly when they get into med school because they are too busy to do so now. If you are not able to build an exercise routine into your daily regimen as a premed student, it will be much harder to do so in medical school when you have to balance personal activities with 16-hour workdays.

Medical students who come into med school with well-established exercise routines are more easily able to maintain their exercise regimens, even in the busiest periods.

Improving Reading Skills

Like exercise, reading can serve as an outlet. Many physicians say reading helps them unwind and relieve the everyday stress of their work. Others report that reading has made them better communicators. Effective communication is essential in medicine.

[Read: How to Find Balance as a Premed Student.]

Having good reading skills can help you in med school, where you have to sift through copious amounts of material and learn concepts in a short time.

Getting into the habit of reading diverse topics will make you more informed and better capable of relating to the many different patients you will encounter in your work as a doctor. Some research even suggests that reading fiction has the potential to increase empathy, a quality that all physicians must possess.

Learning to Handle Criticism

Criticism is very common in medical training. Almost all trainees regularly receive critical feedback on their performance with the goal of improving patient care.

[Read: 4 Skills Every Premed Student Should Develop Before Medical School]

Sometimes the criticism can sound harsh. It is important for medical students to be prepared to take such criticism in good stride and use it to make themselves better practitioners.

One way to prepare for handling criticism is by getting in the habit of soliciting feedback and criticism from your superiors early on. As a premed student, don’t be afraid to ask professors, research mentors or others who supervise you to give you honest feedback on your performance.

When you hear feedback, listen carefully and pay attention to the facts being presented. Do not come up with excuses or justify your behavior. Consider how you can improve your performance.

By doing this enough, you will develop more resilience and become better prepared to handle feedback that comes your way, even if it sounds harsh.

More from U.S. News

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4 Skills Every Premed Student Should Develop Before Medical School originally appeared on usnews.com

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