They do it every year.
Just before the second year students begin their first class for their first module of the year, someone comes in to give them The Talk.
“A third of last year’s second years failed and are writing supplementary exams which they will most likely fail,” is always the opening statement. “That’s 33% for those of you who barely made it through Biostats.”
Then this someone (usually an infamous lecturer whose exact role in the faculty everyone is still trying to decipher) starts telling a couple of stories.
The first involves a map of the world. He points out that yes, in fact, this is planet Earth. Then he indicates the continents. Then he mentions a few places that are probably very famous. (Geography was never my thing, don’t judge.) Then he gives the class a stern look and tells everyone that Medical School is like learning the map of the world. Lecturers are there to give guidance, highlight landmarks. But, ultimately, the responsibility lies with the student to fill in the detail, to zoom in and discover what is scribbled in tiny letters between these landmarks.
The second story involves a guy named Steve. His name is always Steve. Steve never misses a class. Steve is up at 4 am daily, pre-reading and researching. Steve spends his lunch break in the library. Steve only sleeps at about, say, 12 midnight after quizzing everyone in Res about the day’s lectures to ensure that everything he spent the day studying is consolidated. Steve is a rockstar med student who never gets less than a distinction for anything.
In a nutshell, Steve is who you should try to be.
By the end of The Talk (which invariably includes a scathing reminder that if a third of the previous year’s super-talented students failed, nobody is safe and, also, they will be joining you in class shortly and, by the way, have we mentioned that MBChB II is a soul-sucking monster that will eat you alive because you suck?) most of the class is pretty freaked out and uncomfortable.
The fear doesn’t last long, but the doubt planted in the minds of unsuspecting Doctors in Training does.
A couple of my official and “adopted” mentees sent me messages detailing The Talk and the stress it caused them and I have to admit that I had a really good laugh.
They tell the same stories every year, not without good reason, but still. So I told my mentees that they are capable. I told them that they are smart. I reminded them that they were hard-working. I let them know that they’d get the map talk at least twice this year, if they hadn’t already.
And then I gave them some tough love and warned them that if they started slacking, they would be that statistical 33% (which, I’m sorry, but do they predetermine how many students can pass without a rewrite, or is the 33%-a-year thing a happy coincidence?). It’s so very easy to fall behind, to get so caught up that you one day find yourself days from a test and a lifetime from confident. Second year is no joke, it can become a monster if you let it. So don’t freaking let it.
But I also let them know that, although I admire the proverbial Steve’s impeccable form and work-ethic, most of university, most of growing up is about finding out what works for you and who you are as an individual, not being pressured into fitting someone else’s ideals. Balance is the word for second year. Balance and a healthy dose of fear.
After imparting my sage words of advice and telling my mentees they were cramping my last moments of holiday, I had another good laugh. Because, seriously, I’m gonna need to look back at this post when Neuro hits me and I realize that the cycle really never ends. The horror stories aren’t just fun ways for lecturers and seniors to torment the lowerclassmen.
Sometimes horror stories are true.