How Should I Spend My Last Semester of Medical School?

Sarah N. Bernstein, MD


January 20, 2011


Once I know where I'll be going for residency, what should I do in my last semester of medical school to help prepare me for the next stage of training?

Response from Sarah N. Bernstein, MD
Resident, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY

The last semester of medical school tends to be more relaxed and gives you slightly more free time. My first recommendation is to enjoy this time! Once you start residency, your schedule will become far more demanding. When you have a moment of free time during your last semester, I have a few suggestions for how to prepare for your upcoming residency:

  1. Investigate and determine the second most common language spoken by patients in your hospital. In most places in the United States, this will be Spanish. Learn basic medical terminology and phrases and practice basic interactions. Fluency shouldn't be your goal, but a basic vocabulary will be extremely helpful and save you tons of time during your internship. Take a weekend class, buy a book, or set up some sessions with a tutor. Here are some helpful Websites:

  2. Look at your program's Website or the materials they have sent you and take note of the goals of each rotation of the internship. If you are beginning a surgical subspecialty, look over the basic steps of the intern level procedures, review the names of the instruments, and review knot tying. Read over the basic, most important topics in your field, and the current management guidelines.

  3. Spend some time thinking about your overall career goals. It is hard to know as a medical student if you are heading for general practice, a subspecialty, academic medicine, or private practice. However, if you are leaning in a certain direction, you can think of some small goals for your intern year.

  4. Find yourself a mentor and start discussing potential ideas for the future. This may sound simple, but once you start residency, you will be incredibly overwhelmed. It is easy to lose sight of the big picture and get stuck in the small details of the day-to-day work. Intern year is not the best time to start a massive research project, but simply reaching out to other physicians in your department and expressing interest will open doors for you in the future.

  5. My last piece of advice is to think about ways to make your personal life as stress-free as possible. Intern year is also not the best time to get married or make any huge life changes. Of course, sometimes this is unavoidable, but do your best to set up a comfortable, convenient living situation so you can leave your work behind and enjoy your time at home.

Best of luck to you; intern year is an exciting time! You will finally get to apply the knowledge you have worked so hard to attain. Don't forget to relax and enjoy your last few months as a student!


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