Can I Have a Social Life During Training?

Daniel J. Egan, MD


May 07, 2013


Do you think it's possible to have the time and energy to maintain a social life during medical school?

Response from Daniel J. Egan, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons; Senior Attending, Associate Residency Director, St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, New York

I suspect that the reason you're asking this question is that you're finding it difficult to make friends and socialize during medical school. Let me tell you, you are not the only one who wonders if it's even possible.

For many students, the beginning of medical school feels like you got hit by a truck. Until now, you probably had no trouble sailing through classes, being involved on campus, and having an active social life. You imagine it will be similar in medical school. You may even have moved to a new city and are excited to explore the landscape and meet new people.

Soon, however, you start to realize the amount of information you are expected to learn (a substantial portion of which will be self-taught), and you feel like there are not enough hours in the day. You hear rumors about students who may not make it through. Suddenly, you wonder if you will ever see the new city or friends outside the classroom or library.

If that sums up your situation, then you're experiencing the same shock that I felt when I began medical school. But fear not; I managed to have a social life and still maintain friendships I made during medical school training.

For starters, you may need to revise your image of a social life. It may be quite different from what you experienced during college. Although I certainly made time to go out and explore New York City, I was equally content with spending time with friends over dinner or a movie. Studying also became a social event, as my study group found different places to meet.

Maintaining a balance is important. We talk about this a lot with applicants to our residency program. We believe that work/life balance is critical to your success in residency, as you can only care for others if you are taking care of yourself. I think this holds true for medical school as well. You will not be able to commit to your studies and your patients if you are not committed to your own well-being.

Thus, maintaining a social life is not only possible but critical. At the same time, you should avoid activities that leave you too tired to study at night or to get up in the morning. I had some friends in medical school who had trouble reconciling this and ultimately left school. However, you can certainly maintain an active life outside the classroom while still preserving a fully productive life inside the classroom.