How Did That Happen: How I Got Through Med School Orientation

I realized today that it is about time for med school to be starting up again.  It blows my mind that about a 6 years ago, I hopped on a plane with 4 giant suitcases and my drugged mother (she was hopped up on cough syrup) to move to the town where I did med school.  Interestingly, I am leaving today for that same city to visit some friends and attend a conference.

I had been there twice before.  Once for my interview and once on a whirlwind room renting hunt.

To be honest, I was less scared of moving or even starting med school.  The thing that produced the most anxiety in me was orientation.

Yes, you got that right… Orientation.

I mean, yes, of course med school was terrifying and being told some of us WILL fail in orientation did not help.  Each first had its own level of terrifying… First lab, first exam, first standardized patient.  But orientation still wins in my books.

Thus for all of you shy, introverted (I say both because they are different) new to everything about a place people, here is my How Did That Happen? for the week.  How I Got Through Med School Orientation.stethoscopes1

I know some people love that kind of stuff.  Socials, dances, sporting events.  Not so much my scene.  I get that some people consider these sorts of events a highlight.  Or at least they don’t dread them. I dread them.  That’s just how I roll.

My med school took the whole orientation thing seriously.  I’m talking a full week of stuff.  And it was “mandatory.”

Seriously, mandatory “fun”?  Sounds like cadet camp all over again (seriously, they had these evenings where we were obligated to attend a “fun” activity like sports (ew) or the zoo (okay the first time, but it was a pretty lame zoo) or a movie (probably a bad one).  We called it mandatory fun night.  It was funny because it was by far not the most fun night of the week (dances or concert nights or parade nights won every time).

Events for this mandatory fun included whale watching (the best part by far).  An 80s mixer (ummm… I like the 80s, but when you stick them in a mixer, not so much).  Outdoor games complete with a slip n slide.  A pub crawl.  Various talks.  Photo scavenger hunt (epic, but not as fun when you don’t know where you are or who you’re with).  Dinner with some Med2s followed by a dance.

I was not pumped.  Except for the whale watching.

I knew one person I went to high school with.  Not well.

70% of people knew most everyone.  They all did undergrads together, they did their masters together, heck, they did all of their schooling together and they live down the road.

Just shoot me.

So, enough whining… I’m supposed to be talking about getting through it.

First of all, I tried to embrace the fact there were other people as lost as me.  I found them.  Found the first one lost in a hall as ridiculously early as I was.  I stuck with them.  She fell asleep on the bus on the way back from whale watching.  I fought the urge to run away.  As it turns out, we sat togther through most of our classes.   The randoms I stumbled upon ended up becomign some of my best friends through med  school.  So, find someone looking as lost and sad as you and say hi.

Realize that med school is like high school.  There are cool kids and cliques.  It did not take me long to conclude I was not cool, nor would I be part of the key cliques.  They were already formed before I even came in.  That’s okay.  I’ve never been one of the cool ones.

Show up for events.  Seriously.  They said it was mandatory, but not everyone came and this ticked some people off.  When you are as shy as I am this is nausea inducing, but it was also how I actually was forced to meet people.  Nothing says get to know people than getting thrown in a 2 door car with 4 other people you have never met to tear around the city taking pictures (especially when we ended up breaking into a more senior med student’s (who I also didn’t know)  house…).

Have fun.  I mean, if you have to be there and people worked hard to plan it, there probably is some fun in there.  Some of our stuff was really awesome.  Other stuff was awesome for people who weren’t me.   Just try to have fun.  Fake it until you make it.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Find out what is okay to skip and know that it is okay to take a breather.  Yes everyone will question your decision.  At least the people who noticed you exist.  But mental health for the win!

Participate.  If everyone is doing something to make themselves look stupid, you might as well do it too.  It might end up being fun, or at least make for a funny story.  My team in these messed up olympics they held won.  We got gift cards for coffee or booze.  It was thrilling.

There is free stuff at some of the events.  Free reflex hammers (which is like gold when you are just getting started and anything “medical” is the best thing ever), free bags, pens and best of all, free food!  Moving and doing a million more years of school is expensive.  Love the free stuff!

There really is useful information in there.  You won’t remember it all.  But they do tell you some important stuff.

If your school is anything like mine, the dean of something or other will get up and tell you scary stats about failures, people crying and people quitting.  This really does happen, but it will be okay.  It is an important reality check, but it does really sting.  Especially when odds are you were already nervous.

Tell yourself it will be fun and okay and all that good stuff.  It will be.  At least some of the time.

Remind yourself that despite the social anxiety and such, this really is one of the most relaxed times in med school.  Embrace that.  The real work is coming.

Remind yourself it is just a week (or less, if you’re lucky).

If you’re from away, it gives a chance to at least kind of figure out how to get to and from school, where some key stuff is and get settled before the real work starts (although the hours were so crazy, it was still tough to get any real unpacking done).

Things like orientations are just a bit awkward.  They end and eventually you know people well enough, you kind of wish you could have done that with the same people a year later.  Not all of that stuff, but some of it.

As much as I think I could have done without so much mandatory “fun,” I really do think orientations are important.  I still say they are overwhelming.  But once it was over with, I had other stuff to worry about, so no need to dwell.

What was your orientation like?  Do you love or hate them?  Do you have any tricks to get through orientations and mandatory “fun.”

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