An altered attitude about studying

by Lorien E. Menhennett

In the flurry of ob/gyn, I neglected to share this news:

That image comes from my score report for USMLE Step 1. I have never been so happy to pass a test in my life. The six weeks of studying for Step 1 were brutal and often demoralizing. The amount of content tested is more than anyone could ever possibly learn. Much of it is clinically irrelevant, which made it harder for me to motivate. But I slogged through. And thankfully, I never have to think about Step 1 again. Later I will take Step 2 and Step 3, but my understanding is that these exams aren’t so bad.

Medical school, you see, is full of tests. This includes clerkships. At the conclusion of each rotation, we take a comprehensive, multiple choice exam called the “shelf.” My ob/gyn test is tomorrow. It covers everything I’m expected to have learned during these six weeks. Everything from delivering a baby (and all the possible complications that entails) to diagnosing uterine cancer to dispensing appropriate contraception to dealing with sexually transmitted infections — and all manner of women’s health issues in between. Some of this, we learn during our actual time in the clinic or hospital. But there is still book learning to be done.

In the last six weeks, I have spent many weeknight and weekend hours poring over ob/gyn review books and doing practice questions. In doing so, I realized that my attitude about this kind of studying — clinically applicable studying — is markedly different from how I felt while studying for Step 1. I’m finally learning real medicine. I don’t just want to pass. I want to surpass. My future patients are counting on it.