How to have a Medic Social Life

This is the fourth article in the ongoing Freshers series. Check back in the coming weeks for more!


I am not going to tell you how to make friends. As medic freshers I can assume that you have a baseline of social nous and that you really don’t need a faceless 2nd year coaching you on small talk. Instead I’ll be explaining some of the (subtle) differences between medics and normal folk and what you can do to ease yourself into the medic life.

Medical school is actually excellent practice for the rest of your career: The hours are hard to start with and will only get harder as a freshly minted doctor. You will hear horror stories of students slowly becoming hermits in their attempts to keep up with it all. You will continue to hear horror stories of medics missing weddings and other important life events because they’re on call. In fact you’ll start wearing these hours as a badge of pride.

The problem is that this bleak outlook isn’t the whole story. Yes it sounds grim, but the other side of that coin is that you will be sharing those hours with some of the most dedicated, passionate people you will ever meet. Nothing breaks the ice faster than having to vigorously pound your partner’s chest in a first aid course. You will share some of your most profound, poignant moments when you confront your first cadavers in anatomy labs together. There is even a charming, albeit terrifying awkwardness to another student learning how to draw blood from you. By virtue of everything you will be pushed through together it’s inevitable that you will grow closer and trust these people like few others. You may find yourself sipping your third Red Bull in the library but you’ll always be drinking among friends.

As a result of this you’ll find that medics tend to like each other. Rather a lot. You’ll eat with them, laugh at nerdy in-jokes with them, and almost inevitably date them. You’ll be drawn to them, even outside the wards as the Medics’ Rule of 3 states that at any given social gathering containing at least 3 medics, they will take at most 3 minutes to find each other and start talking about dissections and rectal examinations. Obviously. However this aspect of your social life is more down to your personal taste: Some cherish being able to effortlessly talk with another medic, it’s an instant bond after all. Sometimes though, you’ll give anything to forget all about medicine for an hour or two. Medic homophilia can be a godsend or a curse depending on what you’re looking for.

Lastly there is the medical student stereotype that we do indeed “go harder”. I am both proud and ashamed to confirm that it is completely justified. It seems that because we might not be able to go out as regularly (read: perpetually) as literature students we compensate by utterly losing ourselves when we do. I hold a special place in my heart for those nights though I pray to God I’ll never put myself through them again. I’m not even religious. Time management and sheer graft with regards to your studies are skills worth perfecting if for no other reason than because they let you live your life guiltlessly when you have the chance. Also medic sports take more off your life expectancy than the exertion adds and are well worth investing your time in. They are key to the med school culture, intrinsically tied to cheap cider, and the easiest way to get to know medics from around the school. Some sets of past medics’ notes are handed down through the sports teams like family heirlooms. It is also worth noting that when you go out you play by a different set of rules: You are held accountable by the GMC’s standards, not just the law. You have been warned.

So where does this actually leave you? Your life for the next few years will be a hurricane. What now? Here is what you can do about it: Stay connected to the wider university. Join clubs and societies that interest you outside of your medical school as well because you need a life outside of medicine to maintain your sanity. Your non-medic friends might not always understand the whats and whys of your life but you will need outlets for when you just can’t handle your abdominal anatomy notes. The same applies to your halls of residence (just because they’re not medics doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with your neighbours!). Medics will be a constant in your life, so try to maintain some variety.

Learn to milk each minute for all it’s worth. This sounds obsessive but when you get into the habit of going over a chapter on the train, some flashcards in the spare half hour before dinner, it starts to add up. Then guess what? You get to put time into your social life! You’ll hear this frequently at medical school but there’s an often-missed difference between hearing it and actually doing it. In a similar vein never eat lunch alone, you could easily eat among friends you’d have to block out time for otherwise.

Finally, go to lectures. This sounds out of place but bear with me. Many universities record their lectures for you to access via a portal, which some students have come to use as their main learning tool. Do not do this. Forget that actually attending lectures helps you retain the information and forces you to pay attention; there is also a social aspect to them. The ten minutes before and after are priceless in terms of keeping up with people and the med school as a whole, so show your face and do your thing. Do it to keep up appearances if nothing else!

Medicine is a lot to take in. It’ll be even more to deal with, but I promise you your social life won’t be lacking.

By Alexander Dyamond

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