It has been quite a while! Apparently, medical school is no joke 🙃 So let’s get right to it!
Remembering back now, most of first year I spent adjusting back to student life (more on that here). It wasn’t easy and there was quite a bit of trial and error, but in terms of tools there were really only a few that I used that I found profoundly helpful!
Just a quick disclaimer before we get started — most (if not all) of the tools I mention below are not free, unfortunately. That being said, I want you to know that I have no monetary relationship with/vested interest in any of the tools I list below! These are just my unadulterated personal views 🙂
A Good Planner
This took me a little while to figure out, but I eventually realized that I needed to keep track of my schedule not only on a daily basis, but on an hourly one. And I’m also a giant stationery nerd, so I took to the interwebs to find the “perfect” planner. Obviously there’s no such thing, really, but I settled on the Passion Planner and haven’t looked back! I specifically chose their dated academic planner because it follows (for the most part) the scholarly calendar, it has monthly and weekly pages, and because each day on the weekly spread is broken up by half hour from 6 am to 10 30 pm.
Here’s an example of one of my weekly schedules. You might notice quite a few crossed out boxes…sometimes plans change, and that’s okay!
(you might also notice some animal fur…sometimes pets shed, and that’s also okay! 🙃 )
A Good Note-taking Strategy
I started out the year using paper and pencil for lectures — after all, that’s what I was accustomed to! Less than a month in, though, I realized that with the volume of information I would need to sift through and carry around, it might actually be a lot easier to use a more modern/electronic form of note-keeping. It took a bit of research and weighing pros and cons (and also a bit of luddite soul-searching), but I eventually settled on using Notability — unfortunately, this app is not free and also is not compatible with Android/Windows devices, so it may necessitate an iPad or Mac.
That being said, this has been an invaluable tool for me because it combines the best of both worlds — you can write notes by hand like traditional methods but you can also index and search through content with the beloved ctrl/cmd+f. The clincher for me, though, was that the search function also looks through your handwritten content! (whaaat?!) Oh, also you can live-record as you take notes, and when you playback your recording, you’ll notice your writing appears faded until the point in the recording at which you wrote it! (how awesome is that?!) Plus when you’re listening to the playback, you can skip to certain sections by tapping on words in your written notes. I’m sure I’m not doing this tool justice with this wordy description, but it truly is super versatile and very cool.
A Helpful Resource
There are no shortage of apps and tools for med students, to the point that it can be quite overwhelming. For first year, there was one, though, that I would really recommend — Complete Anatomy by 3D4Medical. Although it is not free, I found it to be a super handy app for exploring anatomy on a mobile 3D model. The app offers a lot of neat features, like adding or removing different anatomical layer, meaning bone, muscle, vasculature, nervous, organ system — each of these layers can be added or removed individually, down to venous vs. arterial supply even! Also, you can zoom and rotate the 3D model in practically any which direction. The app also has quizzes you can complete to test yourself on your anatomy knowledge, though to be honest, I didn’t really use this feature much.
Huh, I guess that’s really it for tools I used during first-year — not a whole lot 🙂 For the most part, I relied on each course’s detailed note packets and lecture materials, put together by my professors. Luckily, these were available for download as well, so once I “went digital”, my backpack got a loooot lighter.