On the afternoon I wrote this, my second-year medical school classmates and I finished our last final of the school quarter. There are now no exams standing between us and all the holiday joy and cheer I personally felt I was missing out on while forced myself to pore over textbooks, lecture notes, and practice exams over the past two weeks.
Around this time last year, excited about my trip home for Christmas, I called one of my best childhood friends to make dinner plans next week. One of the first things she asked me was, “So what kind of gift do you want for Christmas, now that you’re in med school?” I forget what I told her then, but now that I’ve had a whole year to think about it, I’ve come up with a list of “presents” guaranteed to make any medical student overflow with gratitude. If you still have holiday shopping to do for the special medical student in your life, these are my top Christmas wishes:
The world’s softest pillow: Sleep is precious. As a pre-clinical med student, I know that when it comes to sleep schedules, I have it easy compared to clinical med students, residents, and attending physicians. So I’m the last person who should complain about racked up sleep debt. However, I do enjoy a nice power nap (almost every day), and whenever I do climb into bed — whether it be for 30 minutes or the whole night — it would be nice to feel like I’m sleeping on a cloud.
Home-cooked meals: There are few things more comforting than a meal made with love. Whether I’m the one doing the cooking or eating, I appreciate a well-done home-cooked meal. However, when exams are coming up or emergency department shifts need to be done, I don’t have time to enjoy cooking or eating a home-cooked meal. It would be absolutely wonderful to have dinners lovingly prepared for me when I’m too tired, stressed, or lazy to prepare them myself.
A magic EMR (electronic medical record) system: Though the rise of the EMR has helped streamline and consolidate patient care and health records in ways physicians decades ago would have not imagined possible, the system comes with its drawbacks. One of which was elaborated to my classmates and me during an EMR training session this month: health care professionals are spending more and more time in front of a computer screen making sure their patients’ records are in order. As a med student soon to be on clerkships and a future resident, if you could devise a magic EMR system that would cut down (or erase!) the time we spend writing notes and on my laptop, you’d be my hero.
Time: Schoolwork and research projects – fortunately or unfortunately – always expand to fill the time you give it. I’ve written pieces in the past underlining how much I value time spent doing things I’m passionate about outside of the medical world, and looking back on one and one-third years of medical school and forward to the rest of my time here, I just wish I had more time: more time to do the non-medical things I love doing, to spend thinking about conditions and physiology I find interesting, to laze around on Saturday mornings and watch movies with my boyfriend, to talk to my family, to have lunch with friends. I’m certainly grateful for the holiday break, because for the next week or two, time will seem to stand still, as we all enjoy this special time of the year.
Happy holidays to all the medical students out there, and safe travels back home, or wherever else you find yourself this time of the year! Try to be blissfully unaware of looming deadlines and completely unstressed about upcoming exams and enjoy the time you have with your loved ones.
Stanford Medicine Unplugged is a forum for students to chronicle their experiences in medical school. The student-penned entries appear on Scope once a week during the academic year; the entire blog series can be found in the Stanford Medicine Unplugged category.
Natasha Abadilla was born and raised in Hawaii, graduated from Stanford undergrad in 2014, and spent two years doing public health work in Kenya before returning to the Farm for med school. She just started her second year of medical school, and she enjoys writing, cooking, eating desserts, running, and scrubbing into the OR.
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