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How Medical Students Affected by Coronavirus Are Studying For Step 1 At Home: Tara Jamieson Interview Part 2

Read part 2 of our interview with Tara Jamieson, musician and med student at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. In part 2, we asked Tara about her approach to studying at home.

We recently interviewed Tara Jamieson about her experiences studying for Step 1 as an IMG. She is currently enrolled at Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Like many other medical students, she is adjusting to life in the time of the coronavirus crisis—studying at home, taking courses online, and so on. Here is some of her advice on studying medicine from home and preparing for the USMLE Step 1 as an IMG student.

Was your exam date affected by coronavirus closures?

I am currently going through the process to get my scheduling permit to sit for the test in Dublin this August. My exam date currently hasn’t been affected by the situation with COVID-19, but I am subscribed to the USMLE student bulletin through ECFMG, so they are keeping me up to date with the latest in closures and rescheduling.

When you learned you would be working from home, what did you do to prepare?

I tried my best to set up a good quiet study space at home. It’s not the easiest thing to do in my parents’ house, but I have a space that is relatively distraction-free and is away from other people. I also like the feeling of studying with other people (even if I am alone), so sometimes I turn on Study with Me videos on Youtube that don’t have a lot of background noise. (Editor’s note: the Strive to Fit videos are great!)

How does the experience of working from home as you study for Step 1 differ from your usual routine?

It differs slightly from my usual routine because now I don’t have a commute to class. I try to use the time I would have been commuting for exercise or flashcards.

How do you stay focused and motivated when studying at home?

My number one tip is to put on actual clothes and get out of bed. I can’t study effectively in bed (even if I’m doing flash cards), so my bed is off limits if I am studying. Also, getting into actual clothes (not my PJs) really helps me to get into the mindset that I am working, and not just lounging at home! The Pomodoro Method also helps with the focus, because it gives me set times to be focused and to take a break. Even if I get a text while I am studying, I don’t feel like I have to immediately check it because I know I’ve got a 5 minute break coming up.

What are some mistakes you have made when studying from home, and how can other test takers avoid them?

Being at my parents’ house is a huge change for me studying. And I initially made the mistake of giving my family permission to interrupt my study day. I had to have a conversation about what I needed in an open and honest way. I would say that if you are living with other people and you need minimal distractions, you should make that clear to the people you care about.

Tell us more about your other passion, music. How has your experience preparing for and competing on Ireland’s Got Talent paralleled your study of medicine?

So before I went to medical school I was a music therapist. I completed my undergraduate degree at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA and then worked for a few years before transitioning to medical school. Music has always been such a big part of my life, and I knew it was something I would continue doing in school (if at a different capacity than I used to). But then Ireland’s Got Talent happened. I was dared to apply to the show by a classmate, and I never thought that it would ever go anywhere. A month and a half later, I got a call from the producers asking me to be on the show. I made it to the semi-finals but didn’t get enough votes to progress to the finals of the competition.

Music has prepared me for medicine in a few ways. As a musician, when you are learning your instrument, you have to put hours of dedicated practice into the craft. The same goes for studying medicine. It’s doing the hard boring thing over and over again, until you can do it with your eyes closed, and continuing to practice so that you can adapt in various situations. Additionally, being a musician gets you used to communicating with others on a larger scale, and not always verbally. Because I have a background in performing music, I’m pretty comfortable speaking to people and communicating with others.

Lastly, I think that there is a lot of pressure that comes with both studying medicine and being a doctor: we are in a profession where, if we make a mistake it can mean life or death for someone. Performing live gets you used to intense pressure, and I’ve never felt as much pressure as performing live on stage for live TV being broadcast over an entire country.

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Tara Jamieson is a Second Year Graduate Entry Medical Student at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. She is an IMG with a passion for music and paediatric surgery, and she was a semi-finalist on the second season of Ireland’s Got Talent.

Want to learn more about Tara’s experience studying medicine and preparing to take the Step 1 exam as an IMG? Read Part 1 of our interview with her, and check out her social media accounts below:

Follow Tara on Instagram @tarajamiesonmusic
Subscribe to Tara’s YouTube channel
Visit her website at https://www/tarajamieson.ca

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