Return to Blog Homepage

How to Avoid Burning Out During USMLE Dedicated Study

Most medical students will face burnout at some point in their medical school careers. Read below to find out how to best deal with burnout, and ensure it does not hamper your ability to succeed.

Rebecca, a student at Eastern Virginia Medical School, tells us about the symptoms of burnout, how students deal with it, and how to prevent it.

What are the symptoms of a student who is burning out?

Most commonly I hear that you start losing productivity. You’re reading pages, and you have no idea what you just read. You may feel that you have so many things to get done that it is as if you are in a tunnel, and you can’t really see the end of it.

Meanwhile, it’s summertime and your friends are posting pictures on Facebook of their vacation, and you’re like holed up in your room and haven’t gone outside in three days. Burning out is made worse when you compare yourself to others. Everyone has that person in their life at school who says that they do 200 questions a day and it’s no big deal.

My boyfriend and I would cook dinner every night. We are both medical students so sitting down to eat together was our “time out” from studying.

How should students respond to the feeling of burning out?

When I would experience burn out, I would give myself a change of scenery and a 20 to 30 minute break from studying. More generally, it was important for me to create a schedule that made me feel human. That meant getting to bed at a reasonable hour and eating food that didn’t come out of a package. My boyfriend and I would cook dinner every night. We are both medical students so sitting down to eat together was our “time out” from studying.

There’s a great quote for people going into medicine that says that “The Heart must first pump blood to itself.” As much as you care about succeeding as a doctor, as much as you want to do well on the boards, you must first care for yourself.

Burning out is something that we often talk about in the context of dedicated study, but it’s something that can happen when you’re going through med school in general. Scheduling time off from studying helps you feel human. There’s a great quote for people going into medicine that says that “The Heart must first pump blood to itself.” As much as you care about succeeding as a doctor, as much as you want to do well on the boards, you must first care for yourself. Nothing good is going to happen if you let the rest of your life fall apart.

How can students prevent burn out?

I think by in large it’s something that happens to everybody. But if you have an unsustainable study plan, it’s certainly something you will experience sooner. As a coach, I often see students early on in their study plans, and I can tell when they have bitten off more than they can chew. For example, they might try to read every Board Review Series book out there. Suddenly they find they have scheduled 200 questions a day. Sometimes they say it actually goes pretty well for the first few days. My experience is that this schedule will not continue to go well. So being selective with your resource choices and scheduling time off are both good ways to avoid burning out early.

Submit a Comment