3 Great Reasons To Step Up & Become A Med School Tutor

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Many people who pursue a medical career will, at some point in their training or thereafter, be required to teach.  Some relish this opportunity; others despise it. Unfortunately, most of us know what it’s like to have an educator who would much rather treat patients or write research grants than spend an hour with a classroom full of students. We at MST are fortunate enough to attract tutors with a strong passion for educating the next generation of physicians. That said, tutoring takes hours of prep work and dedication to working with students each week. So why do so many of us find it a worthy commitment despite our busy schedules?

    1. You are never alone.

    Whenever one of my peers rejects the opportunity to serve as a tutor, the most common reasons include: “It’s too much work!” or “I don’t know how to get started.” At MST, we really are a tutor family. No tutor is ever on their own. When a tutor is first offered a position on our team, they undergo extensive training. This includes meetings with senior tutors, practicing mock tutor sessions, and reading dozens of documents tailored to helping a tutor be the best teacher they can be.

    All new tutors are assigned a tutor mentor. This mentor is a successful senior tutor who continuously offers the new tutor help and guidance. We also have a wonderful online forum where all the tutors at MST collaborate with one another and ask questions, share their tutoring and mentoring experiences, or debate the best approach to handling a particular situation or teaching a certain topic. As a tutor, you also receive career advice and have the opportunity to network with other tutors who may be working in a specialty that you’re interested in pursuing.

    2. You gain valuable teaching experience.

    Commitment and dedication go a long way in making a good educator. However, the very best educators are those who are not only passionate about what they do, but also have significant experience teaching others. Tutors gain valuable insight into how to teach. They realize that one approach doesn’t work for all students and therefore learn to teach the same topic in multiple ways to accommodate a variety of learning styles. Many physicians ultimately pursue careers in academia where they will be required to lecture classrooms of medical students. Other physicians will work as attendings and have duties teaching residents. Working as a tutor will provide you with a depth of knowledge in how to teach and communicate effectively, thereby preparing you well for your future career.

    3. You have the ability to support students during one of the most stressful times in their lives.

    Two days before my Step 1 exam, I remember arriving at the library with plans to cram in a final full day of studying. Instead, twenty minutes later, I left my cubicle in tears, too overwhelmed and upset to accomplish any studying. I ended up spending the day exercising, napping, and reading a good book instead. I’m not suggesting that it is a good idea to always put aside studying. Rather, I want to make a point that preparing for the USMLE is as much of an emotional obstacle as it is an educational one. When I finally conquered the USMLE, I vowed that I would help other students have a better experience with it than I had. Working as a tutor has allowed me to fulfill this goal.

    While a good tutor must be an effective teacher, a great tutor will be more than that. They will not only know how to effectively communicate with their students and explain complicated topics, but they will also be devoted to their students’ physical and emotional well-being. They will understand that no one can properly function by studying 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I encourage all of my students to let me know when they need a break from studying, whether they simply want a night off with friends or need some more family time. I also provide my students with my personal cell phone number and urge them to call me at any time if they feel they are reaching burnout, nearing the breaking point of sanity, or just need a pep talk. The key to a high Step 1 score is not only a sound knowledge base but also the mental strength to endure the rigors of preparation and the challenges of test day. We as tutors can uniquely support our students in both areas. As a physician, we all strive to make our patients’ lives better. As a tutor, we can play a part in making our students’ lives better.