Journeys with Joshua: Joshua Wienczkowski walks us through med school at East Tennessee’s College of Medicine with his monthly blog updates. Get an inside look into med school down South through the eyes of a former professional songwriter with a whole lot of clinical experience — thanks Joshua for sharing this journey with us!
It has been a quick minute since I’ve written, and I feel like I have a fairly good excuse: med school. The past 3 months have been a flurry of meeting people, growing as close as family to them, stinking like anatomy lab every day, and learning more about myself than I ever thought possible in 3 intense months. The catacomb of emotions have ranged from “what in the hell have I done?” to “this the coolest freaking thing I’ve ever done in my entire life!”
The most important thing I’ve learned in the first year of medical so far is how to prioritize. I don’t just mean family, friends, work, etc., I mean prioritizing things really well. I’ve gotten incredibly good at some things… and I’ve gotten really bad at other things. Emails? Oh, not an email squeaks by me these days. Texts? Sometimes, it might be a few days, but you better believe I’ll get to it eventually! Talking about things outside of our med school bubble here in the mountains or what kind of physician I’m thinking of becoming this week? Meh, I could use some work there.
When you take 34 graduate hours per semester, that turns into a lot of hours every day in class, lab, studying or doing some thing for school. I swear, even when we get a weekend off, there is an event or banquet to attend. I’m not complaining about free food and good times by any means, but it’s often hard to find time for yourself among the chaos we call medical education. Finding time to call mom and dad, pay my car insurance, text old buddies back, cook a healthy meal or go for a run sometimes get pushed under the rug because I’m simply trying to keep up with everything we have going on. So, some things I’ve figured out that help me keep somewhat of a “normalcy,” and I hope can help everyone out there that gets busy with life:
1. Cook ahead! I know it sounds like common sense, but what I do now is on Sundays, I’ll make a big casserole or crock pot dish, then portion out all of it in small tupperware containers and pop ‘em in the freezer so I have meals on the go for the next week and a half. I build up a collection of different meals after a few weeks, and then can mix and match for lunch the next day.
2. Use social media as a reward. It’s so easy to waste countless hours on Facebook, Twitter or Whatshouldwecallmedschool.tumblr.com; however, I don’t have a lot of hours, but I still want to stay connected with the world. So, I usually say to myself, “Josh, if you finish this chapter of medical jargon, then you can check your phone for a few minutes and respond to texts.” I’ll also set timers and study for an hour uninterrupted before looking at my phone.
3. You won’t do it tomorrow. Benjamin Franklin said don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Constantly, I’m faced with the thought of “I can do this later or spend the extra five minutes and actually get it done.” Making the conscious effort to return that email, bring the running shoes to squeeze in a 2 mile run, return that text or fold your clothes before the day is done will help keep life from piling up until you’re forced to take care of it.
4. I am the number one priority. It’s easy to get caught up in saying yes to everything, overcommitting, and denying yourself the opportunity to develop further as a person. I’ve found that saying no sometimes to that beer out with the guys so I can get a good night’s sleep, and taking one day a week for myself to watch Red Box, play guitar, and just do things I want to do help me recharge so I can better invest in the amazing community that surrounds me. Could I study 12 hours a day? Yeah, I could, but balancing the responsibilities of medical school and maintaining a personal identity during that process is much more important to me than being able to draw all the pathways of Vitamin K-dependent gamma-carboxylation of serine protease zymogens.
All in all, medical school so far has been a powerful catalyst in helping me understand my motives for helping people, and has fostered the growth of my desire to help people as a future physician. My first patient has taught me how important it is to take care of myself before I can ever care for the life of another individual. My classmates have taught me the humility of needing other people to not just succeed, but to do it with triumph. My school has taught me how to teach myself, a skill that I’ll continue to develop over the coming years and will have a deep seated impact in how I seek information in order to serve and care for those brought into my life as patients. My family and friends have shown me just how much I am loved and supported, even when I don’t feel I have much to offer in return. If you’re considering medicine, know that’s it not for the faint of heart, but the rewards I’ve experienced so far have firmly cemented my decision to become a physician as the greatest one I’ve made in my 26 years.
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