The Medical School Years


Jake’s View: The typical timeframe for completing Medical School is 4 years if you’re obtaining an M.D. or D.O. If you are earning a combined degree (i.e., M.D., Ph.D.), then the timeframe could be up to 7-8 years. Below is an example of what to expect if you or your partner are completing a 4-year program:

First & Second Year: The majority of the time will be spent studying and going to lectures. On a given day, lectures start at 8 AM and go until 12 PM. After lunch in the afternoons, from 1 PM to 5 PM may be spent in various activities, including cadaver labs, workshops, and simulated patient encounters (picture ‘fake’ patients or ‘actors’) in mock clinics. Evenings are spent at the gym for mental health, followed by a short break then the library or home office to resume studying. On non-lectures or lab days, a student might spend time studying from early in the afternoon to late in the evening. On weekends, all day study sessions are encouraged (when life permits). During these years, managing a social life is much easier but always depends on the countdown to that next exam.

Tip: There isn’t much difference between first and second year except for taking Step 1 of the medical licensing exam. If planning for marriage during medical school, a common time would be the week after taking Step 1, before clinical rotations begin. If you are the spouse, be prepared to make a lot of the wedding plans with little input from your partner (the medical student). Be assured they definitely appreciate all the work that you’ve done to make this day come together. Many medical schools provide 2 months between summative exams and the beginning of clinical rotations for board preparation and for taking the exam. Planning ahead will let leave 1-2 weeks after the big test allowing personal time.

Third Year: Day 1 will be a rude awaking for any medical student. With 2 years of memorizing diseases, drugs, side-effects from textbooks and lectures, the next 2 years in clinical rotations is where real medicine is learned. The books help prepare medical students to be doctors but learning and starting to love medicine is achieved by rotating through different specialties from the nations best hospitals and abroad. A typical schedule is dictated by the senior resident on the medical service. When to wake up, when to eat, what patient to see, who to talk to, and when to leave for the day is a decision made by one of the higher-ups.

In-between 3rd & 4th year:

Tip: If your relationship has made it through 1st and 2nd year, you’re doing something right, but 3rd year is going to try your patience even more. The key to making your relationship work is patience and communication.

Fourth Year: This is the greatest year of all. Medical Students look forward to being a ‘4th-Year’ from day one. Think back to Senior year (high school or Undergrad). At this point they’ve made through the passage of rites, both Step 1 and Step 2 are behind them, and are all but guaranteed to become Doctors. It’s also the first time in 3 years that there is more flexibility, which can range from choosing specialty rotations, away rotations, and even international rotations. Rotations during the 4th year are interrupted for 3-4 months to allow Residency interviews. No matter where they go, they need to be back by March of 4th year for The Match ceremony.

Most will have the most flexibility in your schedule to complete residency interviews and to take Step 2 of the medical licensing exam (CK and CS).

Tip: Don’t be afraid to talk, don’t focus on the negative, because it’s only temporary. Plus, if you get through these years, it will pay off for the tougher years to come (Residency). Every relationship makes sacrifices, and supporting your partner during this time is crucial. After all, is said and done, it’s a shared commitment.

Read Next:

What happens after Medical School?


Do you have any questions about ‘The Medical School Years” or do you need support during this time?

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