As a second year medical student there is one all-consuming, reoccurring nightmare that forces its way into my thoughts almost every waking moment: USMLE Step 1. Oh that bane of my existence, that ever present decider of my fate which wavers my confidence on a daily basis. Will I get the score I need to get into the residency of my choice? Am I doing enough today to guarantee the continuance of my career? Should I be doing more today? Should I be doing less to ensure my sanity stays intact and functional for that fateful day in June?
It doesn’t matter what I tell myself or what I do or what date I choose, I always feel I could be doing more. It is half way through the year, I could be through one whole round of Q-bank by now! No, don’t be ridiculous my ever panicking voice in the back of my head. What is important is to do well in school now to ensure a good foundation for crunch month, I tell myself this every day that I forego Q-bank (which is just about every day). Yes, that is right fellow medical school student who may be reading this, there is at least one other communion soul who is procrastinating just as hard as you are! I don’t give myself enough credit, it is not truly procrastination. It is not like I sit at home doing nothing but watching football and writing blog posts. I spend what I consider a sanity-saving, reasonable amount of my hours studying to ensure good grades. Which, if you’re wondering, is roughly five hours every weekday afternoon following classes. Yes, that is right, studying for five additional hours once you’ve spent your morning in class is the face of procrastination in medical school.
I tell myself a lot of things to ease my anxiety over this exam. I‘d like to go into Family Medicine, I don’t need to blow this test out of the water to get into a residency. What I’m doing now is enough to ensure a productive crunch month, I don’t need to use every resource at my disposal, in fact that might be quite impossible. I’m fairly confident that I am a very nice, amiable individual who will make great impressions on my attendings therefore ensuring glowing letters of recommendation. I will be doing my rotations in the same hospital I wish to do my residency, all I have to do is not mess up when I’m doing my Family Medicine rotation!
But, in the end, no matter how many times I repeat these themes to myself and my classmates (who I’m sure could repeat verbatim everything I’ve said here) I still feel uneasy about this exam. It will be the number that defines my residency application, the number that determines whether or not the rest of my application is even looked at. I wonder if residency directors look at the name of the applicant first or the Step 1 score.