a day in the life series {USMLE}

I volunteered as a medical school mentor for our state's medical school. I have always enjoyed mentoring. I did peer mentoring in college as well as led small groups in Chemistry and Biology. Some opportunities even gave a small stipend.

Working with medical students is one reason I stayed in academia. I am impressed with every single one I meet. They are amazing and intelligent.

I had very good mentors during medical school and I want to give back. Also, I want to recruit for my specialty! Not a lot of student doctors get the exposure for child neurology. It is not a mandatory clinical rotation. Some do not even know that such a specialty exists!

I went to medical school wanting to go to pediatrics. When I was a college student, I did work-study program at a research lab. I thought about doing peds hematology-oncology. When I entered Medical school, I went back to general pediatrics ~ instead of pursuing heme/onc. It was not until my third year of medical school that I truly fell in love with neurology. I could not give up the children, so I took a 2-month elective my MSIV (medical school 4th year) doing child neurology outpatient and research in child neurology. That's when I solidified my career choice and decided to be a child neurologist.

I am starting this "a day in the life" series because I am sure my mentees will ask me about life in the wards as a third year and fourth year med student. I want to write them all down and not forget. It has been over 8 years so I am sure I have forgotten quite a few things... but I will try.

So to start this series, I want to start talking about USMLE.

USMLE is a three-part exam for medical licensing in the US. US - United States, M= medical, L = licensing, E=examinations. The first part aka UMSLE Step 1 is taken between 2nd year and third year. It goes over basic sciences and EVERYTHING learned during the first two years of medical school/classwork. Maybe I will write a day in the life of an MS1 and MS2... but it's pretty much: wake up, hit the books, read, study, lunch, read, study, workout, dinner, read, study, sleep. Repeat the next day.

I prepared for my USMLE Step 1 by studying  and learning the materials well the first time -- which was during the first two years of med school. The review part started midway through my MS2. I used this book:  First Aid for Step 1. And I used qbank of Kaplan. 

We finished our first year early May. Therefore I had all month of May to mid-June to take Step 1. Some of my classmates took it the week after finals week which was second week of May. That was too soon for me. Since my birthday is June 1st, I chose the date May 31st to take the exam. I had the month of May to study. Then I had 2 weeks of freedom in June before I started my clinical rotations.

USMLE Step 2 has two parts. There is the USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) and Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS).  Step 2 CK is taken generally in the beginning of MS4 (4th year). I took mine in August and used this book, among others. I also used my rotation books during review (I will go into these when I talk about different rotations). I used Qbank again from Kaplan. Some of my classmates used Ubank. But since qbank worked for me and I passed Step 1, I did not want to take my chances and use another question bank... Call me superstitious. I prepared for a month before taking the test end of August. I studied in the morning  for 1-2 hours before  heading to my 4th year outpatient elective.

USMLE Step 2 CS is taken in certain cities in the US. I took mine in Chicago in September. It's the closest city that offers it. Other cities are ATL, HOU, LA, and Philly.  My match (I will explain that in future posts) was an early match so I wanted to take my Step 2 CK and CS right away before I traveled for interviews.  I used this book for practice case scenarios. My husband played as my patient. It's easy to be a patient even for nonmedical folks. In the book, there are prompts for the patients and their answers to questions per case.

The last step, USMLE Step 3 is taken during residency. A lot of folks, specially those who want to moonlight and get  extra money, took Step 3 during intern year. To moonlight in Indiana, a permanent medical license is needed. Since I did not have any intentions of moonlighting, I was in no rush to take my Step 3. I could have taken it during my PGY2 (post graduate year 2) but I just had Daniel so I postponed it to my PGY3. I used this book to study. I studied mostly internal medicine topics and skipped pediatrics. Since I was a peds resident, I was comfortable with those questions. i just had to review the adult medicine topics. Same goes for internal medicine residents, my advice is to study the peds section and don't dwell too long on the IM topics.

Remember this: 2 months to prepare for Step 1; 2 weeks to prepare for Step 2; 2 pencils to take Step 3. I did not quite follow that timeline. But I saw that I didn't need to study for a long time for the other steps. Plus all exams now are taken on the computer. I did not bring 2 pencils to my Step 3!.

important note, all Steps must be taken within 7 years (at least for Indiana) in order to qualify for Indiana medical license. If a physician takes one step outside the 7 years, all steps must be retaken (ouch!)

That's it for the overview of USMLE.

Next on the series is a day in the life of a third year student doctor in the internal medicine wards!

Thank you for reading! I can be found on:

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