Here’s Why It’s So Important For Students To Build Personal Relationships During Medical School

Medical Students Relationship Building


The life of a medical student can be hectic, to say the least. As a result of the mental and physical demands that come with being in medical school, relationships, romantic or otherwise, oftentimes take a back seat.

However, according to one grad, relationships may be among the most important, and life altering intangible factors that differentiate ‘good’ doctors from ‘great’ doctors.

Relationships help you to reflect on your intense medical school experiences and promote self-knowledge,” as noted by Hiten D. Patel, MPH, of Johns Hopkins University.

Hiten D. Patel, MPH, of Johns Hopkins University dives deep into the significance of a medical student’s approach to relationships in an article published in the American College of Physicians, and lends his personal experience to exemplify the degree to which he believes relationships should be approached early on in medical school. Getting to know someone is a skill developed over time and through experience.” explains Patel.

Patel contends that the skill of building relationships is all about the approach, and building positive personal relationships can be rewarding beyond comprehension. This is something that can serve any physician throughout life, making them better doctors as a result.

Simply put, the best advice I can give for relationships in medical school is to really have them. By ‘really,’ I mean honestly putting your heart into them. I’m not solely referring to significant others and romantic relationships. Those are often foremost in our attention. I’m referring to all of your personal relationships. Your family and close friends will understand if they’re put in the back seat, or if the quality of your exchanges changes. True bonds are difficult to break. However, for that reason alone, they deserve more of you.” explains Patel.

Often when swamped with work, studying, and expectation, medical students will put their social lives on hold, misprioritizing the importance of personal relationships and work-life balance, in efforts of staying focused in pursuit of their goal. It doesn’t get easier down the road. The needs of your patients will come first, and the better you can balance life and work at this stage, the better you will do in the next.” Patel added.

This can lead to medical student burnout, binge drinking and excessive partying, lack of sleep and a proper diet, the list goes on. But life with meaningful relationships, between family, friends, fellow classmates, roommates, etc. can have a multitude of positive and self defining effects on the student; and more importantly, life without these relationships is a sad one.

The appreciation for someone else’s perspective or life situation carries over into a clinical context, especially when you can draw parallels at the same time.” said Patel. From medical school, to residency, to physician – the demand and pressure on the individual will continue to increase.

It is strongly advised and recommended to keep, maintain, and build new relationships with vigor, pouring your heart into every bond. It’s ok for friends and family to rely on you… after all, as a doctor, everybody is relying on you. Likewise, it’s ok for you to lean on the people in your life sometimes: building a strong support network is a crucial aspect of maintaining your sanity in medical school. Be a person who patients can relate to. Life experience is evident in patient care, and spills out in patient interactions.

Without relationships, there are no connections, no self awareness, no fun, and no people skills. This description sounds more like a robot than a person anybody would want operating on their sick child.

The moral here is to never lose sight of self through personal interactions. The greater the personal touch, the greater the personal development.

Joseph Bryant
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