Sunday, February 24, 2008

Grad vs Med: The Smackdown--UPDATE

First, a confession: I totally love tracking my blog visit stats. It is geeky and sad (yet not nearly the geekiest or saddest thing I have done in the past week) but there it is. My favorite is seeing what kind of Google searches bring readers to my blog.

One that keeps popping up is a phrase along the lines of "Which is harder, graduate school or medical school?". I find this very interesting. I mean, first of all, who are the people searching for this phrase? Are they trying to decide between going to medical school or going to graduate school? (By the way, if you happen to be one of these individuals, my feeling is PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SAVE YOURSELF and GO TO MEDICAL SCHOOL.) Or are they MD/PhD students trying to see what the future holds? Maybe they're in some kind of smackdown themselves, where they are either med or grad students and the other type of student is trying to tell them that they have it easy.

Anyway, I re-read my original post, and it got me to thinking. I had said that grad school was more difficult by a hair. But now, with many of my psychological scars from grad school healing, and fresh ones from 3rd year springing up on an almost daily basis, I dunno. I guess I see them as more evenly matched now.

This tells me one thing: whichever you're doing is going to get extra points in the "ouch" column, because you're doing it right then. I think that the original analogies I wrote about there still hold pretty well, except I see now that, at least in 3rd year, there is less of a roadmap to success than in 1st or 2nd year med school. They tell you the things you can do to do well, but sometimes there are extra secret things you can do that no one tells you about. And sometimes, the things you can do to be great for one attending or team will really annoy the crap out of the next attending or team that you work with. True anecdotal example: One day, I got chastised for just starting to scrub in to a surgery without asking first. Two days later I got yelled at for asking if I should scrub in. I mean, at least in grad school they just don't tell you anything, which I guess is somewhat more helpful than telling you the wrong thing. Although I will note that it's really sad that those seem to be the two choices.

Also, 3rd year has really worn me down. It took longer for graduate school to wear me down; I think in the hitting a wall department it took 3rd year 8 months to accomplish what it took grad school 2.5 years to do. Now, I'm not sure if that would be the case if I hadn't been in school for six years before starting this one (and eight years older than many classmates); maybe those fresh-faced classmates of mine don't feel the same, never having tasted the triumph of making a plump salary in the real world for a few years (before becoming really, really poor), or the defeat of, well, most of graduate school.

So, I have to say that the Smackdown is now officially a tie in my book. In the interest of full disclosure I have to say that that opinion is in the minority among my MD/PhD friends, most of whom fully endorse the "Grad school is way worse" stance. I can see their viewpoint, and must also confess that there are some personal reasons why this year has been possibly more stressful for me (although everyone has their own cross to bear). I think that next year, when I have vast spans of time completely off, things may be different, but for now, I am still trying to wrap my head around the concept of a real vacation.

Holy cow. I'm on vacation. Wait a minute! I'm on vacation! I'm going to go do something vacation-y, relaxing, or fun, like...

Hm. I can't seem to remember what people do to relax or have fun. Maybe I can look it up on eMedicine. (Okay, I just looked "fun" up on eMedicine, and the first hit is "Substance Abuse". Who says doctors don't know how to party?!?)


Old MD Girl said...

This is interesting, and there are obvious pluses and minuses to both programs. For me, (and it sounds like for you as well), medical school is physically grueling. And actually, I think being a resident will be too. However, they lay all the hoops out for you to jump through, and pretty much everyone gets through it, albeit with a fair amount of sleep deprivation.

Grad school on the other hand is more ambiguous, and you have fewer indicators that you are headed in the right direction. I'm hoping the fact that I've actually taken a project from start to finish over the course of three years will help me feel more like I'm getting somewhere. I'm also not doing basic science, so my experience might end up being different from yours. We'll see.

In the mean time, enjoy your vacation!

Anonymous said...

What are the extra secret things you can do that no one tells you about? And why do people waste time arguing about which is harder when both seem to be hard enough already?