The process of applying to medical school is rigorous. However, the hardest work often begins once medical education starts, as students work their way through the in-depth curriculum and hands-on training required to become a doctor. A quality medical school will be equipped with institutional resources and avenues to help students thrive in their new environment especially when aspiring doctors pursue medical programs in locations away from home.
In recognition of World Mental Health Day, St. George’s University (SGU) School of Medicine, Grenada, in the Caribbean, explores the importance of having a strong support system in medical schools and emphasizes its importance in ensuring the well-being and success of students.
Support for medical students: A critical component for success
A report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes that feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and social isolation can impact medical students; however, not all medical students are equipped to overcome these challenges without support. The findings of the study revealed that half of all students who don’t finish medical school left their programs in the first year, which is why it’s critically important to get connected with a strong support system early in the medical school journey.
Each medical school will have its own methods for offering support, so it’s helpful to do some research on the services provided when evaluating medical schools. Two primary components of a strong medical school support system that students should look for are institutional support and peer support.
Institutional support for medical school students
Medical schools should anticipate that their students may need some help along the way. One of the most prominent pieces of medical school advice students should take note of is to never hesitate to ask for help. Medical students can certainly expect to rely on their academic advisors and faculty for guidance. In addition, they can take full advantage of the suite of student support services offered at the medical school.
The specifics will vary from institution to institution, so students should determine which services are priorities for them and ensure your target programs offer the resources they’ll need. At St. George’s University, for example, medical students have access to a range of student support services, including health and psychological services, academic and non-academic advising, career guidance and student development, specialized coaching, language services, and others.
Faculty members at SGU host small groups focusing on specific topics to help students better understand their academic material — this can take on the form of question-and-answer sessions, anatomy labs, practical sessions involving standardized patients, and more.
Peer support in medical school
From the outside, medical school could seem like a competitive environment, but many doctors look back fondly on the ways they were able to lean on their classmates for support. Some schools make it easier than others to provide opportunities for students to connect and learn from others in the program.
At SGU, for example, there are more than 100 peer learning groups each week in which upper-term students lead group reviews on a range of different topics. There are also several options available for one-on-one peer tutoring and peer counseling. Supportive student-to-student interactions can go a long way in not only helping students master the curriculum but also providing a sense of belonging— creating connections to carry forward.
In conclusion, mental well-being is a very important aspect of every student’s educational journey. Even the most academically qualified students will face challenges if they don’t have access to an adequate support system.