UKMLAforums would like to present this special on “Confidence at medical school”. We give a warm welcome another one of our new blog series editors – Georgia Elizabeth. Enjoy!
How to be confident – but not too confident
Moving from a nice cosy lecture hall to the wards of an unfamiliar and often maze-like hospital would be daunting for even the most battle-hardened doctors, but for little medical students like us? Terrifying.
And so, the most important but possibly the hardest task which faces every medical student, is learning how to fake confidence. If we want to receive the privilege of cutting people open and caring for someone’s family member we need steady hands and a calm exterior.
Here are a few tips on how to become a pro confidence faker.
You are part of the team
Yes, the consultant teaching you may have to keep answering his phone. Yes, the foundation doctor may have a million and one jobs to do and so can’t answer your questions right now. Yes, you may be pushed into the back corner during morning huddles. Yes, sometimes you are just going to have to take a back-seat.
But this does not make you invaluable. This does not mean you are in the way or just an annoyance. Every doctor on your ward will have been through medical school and experienced exactly the same things.
So if a doctor says they are too busy to teach you, don’t take it to heart. Instead take initiative. The old lady in a side room by herself would love to talk to you. The worried family member needs someone to listen to their concerns. And the young boy spending his first night away from his parents just wants someone to play with.
Accept your humanity
Most medical students are perfectionists by nature – it’s how we got to where we are. BUT this runs the risk of fearing mistakes. Fearing saying or doing the wrong thing. But when has that ever been conducive to learning?
So learn to admit when you don’t know something. If a doctor has asked you a question on a ward round they are going to know the answer. So invariably when you panic and make something up you won’t be fooling anyone.
Instead become curious. See everything you don’t know as an opportunity to learn rather than as a failing. Keep a scrap of paper with you on ward rounds so you can jot things down and look them up later. Allow “why” to become your new favourite word. And never ever be scared to ask questions – someone else is probably thinking the exact same as you, so why let them get all the credit for being confident enough to speak out?
In medical school we’re taught to always note a patients appearance, to interpret their body language and their eye contact – but this works two ways.
Your clothing should tell the patient that you are competent, compassionate and trustworthy before you have even introduced yourself. Getting this clinical dress balance between laid-back slob and business meeting corporate is hard. But once mastered you’ll notice the difference in your patients reaction. And if they have confidence in you then surely you can manage to have a little confidence in yourself.
Medical school can sometimes feel more like the Hunger Games. But hopefully these tips will help you defend yourself a little better. It doesn’t matter if you’re just faking the confidence at the minute, one day you won’t need to.
About the Author
My name is Georgia and I am currently a third year medical student. I am passionate about all things mental health related. I have an Instagram page @girlwithastethoscope which follows my journey through medical school.
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