How you can make a difference as a medical student on rotations

We play a small but mighty role in the lives of our patients!

It can be pretty hard sometimes to find your place as a member of the “team” while you’re on your rotations. Speaking from experience, it’s hard to feel like I’m making much of a difference. After feeling good about the patient encounter and presenting everything to the attending (including the correct diagnosis for the patient), they come in and ask all the same questions and do all the same physical exam! Of course I understand why, but I can’t help but feel a little undermined at times. If you’re in a big hospital on a team with interns and residents then you might feel even more useless, because the students in training do all of the real work. I remember feeling lost in the shadows my time on a hospitalist team. Technically I was following my own patients and would present on them, but after rounds I was pretty out of the loop, unless I forced myself into it (and I didn’t want to be that girl). So it can be pretty frustrating. But rest assured, there are ways that you can impact your patients unlike any other person, as well as make a huge difference for your care team.

We’re eager and fresh in this new environment. We haven’t been jaded by the system and we only want to do the best by our patients. Our hearts tug when we hear bad news; we give people the benefit of the doubt; we believe it when they say they’re taking their medicine. This is such a meaningful thing that patients actually notice! There’s a difference in the way a medical student talks to them versus an attending. We show them the compassion, care, and empathy that they truly need and sometimes don’t get. There are times we can do more for them than all of the medications and tests that the residents are ordering. We have the time to sit with them and get to know them more personally. This especially goes if you don’t have to write notes after your patient encounter. More practically, there are many things you can do to be a rockstar team member: print rounding reports, gather new data on patients, do extra research on topics you or the residents may be pimped on, etc.

I’ll always remember on my OB/GYN rotation, there was a patient whose child had to be transported to another hospital while she had to stay to recover. It was so hard for her to be separated from her child. I came in during pre-rounds and was a soundboard for her to express her feelings. I told her that she was going to be a wonderful mom and that the time would soon come for her to be reunited with her child. I stopped in again later in the day, and as she was being discharged, she thanked me so much for being her rock as she waited for the go-ahead to leave the hospital. And she gave me the biggest hug. She said people just came in and out of her room all day and no one cared what she was going through. In that moment I felt like I did more for her than any of the nurses or even my attending–who really just signed her discharge papers.

So just remember that even though you might not have access to the computer record to look up patient info, or you might be the third person to take the same patient history, you really can make all the difference in a patient’s life. Our worth as medical students is unfortunately defined by how good our oral presentations and differential diagnoses are. But our worth as physicians is really in the connections we make with patients and in the rapport we build with them. That’s what makes all the difference. While learning to be good clinicians, we are also learning to be good doctors.

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Have a wonderful week! Subscribe on your way out if you haven’t already!

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Life and Death

A week of palliative care has shown me a lot

I’ve spent a week on my palliative care rotation and boy has it been heavy. Palliative care is focused on quality of life and relief of symptoms, especially towards the end of life. I’m assigned to a nursing home, so not only am I exposed to end of life issues, but I’ve been able to learn about geriatric/elder patient care in general. I did a puzzle with a 94 year-old in occupational therapy and I saw a patient around the same age in her last days of life. It’s been quite the ride.

Earlier in the week I was part of a very delicate conversation concerning one of our patients nearing the end of life. It was a team meeting with the patient’s son and grandson. Our medical director asked questions like “how do you envision a good death for the patient?” and “what are your goals for the end of life?” They were trying to think about what the patient would want, as he could no longer speak for himself. Such a delicate time for the family.

Dealing so much with death and end of life has actually made me reflect a lot on life and how we all want to life full lives. And even at old age, after living a full life, death can still come suddenly to a family. There’s never really any way to prepare for that conversation. But it’s a reminder to live each day to the fullest and take advantage of all the ways you can make a difference in people’s lives. To pursue your passions and not put a hold on your goals for life. Because at the end, we aren’t all going to be blessed with the opportunity to plan out how we or our loved ones will leave the world.

As a future physician it’s nerve-racking to think that I’ll have to have these kind of conversations with patients and their families as soon as my first year out of school. So I’m happy to be getting the small exposure I am now so that maybe when I’m more important I’ll be able to guide a family through such a vulnerable time as this.


One more week of palliative care, then Family Medicine. Stay tuned. I’m excited for the week ahead!

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The medical tag

15 questions to learn more about me and my blog

Check out my answers to the 15-Q medical tag to learn more about me and my blog! 

  • Who are you?
    I’m Ijeoma Okoye, a 23 yo first generation American, and third year medical student at the Medical College of Georgia. I like sunsets, long walks on the beach, and the occasional ratchet turn up.
  • When did you start studying medicine or premed courses?
    I began premed studies in 2011 at the University of Georgia and matriculated into med school in 2015 directly from undergrad.
  • What made you choose the medical field?
    Both my parents work in healthcare, but really it wasn’t until high school when I decided to pursue medicine. The only subjects I liked were math and science–I was your typical nerd. I only liked math because I was really good at it, but with the sciences I actually enjoyed the study. I contemplated pharmacy because of all of the chemistry but then considered my personality–how much I like talking to patients, how I wanted to be challenged, and the level of autonomy I wanted in my career–and I landed in medicine.
  • How did you come up with your blog name/username?
    My life has been a balancing act since college as a pre-med, and I don’t think it will ever stop. I think it’s something all pre-health and health professional students can relate to–this constant juggling between our identities as students, leaders, siblings, friends, regular people, etc. It just resonates. My content is also reflective of this balance and I feature people who can speak to the same.
  • How would you describe your blog?
    I’d describe my blog as the perfect blend between encouragement and entertainment for the health/pre-health professional student. I write very casually and lightheartedly but I cover things that are important to touch on in this journey into the healthcare field. I’m honest and transparent with my followers. As a minority blogger, it’s especially important to me that I put myself out there so that other minorities on the ride with me stay encouraged by seeing my journey.
  • What’s your favorite quote?
    – In life, you get out of it what you put into it
    – In all things, we are more than conquerers through Him who loved us
  • Best memory in medical school?
    My roommate and I hosted Christmas parties for our class during our first and second years of med school and they were always so much fun! Med students party way harder than I expected. Must be something about the stress….
  • What’s one course you struggled with?
    I struggled with GI a lot. Whether it was the anatomy with the blood supply or the physiology with all of the different hormones, or the drugs, it was just so hard for me to wrap my head around. I ruled that specialty out very quickly. Even while studying for STEP1, it was always my lowest section and unfortunately I don’t think I ever really conquered it. No success story this time around lol
  • What’s your favorite book?
    I’ve read very many great books, even just in my time in medical school. I think my favorite would be The Alchemist. It’s timeless.
  • What do you do in your free time?
    What free time? HA. No, I’m kidding I do try to make free time and these days when I get some time I will read, blog, exercise, clean, cook, watch a TV show/YouTube videos, call my parents, bother my roommate, call my boyfriend, look up new hairstyles, or hand out with friends if they’re also free.
  • What do you want to major or specialize in?
    I want to do primary care, and leaning towards Family Medicine right now. But I also want to own a gym and do personal training on the side.
  • Who do you look up to?
    My sister, my mother and father. I’m so blessed to not have to look far for role models.
  • How do you study (productively)?
    First step-put my phone on do not disturb and turn my notifications off on my laptop. Second step-establish my game plan for that chunk of time, always keeping it realistic. Then I just jump in. First and second year it was one lecture at a time, one slide at a time (our school does a lot of powerpoint) taking notes on paper or electronically as needed. Now that I’m in third year, it’s watching videos/taking notes, supplemental readings, and boat loads of practice questions
  • How do you stay motivated in medical school?
    I’m self motivated for the most part. But when that eventually fails, I’m motivated by those around me, so I will study with someone and feed off of their energy. If that fails or I don’t want to be around anyone, I think about my future patients and how I need to learn this stuff for them. When that fails, I pray for strength. Sometimes I feel like even that fails and at that point I just need to take a step back, breathe, maybe go for a walk, and come back to it (maybe even the next day).
  • What are your best tips for future medical students?
    First of all, don’t compare yourself to anyone else, because we are all meant to follow different paths to our end destinations. If medicine is truly the path for you, you will get there as long as you keep working hard, surround yourself with the right people, and cancel out any negativity or doubt that tries to come your way. When you get to medical school, buckle up! This is not for the weak hearted. That phrase that the hardest part of medical school is getting in is a lie! But you will learn so much about medicine and about yourself; all of your labors will not be in vain and you’ll find that it is indeed so, so rewarding.

I hope you enjoyed the read! Please subscribe on your way out if you haven’t!

Precious-medical student & creator of popular med student Vlog “White Coat Chronicles”

Popular YouTuber answers questions about how she maintains her social media presence while in school

Check out her YouTube Channel – White Coat Chronicles here!

Why medicine?

Growing up I knew that I wanted to be in the medical field, simply because that was what I was surrounded by in my family. My mom is Nurse, both of my sisters are Nurse Practitioners, and my brother is a Pharmacist. Initially I wanted to become a Physical Therapist. I loved sports, and I still do, so I thought Physical Therapy would allow me to combine two passions: sports + medicine. I shadowed a Physical Therapist during my junior year of high school and I realized that PT was not the path for me. I felt I could have much more of an impact through pursing a doctorate in medicine, so I made the decision to attend Augusta State University, which had a medical school (MCG) affiliated with it. Looking back, choosing Augusta State was the best decision I could have made. Immediately during my freshman year, I started shadowing in the emergency department at the teaching hospital and I just fell in love with the field. Emergency Medicine is the specialty I want to pursue.

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When did you start your vlog? What inspired you to get started? 

I started my vlog during my first year of medical school, at the start of second semester. During first year, I began to watch other medical school YouTubers. I didn’t even know that was a thing until I started medical school lol. It was cool seeing them document their journey, and I felt it would be nice to be able to look back on my own journey and my experience through medical school as well. I also wanted to be able to show an authentic medical school perspective. I think a lot of people have a certain idea in their head of what “med school life” is like. Medical students are diverse, and we’re not always in our books 24/7 (although we do study A LOT). Life continues while you’re in med school, and I try to stress that in my vlog. It’s important to make time for yourself, your friends and family, and to continue to pursue your hobbies. I don’t want to look back at my 4 years of medical school as a time of stress, hardship, and isolation. Don’t get me wrong, med school is TOUGH, but it is also manageable, and there are times to wind down and have fun.

Lastly, I wanted to start this vlog for the pre meds. Admissions is no easy feat. Students get discouraged by their advisors if they don’t have certain stats, or sometimes they don’t even have an advisor to seek advice from. I try to provide the best pre med advice that I can through my channel. 

How do you find time to record and edit videos with your load as a medical student?

Most of my videos are “a day in the life” type of vlogs. Which means I literally film whatever I have going on that day. If I go to class, I film that. If I go to the gym, I film that. If I go to the coffee shop, I film that.  So I don’t do anything extra for my videos (I honestly don’t have the time lol). I try to get creative with the angles I film and the music I put in the videos, but I make sure that what I film is manageable, and it has worked thus far. If I do a sit down video, then I typically save that for an early Saturday morning. What’s most important is that I don’t allow YouTube to cut into my study time. When I’m done studying in the evening, I’ll spend a little time editing. I never carve out time during the day to edit, because school comes first. Editing is done during my down time. To make things even more simpler, I do all the video editing on my iPhone using iMovie. I film with a Canon G7x, then transfer the files to my phone. SUPER convenient. I can literally edit during a lunch break at school. When I’m done editing on my iPhone, I upload it to my MacBook to add the music.

How did you build your fan base & What advice to you have for other students trying to build their presence on social media while in school?

I believe consistency is key. I started my channel January of this year and I put out a video every single Sunday during Spring semester, with the exception of one week. If you’re consistent and you have good content, then your channel/blog/social medical account will grow. When I do sit down videos, I take the time to research the topic I will discuss to make sure I’m providing my viewers with the best information possible. Quality is very important. Before I started up my channel, I did so much research about YouTube (this was during Christmas break). Camera choices, video titles, thumbnails, how to edit, etc. For me, if I was going to put myself out there for so many people to see, then I had to come correct. So my advice is to make sure you’re consistent with whatever platform you’re using, make sure the quality is up to par (do some research on other youtubers, bloggers, instagrammers, etc), and lastly, just be yourself. I’m a very chill and laid back person and I think my viewers can see that. I’m grateful that people have gravitated to my channel.

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What has medical school taught you about yourself?

Hmmm. This is a good question. Medical school has made me truly value time. With time being so limited, I make a conscious effort to only give my time and energy to things that are worth while. I’m now more appreciative of the quality time that I get to spend with family or friends.

What piece of advice would you give yourself as a first year med student? As a premed?

As a med student: Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone has their own unique capabilities. What works for someone else may not work for you and vice versa. I’ve always felt this way, but even more now that I’m in med school…. why look at the next person’s grade? Your classmates grade or study habits should not affect you in any way. Are y’all submitting a residency application together? Taking STEP together? No. So stay in your lane and follow your own path. I see comparison a lot, and honestly it can be detrimental. We have all made it to medical school for a reason; we are all capable. Embrace your strengths and push forward.

As a pre med: Just trust the process and keep your faith. When it comes time to apply, the application process is LONG. You submit applications as early as June, and can wait to hear for an acceptance as late as April the following year (in my case). Don’t get so bogged down with the wait and the different scenarios of “what if”. I was blessed and fortunate to be accepted the first time I applied into my top choice school. The waiting process really taught me patience and my faith grew stronger during that time. God is able. 

Check out her YouTube Channel – White Coat Chronicles here!

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How NOT to check your STEP score

The madness I went through and the one who did it to me

The wait finally came to an end. That fateful email slid into my inbox this past Wednesday, holding my destiny. Of course I wasn’t going to check it right then, I had too much anxiety for that. Even during the school year, weeks would go by before I checked my test grades, that’s just how I am. I planned to check it on Friday after work, so none of my innocent patients would be affected by my results. You’re probably thinking I’m being ridiculous, but this was a hope for the best, plan for the worst kind of situation for me. I was too nervous to check it myself, so I chose none other than my older sister to check it for me. This is a common thing for us to do, so I thought I made a good choice. I was wrong.

Let me tell y’all what she put me through.

I call her as I’m wrapping up on Friday and I gave her brackets of scores. I said this is my goal-goal score that I really want (and semi-magically hoping for), this is my real goal score that I’d still be good with, and this is my OK score that I’d still be fine with eventually. Then I asked her to tell me where I am on the scale. And she says to me you’re below your OK score. In that moment I began to experience what I’m pretty sure was a panic attack. I started sweating, my heart started pounding, I got light-headed and I said what? I was hoping I misheard her but she continued this for another 10-15 seconds with yeah it’s below it but it’s not that bad.. and just as I’m questioning my destiny, trying to make sense of what she was telling me, coming to heart-breaking terms with not performing as well as I had hoped to, she says Just kidding you made your goal-goal!

At that point, I believe I had another panic attack, this time falling to my knees (in the hospital…but it was pushing 5pm and the halls were empty). My heart was in my stomach by now and I was just in disbelief. All I could do was just catch my breath, and praise and thank God. Then I had to find some place to sit down before I actually passed out from respiratory alkalosis lol. Half of me wanted to reach through the phone and choke her for that very painful and unwarranted joke, and the other half was too happy to care anymore.

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It was finally, officially O V E R! And all of my slaving from before sunrise to after sunset day in and day out–It was worth it. God used me this summer to bring glory to His name and show people what He can do when you place all of your trust in Him. I physically tapped out during my study period, and He took over–giving me the strength to wake up, placing my eyes on what I needed to see, designing my exam, and sitting right beside me while I took it. I would be a fool to take full credit for my success on this exam–an absolute fool. But wow, I must say it feels amazing. Telling my parents the news was funny because they didn’t even understand what the score meant. They just were happy that I did well and can finally stop stressing. I think I was starting to scare them because they had never seen me stress so much.

But anyways, thanks again to everyone who kept me in your thoughts and prayers! It’s DONE!

Ekene diri Chukwu! (Thanks be to God)

Done with boards and on to the wards!

Pediatrics rotation off to a good start!

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Week one (well, the three days that it was) in the wards is under my belt! I’m in Pediatrics now, and I’m just loving all the babies and kids because they’re so cute–even when they’re sick lol. It’s summer time and I’m on out-patient service right now so I’m doing my fair share of regular check ups and have seen a lot of bread and butter Peds diagnoses. No crazy genetic abnormalities have come my way yet. What’s funny is that I see the patients before the doctor does, so the parents ask me all these questions about how their kid is doing and if they’re doing the right things as parents and in my head I’m like you really don’t want me to be answering your questions. But between social smiles, rolling over, and pincer grasps, I’m slowly building my knowledge of baby milestones and the do’s and don’t’s of parenting. The only semi-embarrassing thing that’s happened to me was when I was trying to look in this kids ear and the stupid plastic tip thing kept falling off! It took me like 3 times to get it to twist on right and me and the patients mom just started laughing. But that’s just the kind of stuff I’d expect to happen to me lol. I’ve also gotten lost in the hospital like 5 times before I finally figured out where the heck I was going. Now I have my one route in and one route out and I’m sticking to them.

The days go by so fast and I don’t even feel like I’m working half the time! But I’m constantly being evaluated, so I have to show face at all times because I never want to look like I’m just going through the motions. I’m realizing what people were talking about before when they would talk about the hospital hierarchy of attendings, residents, everyone else, and then med students at the bottom lol. But I definitely know my place, and just keep it pushing when my patients get taken away from me #notbitter. All in all I love pediatrics and I mean I know it’s only 3 days in, but it’s definitely got a place on my career differential. I saw this 2 year old girl on Friday and she just loved me so much that she started crying as I left the room, I was so touched! And I also get a lot of encouragement from the minority parents I work with. They love seeing a young black woman in a white coat. I feel like I’m automatically a role model for their kids.

The worst part of my days is when I come home and have to study and do questions for the rest of the night. I literally feel like I’m studying for STEP again. I have a new schedule, a journal for questions, videos to watch, etc. Like it never ends!!!! That’s the only depressing thing, just realizing that this is how my life is going to be until 4th year. They don’t tell you this stuff before you decide to do medicine. But I’m in too deep now, so oh well, just gotta keep grinding! It’ll all be worth it. Honestly I really am blessed to be where I’m at.

Also side note, my white coat weighs like 10 pounds! I keep a foldable clipboard, stethoscope, pens, chap stick (major key), and 3 granola/protein bars in my secret inside pocket haha (another major key). Look, I’m not about to play myself or get caught slippin’! Trust and believe that.

So I have one more week of out-patient, then I start in-patient service where I have to report at 6:30am *upside down smiley face emoji* so we’ll see if this happy-go-lucky attitude holds up! I’ll keep y’all posted on life in the hospital! Wishing everyone a wonderful week.