Medical Students Should Make Stress Management a Priority
By Laura Morrison, April 2014
Medical school is no walk in the park. If it was, more people would hold jobs as physicians. However, just because graduate programs focused on preparing tomorrow's doctors can be challenging, doesn't mean students need to feel overburdened by stress.
A recent Saint Louis University study revealed how specific strategies can keep medical students healthy as they study how to improve their future patients' well-being.
Mental health matters
In the study, researchers looked into what effects the changes to the university's medical school curriculum had on students. Specifically, there was a focus on seeing how teaching stress management techniques influenced degree seekers' stress, anxiety and depression.
There were definite improvements to participating medical students' mental health. At the end of their first year, 55 percent reported anxiety. This percentage dropped to 31 percent at the end of year two, after the curriculum underwent changes. Meanwhile, depression rates went from 27 percent to 11 percent during the same time frame. These changes had a lot to do with the advice students were given.
"The approach is preventive and the model is very simple," said Stuart Slavin, associate dean for curriculum at the university's School of Medicine. "We tried to reduce or eliminate unnecessary stressors in the learning environment itself. At the same time, we helped students develop skills in resilience and mindfulness to better manage stress and find some measure of well-being."
Placing a focus on medical students' own health is crucial, as they will eventually be tasked with helping others. The more they know while still in school, the better able they will be to improve patients' well-being.
Ways to manage stress
Medical students aren't the only people who can benefit from a greater emphasis on managing their stress. As all graduate programs can be challenging in different ways, advanced degree seekers should make sure they're handling whatever hurdles they encounter to the best of their abilities.
The Mayo Clinic offers several tips for managing stress. For example, sometimes doing something so simple as talking to a friend about a difficult situation can help. In fact, communication itself could be the key to resolving certain issues.
At the same time, some stress may arise from poor time management. Sticking to a schedule may help reduce anxiety, as can knowing your limits. Trying to meet unrealistic expectations is a recipe for disappointment.
Make your well-being a priority and you could find your graduate studies improving in the process.
About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010.