Imposter syndrome frequently comes up in medical school and other places along the path to becoming a physician, and even after you’re a physician. Wherever you are on your path, imposter syndrome is not an unusual thing to encounter.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[02:20] MamaDoctorJones’s Journey to Med School
Although Danielle’s mom is a nurse, she never really considered getting into medicine. And she suspects it’s because she saw her mom work so hard, and she saw how stressful it was. Still, she ended up applying to and getting into medical school.
Part of the reason Danielle created a community on Instagram is that she remembers not being able to find someone who had a life that looks like what she wanted to have. And she didn’t really have any role model that she wanted to emulate. As MamaDoctorJones, Danielle tries to give people a look at life in the medical field.
Danielle was a psychology major. She really liked the personal interaction you get with psychology, but she also considers herself a doer. She likes to work with her hands, which is something she didn’t find in psych.Psychology gave me that person-to-person interaction, but it didn't give me the working-with-my-hands aspect that I was looking for.Click To Tweet
Bedside Manner to Make the Patient’s Day Better
Danielle’s stepdad underwent a double lung transplant during Danielle’s sophomore year of college. This was what actually gave her the initial exposure to seeing the inside of the hospital. She saw how people could affect how he was doing just based on how they interacted with him. This was the “seed” in her journey.
Danielle’s goal every day now, whenever she interacts with patients, is to interact with them in a way that makes things better for them. Her goal is to never make anybody’s day worse with her bedside manner.My goal is to never make anybody's day worse with my bedside manner.Click To Tweet
Additionally, she had a mentor in medical school that she looked up to. She describes her mentor as having put in her the fire that women’s health could be so fulfilling, and that she could make a difference. And this was what sparked her interest in OB/GYN. In fact, 95% of why she chose the specialty is because she wanted to go into fertility.
[Related episode: What Is Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Medicine?]
[10:55] Being Rejected from Medical School and Reapplying
Danielle says that one of the major challenges she encountered was the difficulty of applying to medical school. She didn’t get in the first time, and she had her unpreparedness to blame. So she had to reexamine and decide whether or not to apply again. For her, it was a very hard decision.
Applying the first time, she actually turned in her application early in the cycle. Her MCAT score was mediocre since she didn’t do much to prepare for it. She also got some feedback from the schools she applied to and interviewed. She also had some people in college who reviewed her application. But really, she knew when she applied what her weak points were.
Danielle knew she had less shadowing and clinical experience than other people. So when she considered reapplying, she was looking for ways to improve her application. She retook the MCAT and did some shadowing. She got a job for her gap year as a medical assistant doing allergy testing.I keyed into the weak points in my application and tried to work on those.Click To Tweet
[13:50] Imposter Syndrome in Medical School
The first time she remembered feeling imposter syndrome in medical school was in the anatomy lab, which to her was very challenging. Danielle remembers questioning whether she could do it. She thought other people were so much more prepared than she was.
The truth is that everybody feels unprepared in medical school. It’s very common to feel imposter syndrome in medical school. For Danielle, her first semester in medical school was especially challenging.
Dealing with Imposter Syndrome in Medical School
As Danielle would personally define it, imposter syndrome is that feeling of being “here by accident.” You’re questioning whether you’re capable of doing these things that you’re about to do or just did.You know you're ready, but in your head, you're still doubting yourself.Click To Tweet
She admits to having felt a lot of imposter syndrome in medical school, residency, and out in the real world. It happens randomly, and it’s recurring. You know you’re ready, but in your head, you’re still doubting yourself. Danielle describes it as a fleeting feeling. To handle imposter syndrome, she just tells herself that she’s prepared.Just review in your head the fact that you are perfectly capable and trained and you've worked really hard to prepare for this.Click To Tweet
Is Social Media Making Imposter Syndrome in Medical School Even Worse?
As to whether imposter syndrome is aggravated by the advent of social media, Danielle thinks this could actually be the case. Most people only post things on social media that show the good life.Most people only post things on social media that show the good life.Click To Tweet
Sometimes Danielle intentionally posts the less glamorous side of things, just to give a more realistic picture of her reality. Along with highlighting the positive aspects of her life, she wants to share messages about dealing with struggle. You have to be able to step back and realize that as long as you’re working hard and putting everything you’ve got, then that’s all you can do.
You can have imposter syndrome in any area, including with social media, hosting a podcast, or running a blog. But you just have to go do it. You don’t want to let people down, so you might feel a lot of pressure. But you need to push through your self-doubt to get out the messages you believe in sharing.
[Check out this podcast episode that explores imposter syndrome while studying for the MCAT.]
[21:45] How to Keep Yourself Motivated in Medicine
Make sure that everything you’re doing is in the best interest of the patients. At the end of the day, you’re there for the patients. They’re the reason you have a job, and they’re the reason you love your job.At the end of the day, you're there for the patients. They're the reason you have a job, and they're the reason you love your job.Click To Tweet
For Danielle, the most stressful thing about becoming a physician is how nerve-wracking it is to operate alone for the first time. It’s a lot of responsibility.
Danielle feels a very strong desire to connect with her patients and help them. And it can feel horrible not to be able to help someone. Even if there’s no doctor in the whole world who could fix it, you almost feel like you’re letting them down yourself.It can feel personal when you can't help one of your patients.Click To Tweet
Taking Care of Your Mental Health in Medical School
When you have a stressful or tragic case, it’s crucial to debrief with the people around you. You learn this when you do simulation in medical school and residency. After you’ve gone through some stressful event, you need to debrief. Danielle feels lucky to have awesome partners who she can talk to about these things. This is important for overall mental health.
We need to do better at maintaining the mental health of physicians and students. We need to open doors of conversation to say it’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to say you’re struggling. One of her attending physicians told her that the marker of a good physician is knowing when to ask for help.The marker of a good physician is knowing when to ask for help. You have to know when to ask for help before things spiral out of control.Click To Tweet
There are physicians who think that not asking for help shows that they are more capable, stronger physicians. People should not have this kind of mindset. There needs to be room for physicians and medical students to be vulnerable and get help when needed.
[Related episode: Avoiding Burnout as a Premed, Med Student, and Beyond.]
[28:40] A Message to Male Physicians from a Female Perspective
Danielle says everyone should be supportive of one another in medicine. It’s great that women are getting more opportunities in medicine, but we can’t let the pendulum swing too far to the other side. It’s not good for people to be saying the “Future is Female” to the exclusion of men. We all have to meet in the middle.It shouldn't matter what your gender is. You are an equal part of the team, and you bring something unique to the table. Click To Tweet
It doesn’t matter what your gender is. You are an equal part of the team, and you bring something unique to the table. Just support each other and accept each other. And don’t write people off if they say they’re not listened to because of their stature or their sex.
[31:10] Dealing with Imposter Syndrome in Medical School and Beyond
You have to ground yourself. If you feel imposter syndrome is really affecting your ability to think about what you’re doing, practice this grounding method: Tell yourself some truths.
If you’re nervous about doing this particular procedure, just remind yourself: You got into medical school. You graduated from medical school and did 150 procedures. You’re not only capable but more than capable of doing this.If you're dealing with imposter syndrome, just remind yourself what the facts are. Don't let feelings or thoughts get in the way.Click To Tweet
Final Words of Advice from MamaDoctorJones
Surround yourself with people who believe in you and support your dreams. If you are surrounded by negative people you can’t get away from, you just have to ignore them and keep working on your goal.
For premeds out there, keep the big picture in mind, but also just take it one step at a time. Just get done what you need to get done today, tomorrow, and this semester, and keep moving forward.Just get done what you need to get done today, tomorrow, and this semester, and keep moving forward.Click To Tweet
Life doesn’t stop for medical training. Just keep going one step at a time. Life will keep happening, good and bad. Just live your life. Enjoy each step of the way, and enjoy the journey. Enjoy the grind!
Links and Other Resources
- Danielle’s blog post on Imposter Syndrome
- Check out my Premed Playbook series of books (available on Amazon), with installments on the personal statement, the medical school interview, and the MCAT.
- Related episode: Maintaining Confidence Through the Grueling App Process.
- Related episode: From Nursing to Accepted Premed, a Story of Lost Confidence.
- Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)!