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Studying as a mother in medicine

A life in medicine means being a life-long learner. I know, it sounds cliché, but as a young attending I see that now. I’m no longer “forced” to go to lecture, but I still read to keep with the latest information for my patients. I’m “it” when my patients come to see me and want to make sure I’m well versed and read in my expertise.

What about studying when you are a parent? Sounds like a cruel joke, right?

At 8 weeks post-partum I took a national in-service test (OKAP) as an ophthalmology resident.

A year later when I had a one-year-old I studied for my Written Boards for the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The last “test” I studied for was Ophthalmology Oral Boards (it’s the last test I need to take before becoming Board Certified ✅). At the time I was studying I had a 2-year-old and one on the way.

So, you can say, I’ve had some experience.

How do I study? Well, what works for me may not necessarily work or everyone. I’m an “anti-procrastinator”, which means I have to have a study schedule and prepare ahead of time. I don’t study as well under pressure (I’ve never pulled an all-nighter believe it or not!) I’m a visual learner but also have to write things out for myself so I can solidify concepts in my mind ?.

While my attention span has certainly decreased since medical school (do you see the distracting toys in the background!?), I have still found that consistency and sticking to your own study plan is what works best.

Some other tips:

  1. Gather your tools
    • Gather your study materials (books, online courses, q banks, notes, flashcards). Read through them and ask yourself, “What are the most helpful resources here and how long will it take me to get through them?”
    • Use your resources: talk to upper classmen, classmates, co-workers, colleagues, anyone who has taken the test before. Ask them about their strategy, what resources were helpful to them, and what they wish they had done differently.
    • Create a plan of attack aka a study plan: 6 months, 3 months, 1 month and 1 week prior to the test. This will change of course with time but it’s a guide!
  2. Execute:
    • Stick to your schedule (ish): remember as apparent life (teething, sleep regressions, new babies, breastfeeding challenges, runny noses etc.) happens and it’s okay, you will still do your best!
    • Find help: Partners, spouses, family members, daycare, or part-time sitters. Once you figure out when you are going to study- figure out the hours of dedicated alone time you need and look to your village for help or outsource!
    • Find a space away from your kids. This is key! Listening to your kids laugh, play, cry, scream in the background will only increase your anxiety level. Find a new spot that will help you focus, bring you peace, and get you in the zone.
  3. Other tips:
    • Find what works for you! Everyone’s study style is different.
    • Make it “fun”: new pens, notecards, music, fun drinks to sip on.
    • Schedule study breaks: during step 1 mine was watching “Felicity” at night #youdoyouboo

Honored to partner with Medelita on a giveaway for mothers in medicine. Feel free to use my link: and code ESPARAZMD20 for 20% off a gift for yourself.

You deserve it, Mama!

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