5 back-to-school survival tips for healthcare students

14 August 2019 by National Bank
Healthcare students

Studying in healthcare is tough. With the new school year around the corner, it's more important than ever to adopt a healthy lifestyle. We asked healthcare students who've been there for their tips on how to make it through your studies.

Strike a balance between work and play

Balance is central to every healthy lifestyle. Roxanne, a graduating pharmacy student from Université Laval, believes balance was the secret to completing her studies.

"It may sound cliché, but that's what saw me through. No over-cramming, but no excessive partying either. I didn't deprive myself, but I was careful not to blow all of my salary. You don't need to train like an elite athlete, but you should know how to take care of your body [...]". It's also essential to get enough sleep: "You can't catch up on lost sleep— no matter how much coffee you drink."

Jérémie, a 4th year medical student at Université de Montréal, agrees. "To be happy and successful, you need to balance having fun and staying healthy." It's a tried and true formula. Unfortunately, this balance can swing wildly as the year progresses. One side or the other often gets neglected—especially when exams are looming. Do your best to maintain the balance, and you'll enjoy a healthy lifestyle over the long term.

Balance your heart, your body, your mind—and your wallet

Jérémie believes your heart, body and mind are closely linked, and it's vital to take good care of them. "To me that means eating right even when I go out, although I do treat myself occasionally; sleeping when I need to, sometimes at the expense of my studies; and exercising regularly—after all, endorphins keep you happy!"

Balance also applies to personal finance. In health care, most graduates are able to find a job in their field—which means easy access to credit. Universities hold talks to warn students about the dangers of taking on too much debt, but it's an easy trap to fall into. Use credit responsibly and make sure you read the fine print. As Jérémie explains, "You need to be careful. If you live it up too much, you can quickly run up a massive debt. It's ok to use credit—I do it myself—but you need to be cautious."

It's important to have a long-term vision and stick to a specific budget. Getting an education in healthcare is expensive, so it's not the end of the world if you have to take on some debt during your studies.

"It's very normal for medical students to spend a few years taking on debt and living on credit. I plan to start repaying my debt as soon as possible, once I get started as a resident or get a permanent position." - Jérémie

Ariane, a 3rd year dentistry student, agrees with Jérémie.

"Dentistry is a very expensive field to get into. Students have to spend around $10,000 on equipment each year. Then you've got to add your tuition fees (about $2,500) and extra expenses for the supplies you'll need for your lab work."

Almost all dentistry students take out a line of credit with a preferential interest rate. Ariane realized very quickly that it would be almost impossible to pay for everything without it.

"Fortunately, as dentists, we can be fairly confident that we'll end up making enough money to pay back our debts over 5 to 10 years."

As a student in pharmacy, Roxanne recommends finding a job while you complete your studies—ideally in a pharmacy or a hospital. "It gives your finances a boost and the experience you'll gain is invaluable. You'll apply what you learn in class directly in the field and get to observe other pharmacists in action."

Each healthcare student has different needs, but there's sure to be a financial product that's right for them.

Give yourself a break and get involved

When you work in a competitive environment, it's easy to overextend yourself, as Ariane realized after her 3rd year in dentistry.

"If I could give new students one piece of advice, it probably would be to go with the flow. Stop trying to plan everything because you're sure to run into surprises." You've got to accept that you can't control everything, although it's easier said than done.

"There's always going to be someone who knows more than you. This contributes to the stress of going back to school and increases competition during the school year. You just have to accept that when you go to university, it's a whole new environment and you won't know everything."

Join faculty committees and participate in orientation events, student assemblies, athletics and other campus-wide activities—it'll help you make the most of your university experience.

Don't let your studies define you

According to Anne-Claire, another 4th year medical student at Université de Montréal, it's important not to be so focused on your studies and your future career that you forget who you are.

"This is a secure and stable career path, so enjoy the peace of mind. There aren't many other degrees that guarantee a well-paying job after graduation. Take advantage of the opportunity to break free from your routine, explore, try, fail and try again. Nurture what you love and sow the seeds of what you'd like to harvest 5, 10 or 15 years down the line. Don't put your life on hold; build yourself up. Don't forget who you are.

Reward yourself and enjoy life

"There will be many times when you'll just want to give up. To succeed, you need to keep setting goals and reward yourself when you hit them. Make your goals frequent and short-term. Each small victory is another step towards your ultimate goal of becoming a better physician." - Jérémie

"Reward yourself for your efforts and acknowledge your hard work. Eat that chocolate bar and hang out with your friends. It's also important." - Roxanne

"I don't have more time than others, but I set aside time for myself. It's easy to feel guilty for not studying all the time, but after a certain point it's counter-productive. You need to take a break sooner or later." - Ariane

It's clear that taking time to do what you love is another key to success. It will make you a better health care professional, which is sure to benefit your future patients!

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