How the USMLE Tried to Kill Me

OK, yes – it’s a mistake. I know it’s a mistake, but there are certain things in life where you know it’s a mistake but you don’t really know it’s a mistake because the only way to really know it’s a mistake is to make the mistake and look back and say ‘yep, that was a mistake.’

– Lily, How I Met Your Mother

In the early morning hours before my Step 2 exam, I woke up, peeked out the window, and couldn’t see my rental car.  This induced mild panic until I took a closer look and realized that, in fact, my entire driveway appeared to have been turned into an impromptou snowdrift.

This was concerning.

I was still hoping for two more hours of sleep, but I sat up and checked the Prometric website anyway. It didn’t mention any cancellations, so I thought, “hey, maybe the snowstorm isn’t actually that bad!” and went on to check the weather – you know, just for validation that driving 2 hours east to the Prometric center wouldn’t be a big deal.

And after punching in the zip code, this is what told me:

deadly snow


So there I was, at 4am, torn between Possibly Dying In An Icy Car Crash or being sensible and simply rescheduling the exam

Naturally, after a lot of guilt and soul-searching, I decided the only responsible choice was to leave immediately.  After all, I figured at 4 am, no one would be on the freeway yet, which would drastically reduce my chances of dying!  And by leaving with four hours to spare, I could – if necessary – drive at 30mph and still make it on time.

(Besides, it wasn’t like I was going to be able to get back to sleep at that point.)

The roads turned out to be icy enough that driving 30 mph for 3 hours was actually the correct decision, so that’s what I did.  As a precautionary measure, I threw at least 9 blankets into the backseat of the toyota, a flashlight, and some poster-board (for rescue signs, or impromptou pep ralleys, I don’t know) and headed to the interstate.

On the way, I got well-acquainted with a little yellow light on my rental car that occasionally blinked me friendly reminders about imminent doom.


But seriously, it was fine.  It may not have been fine if I had left any later than 4am (ice + skidding + other cars = no thanks), but my Prometric center was open and I’ll be damned if I was going to spend one more day studying – let alone the 2 weeks it would probably take them to reschedule me.

Oh, and Step 2 itself? Pretty anti-climactic considering the sheer adrenaline required just to get there.  It was hard to work up any actual anxiety for multiple choice questions after having survived the “deadly storm” on the interstate.

And now guess what time it is?

Time to study for USMLE Step 1, which I take in 7 weeks!

Just kidding.  I’m taking at least a full week of vacation first.

(… At some point, I will probably have to write an entry on why I decided to take Step 2 before Step 1 – but the short version is “my school’s schedule” + “my stubbornness” is sort of a winning combination for this type of thing.)

9 thoughts on “How the USMLE Tried to Kill Me

  1. Step 1 will probably seem like a walk in the park compared with step 2. Just do lots of questions and memorize first aid and you’ll be fine. Congrats on finishing step 2! And also on not dying.

  2. “As a precautionary measure, I threw at least 9 blankets into the backseat of the toyota, a flashlight, and some poster-board (for rescue signs, or impromptou pep ralleys, I don’t know) and headed to the interstate.”

    You sound like a much younger, cuter version of me. This made me laugh with the slightly hysterical chortle of recognition. Thanks for cheering a glum day.

  3. Congrats on getting Step 2 done with. I’m sure you’ve earned yourself a high score.
    I think the white knuckle drive ate up all the nervous tension, which helped you relax once there, and not overthink the questions. Good luck!.

  4. Hello! I love your blog and have been following it for a while now. I just have to ask, however, knowing what you do know about medschool and yourself–would you choose to go again if you had the opportunity to go back in time? Im premed and starting Medical School in July. However, Im scared. Not just of the work load, but of being forever miserable. Idk. Advice?

    • Yes. I absolutely would. A million times over.

      That said, I don’t think you can predict it. I wasn’t one of those “I can only ever be happy in medicine!” types – even now, I can think of other jobs I’d be totally happy/content with. I honestly went into medicine for many of the wrong reasons (financial security, ambition, the feeling that “heck, if I can make it in, might as well go”) in addition to the “right” ones.

      One of my best friends, though, went to med school for all the “right” reasons and none of the wrong ones. She’s one of the most selfless people I know, but she’s unhappy now in medicine because she’s realized she’s not really helping people.

      Neither of our stories is really typical, but again, my point is that you can’t predict it. Don’t stress yourself out about trying to predict your happiness if you really don’t know. It’s okay to not know. The only real piece of advice I can give you is to attend a school that is P/F (preferably unranked) during the pre-clinical years. I can’t overstate the importance of that enough. It is absolutely crucial.

      (Obviously, lots of students attend non-P/F schools and think it was fine. I’m only stating this as a solid fact because of your hesitance towards being forever miserable and of the work load. P/F grading makes all the difference in the world as far as your sanity goes. Good luck!)

  5. Pingback: “Travel Will Likely Be Difficult To Impossible” | Action Potential

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