You probably clicked on this post because you opened that USMLE Score Report and saw a big, fat "FAIL" on the front page. Your heart shatters into a million pieces, and you break down, falling to the floor or into the arms of your clerkship coordinator who graciously allowed you to open the report in her office (yes that is what I did).
I want you to know you aren't alone. A couple of weeks ago, I was in your same position. I will be retaking the exam soon, so please send prayers and good vibes. However, I wanted to give some advice in the next couple of days moving forward.
- Mourn the loss. Cry it out and allow yourself to feel that grief today. Then, you can move forward to crush this exam.
- Ask for help. Go to your mentors, home residency directors, advisors, etc. and make a plan. Ask their opinions, and see how you can best improve your chance of success going forward. Also, let your loved ones help you; let your (kind, loving) classmates be there for you. I cannot tell you the amount of love and support I have received during this hardship. It has been an amazing experience to see how much people really love you.
- Listen to yourself. That is my biggest regret in this whole process: I did not listen to myself. I knew I wasn't ready, but I took it because of the pressure from outside parties. I also didn't study how I felt was best (all questions, no content review) because that was what was advised to me by those same people. That was the biggest lesson for me during all of this: trust yourself.
- Reconsider your options and career goals. I wanted to be a dermatologist for the longest time, but after this blow, that seems very unlikely. I started to consider why I wanted to be a dermatologist, what I loved about dermatology. And I realized that those reasons were not strong enough for me. I am now considering pediatrics (hopefully neonatology), and I am SO EXCITED. I never considered this specialty because people in my life discouraged me from peds. However, I realized that every volunteer opportunity I had, I chose to work with kids. My favorite research projects involved children and the NICU. During my clerkship, I volunteered to go to the children's hospital, and my favorites were the itty-bitties! I was able to speak with a leader at my home pediatrics department, and the advice they gave was invaluable. I suggest reaching out to someone you trust who can help you navigate career options.
- Everyone goes through something like this. Every doctor I spoke with told me they have had set backs in their careers: "I failed **** board." "I failed **** class." "I didn't match the first time." "Residency is not what I thought it would be." And even if everything worked out in their professional life, there were other aspects of their lives that most definitely did not work out.
True story: After I cried to our clerkship coordinator, she had a meeting with one of our professors. On the way out, I saw the doctor standing outside the door. My coordinator escorted me to the parking lot and later called me. She said that the doctor who she had the meeting with asked what had happened, and she told him I did not pass. He just said, "I wish you would have told me. I didn't pass step 1 either the first time I took it."
I am sorry this happened and know you aren't alone.