Helplessness among medical students is a state in which nothing that the students choose to do affects what happens to them. These medical students believe that many things in their lives are beyond their control – achieving a satisfactory passing USMLE score included. Are you one of them?
Do you feel helpless when presented with problems, like the clinical case assignments and discussions? Are you frozen into inaction? If not you, any medical student or colleague you know who does not even attempt to solve the problem, believes he or she cannot do the task because of repeated failure, and frustration – that behavior is termed learned helplessness.
Helplessness develops from repeated failures and overwhelming feeling of frustration. The medical student will fail to initiate action, becomes passive, and won't try at all. In addition to not trying, he or she fails to learn or profit from the experience. Emotional reactions like frustration, depression, and feelings of incompetency appear to go hand in hand with the passivity and learning problems with helplessness.
Motivation is indeed the primary key in attaining the things you want in your medical education including passing USMLE steps. This is the fuel that keeps a medical student going amidst the average performance in class examinations and practice tests. The absence of this stimulus promotes passivity; thus, inaction follows and later on frustration and depression. This is the same reason that various methods and strategies in delivery of the USMLE review are initiated by review mentors and review program developers.
When you are not actively motivated in your USMLE preparation, you are unmotivated to learn. Sometimes you will be unenthusiastic in listening and participating in review session hence, you involve yourself in small chats with your seat mates. An effective mentor should call your attention or talk to you in private to discuss your behavior. It is one of the most challenging roles of the review mentors – motivate the apathetic medical student.
During group activities and discussions, your participation will be observed. After a specific period of time that you don't seem to improve, your mentor should then realize that your motivation problem is intrinsic – meaning, it is something that you and a significant person have caused. Additional help and support should be done. The student can be referred to the resident guidance counselor who can talk to the student and if this proves to be ineffective, significant others will be called in to help like your peers, close colleagues and sometimes, your parents.
No one can deny the power of motivation. In reality, motivation for medical students doesn't need to be a heart-to-heart talk. A pat in the back, a "You can do better next time," or "If they can make it, you will, too" are some of the simple statements that signify encouragement and belief in the person's capabilities. Human beings cannot afford to give up as long as there is someone who strongly believes in his capacity to succeed and express it when most needed. With enough motivation, success in USMLE is within hand.