How to Study First Aid


If I had a dollar for every time a lecturer mentioned Step 1, I might be able to pay for tuition this semester. Actually, just kidding, my private school is expensive as hell haha. All jokes aside, it is something that is continually mentioned, perhaps even more so by classmates. This article is not about an all-encompassing study plan, but rather how I have come to approach what is generally at the core of most study plans: First Aid. After spending some time with it, more so this year than last, I can see why. It is all inclusive and does not get you bogged down with too much detail. Still though, what is the best way to incorporate it into your coursework during M2 year?


To find out, I took to the internet. What I found was disappointing to say the least. Both blogs and YouTube videos, even those from content creators with an impressive number of followers, generally subscribed to one of two camps. The first camp proclaimed that you simply need to memorize it cover to cover. Well, if I had photographic memory then that wouldn’t be a problem. Actually, if I had photographic memory, then school really wouldn’t be a problem in general. Since this is true of the vast majority of us, it’s safe to say this is not super helpful advice. How ridiculous is this notion though? First Aid is thousands of pages and incredibly dense with respect to facts. On a given page, there could be countless things to commit to memory. Sure you have learned most of it at one point or another, but while you can certainly memorize chunks in shorter windows, as you cram new information in, the old inevitable falls out. This gets back to the lack of photographic memory.


The second school of thought is to really dive into the weeds and comprehend the underpinnings of everything. Again, this notion seems kind of overwhelming and impossible. Don’t get me wrong, you should always prioritize truly comprehending something over blindly memorizing it, both in class and with respect to board prep. However, it is just inevitable that you will have to commit a ridiculous amount of things to memory in the world of medicine. Moreover, knowing absolutely all of the relations and underpinnings would mean you are a certified genius. They run around, but I am not privileged enough to be one. Odds are most medical school students are not at this level either. Also, some of the context and mechanisms are not well elucidated by experts in the field. Ultimately, if you could connect the facts of First Aid this well then you should probably be one of the authors, in which case, your school may even want you as a lecturer.


With these options off the table, how do you approach the behemoth that is First Aid. I propose you incrementally tackle it with flashcards. Flashcards are an incredibly active way to study, which is definitely beneficial. I am not proposing making your own flashcards though, rather standing on the shoulders of giants that came before us. I am referring to the free flashcard system Anki. If you are unsure of how this works, check out this post, or this video, or perhaps this video. Basically, there is an algorithm built in for long-term retention that truly maximizes your efficiency and retention. It is without a doubt the king of long-term memorization. Even more beautiful is the fact that some kind soul (brocephalon is his reddit name) has turned all of First Aid into incredibly high yield Anki flashcards. This has been edited and finetuned over the years by his following. You can find the decks here. This piece is not about how to specifically utilize them, but rather debunking some of the garbage out there. Don’t worry though I will dive into that next week, and even release a video along the same lines thereafter. Stay tuned!

About Me

Hey everyone! My name is Bryan. I am a M4 at Medical College of Wisconsin. I am excited and eager to share my insights from my journey through medicine with you! 

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