Step #3

It’s true what they say: the step 3 board exam is by far the easiest of all the board exams. While this is true, I wouldn’t recommend the historically repeated study schedule: 2 weeks for step 1, 2 days for step 2, and a number 2 pencil for step 3. You know this must have been advice from many years ago, as pencils have not been part of the process for many years.

Step 3 is definitely longer however; this time it’s 2 days of computerized testing, so there’s no exaltation at the end of the first day. I haven’t got my results yet, but I feel confident that I easily passed, as most of the questions were quite obvious, and seemed focused more on general concepts of medicine, and less on highly detailed treatment plans for rare conditions. This is the purpose right? You want to make sure that every MD, no matter what speciality they go into, have the basic medical knowledge under their belt, so that they don’t hurt someone.

That being said, there is no way that I feel competent to become a second year resident! This may be due to the fact that I’m in a transitional like program this year, learning a little bit of internal medicine, and a little bit of other specialities that will help me become a good PMR doc. But the truth is that my real learning will begin when I start working as a PMR doctor, and start learning the skills of my chosen speciality. If I had to be a second year internal medicine resident (which comes with the added responsibilities of a double patient load, and looking over the interns below you), I would be scared witless. But then again, if that was my path, I probably would have had different rotations this year, and would have studied harder to learn medicine.

Not that I’ve been a slacker by any means. I have always been interested in all types of medicine, and I love to learn new things. But I haven’t exactly been up late at night reading journal articles about how to manage hypertension or diabetes. Nor have I had much opportunity to read PMR articles either. Because I am one of those unfortunate people who need 8-9 hours of sleep, all I’ve really done this year is work, eat, and sleep. I wish I was like my husband, who is on the 5-6 hr end of the hours of needed sleep bell curve. He should have been a surgeon.

I have truly enjoyed working with internal medicine residents and attendings. I have a great amount of respect for anyone who has to know about everything in the human body. And not just a little bit about everything. Their required knowledge goes much deeper than the surface understanding that I assumed they had. The practice questions that we went over during noon conference seemed more appropriate for a fellow in a particular sub-speciality. While I am happy to know the very basics of internal medicine, and I am even more happy to start buying books in the PMR realm.

And now that my 2nd year of residency has just started, it’s time to buy some books, and get studying. For unlike internal medicine, which we learn the basics in medical school, and then continue to relearn during a medicine residency, PMR residents have to start from scratch, sort of. First we have to relearn all the muscles and nerves that we learned in gross anatomy, and quickly forgot. I am so grateful to have had 9 years of massage prior to med school so that I have a good foundation in musculoskeletal anatomy. Then we have to learn how to rehabilitate patients with spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, and strokes, things we never learned in med school. Thankfully though I love to learn new things, and am ready to take the plunge, diving into new texts of knowledge and taking care of a whole new and interesting group of patients. Watch out, here I come!


  • Torri and Kristen's Dad wrote:

    Nice Valerie. It is wonderful that you are excied about your career. My hopes and dreams are that the excitement and thirst for knowledge will always be with you. No advice here you are way ahead of me. Rehabers if you are lucky you will get the Val.

  • Ronando wrote:

    You stated what you “wouldn’t recommend,” but what do you recommend is the best study method?

  • Ronando wrote:

    You stated what you “wouldn’t recommend,” but what do you recommend is the best study method?

  • Valerie Brooke wrote:

    USLME practice questions, as many as you can. Especially for the case reports.

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