What are the hours of med school REALLY like?

I’m still trying to make 100% sure I want to do this! What are the hours like when you’re in med school?

I understand that years 1-2 are typically classroom years where there’s tons and tons and tons of material to learn, and lots of studying. OK I can do this, sounds like engineering school

Years 3-4 are clinical years, right? What is the time committment like during these years? I’ve been reading on school websites about the schedules. Some schools seem very lax, while others basically say upfront that you are “slave labor” (i.e., working 18 hour days 7 days per week: “the 80 hour week doesn’t apply to you” said one school website)

What has been the experience of people on this forum?

My third year experience is a few years ago and predates the 80-hour rules but nonetheless, it wasn’t THAT bad. To quickly summarize:

Peds inpatient (4wks): work from 6am to 5pm (does not include commute), on call overnight every 4th or 5th night, did not get to go home post-call by noon. Probably averaged 80-100 hrs per week on this rotation.

Peds outpatient (4wks): work from 8am to 5pm, no call, no weekends!!

General Surgery (4wks): work from 5am to 5pm, call about once a week, generally got to leave by noon post-call, some weekends. Sometimes had to do rounds on weekends even if you weren’t going to stay on call.

Surgery specialties (4 wks): work from 6am to 5pm, no call, no weekends.

Primary care (6 wks): work from 8am to 5pm, no call, no weekends.

Internal medicine (8 wks): work from 6am to 6pm, call every 5 nights that ended between 10 and midnight, weekend rounds most of the time. Few days off.

Psych (8 wks): 8am to 5pm, weekend call days every 2 wks, otherwise no night call or weekends.

OBGYN (8 wks): 5am to 6pm, call every fourth night, no going home post-call, definitely the hardest of the rotations, lots of weekends.

So, there were some months that sucked during third year. But all in all it was do-able. Keep in mind I was 46 years old at the time… people who’ve been reading this board for years will tell you that my comment was, judging by how much they whined, my younger classmates weren’t having any easier time of it than I was.

You can also plan ahead. You can trade calls in order to get a special weekend. You can arrange ahead of time for a less time-intensive rotation (e.g. my son got married during my primary care rotation). Heck, people have babies during third year (though I don’t recommend it).

It’s just a year.


OK cool! That helps a lot. Thanks!

Although not in third year yet, I will chime in based on what I have heard those ahead of me say. Timewise, 3rd year seems to be the most intense, but as Mary pointed out, that varies from rotation to rotation. At Ohio State, the hours can vary significantly even on the same rotations because students are placed at so many different hospitals. Rumor has it that the hours tend to be much worse if you do a rotation at OSU main than if you are at a community hospital, but we don’t get a whole lot of choice in where we are assigned for our rotations.

I would be leary of a school that states on their website that the 80 work week doesn’t apply to you as a med student. Although true, the fact that they find it necessary to post that makes me wonder how many hours they really work.

For most 4th years, it seems to be a long vacation - especially after they get their elective rotations for whatever specialty they plan on doing their residency in out of the way. Third year typically has 2 - 3 months of “vacation” built in for various things like applying and interviewing for residency, studying for Step 2, etc. There are lots of not very demanding rotations that you can choose to do as electives with great (and often flexible) hours. I’m sure there are 4th years out there that put in a lot of hours, but most of the ones I run across seem to be pretty happy with 4th year.

Hours vary these hours posted are for work in hospital/clinic but then you have to read/study/ after these hours. This can add some more hours to your weekly schedule. It is doable but you need to have your duckies in a row for childcare if you have smaller children.


Thanks for your very informative post. There is one other aspect of rotations I’ve been wondering about, and that is what a night of call is like. That is, were there some rotations where call involved being literally on your feet all night long, vs. others where you actually got a few hours of sleep? Could you comment on that?

Some night on call there is NO sleep and others you may get a few hours. I was on call yesterday through this morning (7 am to 1pm) for 30 hours and was able to sleep for two hours.

Amount of time spent literally on your feet while on call will be very school-dependent, I think. As a student, the only rotation where I got very, very little sleep was OB. Sometimes pediatrics was almost as busy. Surgery can definitely also be that busy. But at my school, students on medicine didn’t stay overnight at all, though there were some real long days.

As a student on the service there may come a point when the intern/resident sends you to bed. Truth be told, this isn’t because they’re being kind so much as, it is exhausting to teach while taking call and the resident would like a break.


  • Mary Renard Said:
But at my school, students on medicine didn't stay overnight at *all,* though there were some real long days.

Which school was that?

check my .sig Lots of schools have less-than-awful call schedules for their third-year students. Despite what one might consider a slacker schedule, with no overnight call in some rotations, GWU has a good reputation for producing clinicians. And as a new intern I felt well-prepared (to the extent that anyone feels prepared!) and was able to function at or beyond the level expected of me from the get-go.

In looking back at it, it was not the overnights that made third year such a killer; to be honest, since the student doesn’t have any real responsibility, it was just a long night. (that’s not the case when you’re an intern, for sure) What made third year so difficult was that every single day was very long, generally starting pretty early. And after going home at the conclusion of your clinical work, there was studying to do, presentations to prepare, and oh yeah sleep, eat, have a life - you know, that non-essential stuff.

Third year medical students at my hospital (who are from GWU, Georgetown and VCU) do not spend the night. But they arrive at the hospital to pre-round between 6am and 7am, and will not go home until 5or 6pm. When I was a student on OB, I had to start rounding by 5am… although I live pretty close to the hospital, getting up, dressed, showered and out the door can only be accomplished so fast. At the same time, I decided it was just Wrong to have an alarm set to go off earlier than 4am, and so I got pretty efficient at getting up & out of there.

But getting up at 4am day after day after day… then getting home some days after 7pm or later… just takes an awful lot out of you. It really isn’t the call nights, it’s the whole grueling year.

Ugh. Glad I’m not there, or in intern year, any more. Life is good!


Man, I wish my school was like this…we have Q4 call on medicine and on non-call days get there btw 6-7 to pre-round and also stay until the work gets done sometimes this means 5 as well…

Alrighty there Doctora Renard…ya know there’s the option of hiding the sigs…yesssssssss.

Geez, that sounds like my life now, sans call.

out the door at 6, mixture of class and clients, home between 6-8pm depending on the day, then study till 10-12, sometimes earlier, sometimes later. I can’t imagine trying this with kids! Kudos to you who have them!

The weekends are spent studying, report writing, billing, and filing, with about 3-4 hours of alone-time with my husband saturday evening.

Med school will be hard and have hard hours at times no doubt, but I’m looking forward to not having to juggle my work with school.

In fact, I’m even thinking of expanding my practice by hiring on to let it make money FOR me and not worry about loans/debt.

Mary -

Just a quick thank you to say how much yours and other “old timers” on this forum are appreciated.

If plans succeed, I would be starting med school at age 41 at the soonest, so you are inspiring.

I hope to be able to make a similar contribution to the forum at that time.