By Luke Murray
I recently wrote about the main regret I had while studying for Step 1: Do not stress out about your study plans not going perfectly. When I took Step 2 CK near the middle of my 4th year, I walked away learning much of the same lesson (apparently, ‘relax’ is a hard one for me to learn), but there were a few other things I should have done differently as well.
Here are the first two. Both revolve around the fact that you usually have to take Step 2 CS in a similar time frame to Step 2 CK.
1. Get Step 2 CS out of the way first and early
I took CS a few weeks before I took CK. As a result, CS wasn’t that high on my priority list as far as studying goes, but it still cut into my study time for taking CK. Even the mere act of taking the test was an expensive opportunity cost.
The days in the last month leading up to taking CK are critical, and the last thing I wanted to do was to spend those days shuffling around the country. Another downside I had not considered was the mental energy and distraction of having Step 2 CS hanging over my head while prepping for Step 2 CK. Even if you’re not studying for CS, it’s there, and you at least have to deal with the hassle of making the logistical arrangements. This takes away from the quality of your CK focus and, in general, the quality of your life.
2. Actually study for Step 2 CS
A few months ago, I wrote about how I blew off studying for my class’s ACLS certification because it was supposed to be an easy test. It ended up being much harder for my class and a lot of people failed the test, including me. A couple years later, when I was on the plane getting ready to take off to Texas to take Step 2 CS, literally with my copy of First Aid for the Step 2 CS in my lap, someone on the plane went into Vfib. I, a 4th year medical student, ended up “running the code.” It was an absolute mess, and by the time EMS showed up to take the patient off the plane, she still hadn’t regained consciousness.
I went back to my seat and cried.
Even though the patient’s chance of survival was close to zero by the time I got to her, words cannot express the regret I had about not taking my ACLS skills test more seriously.
Step 2 CS has a pass rate of something like 90%+. You may hear other students say that the exam is not a big deal, nobody cares about the score, etc. While all of this may be true, your preparation for CS is about as legitimately useful as you can get. You are presented with a patient with problems and you’re asked what you think the problem(s) might be, how you would figure it out, and what you want to do about it. If that’s not the definition of a doctor’s job (regardless of specialty), then I don’t know what is.
Also, your Step 2 CS prep forces you into a clinically relevant mindset that should help with your Step 2 CK studying. And First Aid for the Step 2 CS is a fantastic resource. Use the book. Study for the test. Gain a lot from the prep. It will make you a better doctor, and if you knock the exam out sooner rather than later, you’ll be able to relax and focus on studying for Step 2 CK…or, at least, move on with your life.