Medical School: Drinking from a Fire Hydrant

It’s often said that learning in med school is “like drinking from a fire hydrant.”
Who coined this phrase? Because they were spot on.

It’s the start of my second week of medical school (only my second week and I’m already agreeing with this analogy! So… what’s week 10 going to look like?) My classmates and I have been thrown more information than I learned in 4 weeks of undergraduate education. But we’re keeping up, because we’re adapting. Part of this adaptation, though, is figuring out what works for you as an individual, because we’re not all the same.

You can actually drink from a fire hydrant, just not all at once (or it will knock you down!) My friends and I here at school, we’ve begun to figure this part out. I’ve already noticed that we each tackle the information we’re given very differently, but I can fit us into two general categories.


Gatherers have a strong desire for new information, and a seemingly unlimited capacity to gather more. The more the better; they’ll just collect for a bit, until they feel they’ve gathered enough and organized it all. They don’t rush into the learning process, because they don’t want to miss any information before they begin. They want to have all the pieces of the puzzle before they start piecing it together. Gatherers, beware not too wait too long. The huge amount of new information can make it easy to procrastinate. Know when to take action. If you’ve gathered buckets and buckets of water that you are never able to drink, wasn’t that a waste? Take the time to keep it all organized, and constantly reevaluate your supply so you can actually use all that you collect.


Instead of collecting loads of information before organizing and tackling the material, assessors only collect data that they can use. They don’t bother drinking from the fire hydrant unless they’re thirsty. They assess the gaps in their current knowledge, then turn to their resources to fill them. Sure, they may miss out on a helpful guide created by another student, but why waste their time if they already have what they need? Assessors, beware not to let the large amount of information overwhelm you. Know when to take a break, and when to search for supplemental material. Be honest with yourself – have you really mastered the material? If you need more, plug your nose and dive in again. You can quit drinking as soon as you have what you need.

It’s hard to know when to keep drinking and when to turn off the hydrant to catch your breath, but if you know yourself, you’ll be able to determine what’s right for you in each moment. Which personality type are you?

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Cody Kennedy says:

    I’m a gatherer!


    1. Nicolet says:

      Me as well! ;P


  2. Alex says:

    IM A GATHERER TOOO YOU GUYS!! ^ I love this!!


    1. Nicolet says:

      🙂 🙂 great minds think alike.


  3. Sally says:

    For the past several years, I felt like all I heard was everyone in medical school telling me how hard it is. I was a little worried, especially since I took a year off of school. How would I have the capacity to study anymore? Heck, I was used to spending my weekends and evenings lazing around, watching TV, and overall doing as I  pleased. And  now all of a sudden, I was expected to sit with my feet bolted to the floor staring at a computer screen …


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