The holiday season is upon us, and if you’re anything like me, you’re probably scratching your head right now wondering what to get all of the important people in your life.
Well, if one of those people happens to be an aspiring doctor, I might just be able to help.
When shopping for a premed, medical student, or resident this holiday season, your first instinct might be to reach for a stethoscope or a “trust me, I’m (almost) a doctor” cup. Stop right there.
Here are 10-holiday gift ideas for premeds, medical students, and residents to get you thinking.
1 | Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Number one is a good pair of noise-canceling headphones.
Premeds, medical students, and residents alike spend a considerable amount of time hitting the books, doing research, reviewing cases, and studying for boards.
So whether it’s listening to music while going through practice problems, or blasting through lectures at 2x speed, a good pair of headphones can make studying much more enjoyable.
I recommend noise-canceling headphones in particular since they block out unwanted noise and allow you to better focus on the task at hand. Remember, eliminating distraction is key to optimizing performance.
Headphones that block out background noise also allow you to listen to music at a lower volume, and quiet music is less distracting than loud music. Your ears will also thank you.
2 | Portable Charger
Number two is a portable charger or power bank.
Having a way to charge your smartphone and other mobile devices while on the go is incredibly useful as a premed or medical student. It’s even more critical in the second half of medical school and in residency when you spend more time in the hospital.
Hospitals are notorious for having poor reception which quickly drains your smartphone battery. You don’t want to put your phone on airplane mode either because you run the risk of missing an important text or phone call from your team.
A portable charger/power bank is the perfect solution to this problem. Carry one in your scrub pocket or white coat and you’ll never have to worry about running out of juice.
I recommend one that is lightweight with a flat, slim profile so it can be easily carried in a pocket all day long.
You can also get a short three- to six-inch charging cable so they don’t have to carry around the more common, and cumbersome, 3-foot charging cable.
Alternatively, a phone battery case can serve a similar purpose and make a great gift; however, a portable charger/power bank will be more versatile as they can charge multiple devices.
3 | Quality Water Bottle
Number three is a quality water bottle.
It’s common for premeds to spend long days on campus. Medical school and residency turn this up a notch and it’s not uncommon to have workdays lasting twelve hours or longer.
When you’re spending long days at school, or are at the hospital running around seeing patients, it’s easy to go hours without drinking water. Especially if you don’t have any on hand.
A quality, large-capacity water bottle provides convenient access to water all day long and helps prevent dehydration. Research shows cognitive performance declines with even mild dehydration.
Not all water bottles are created equal, however.
First, it should be made out of metal as even BPA-free plastic can leech chemicals into the water.
Next, it should be leak-proof to prevent liquids from spilling on anything important.
And last, it should have a mouthpiece that is entirely covered when not in use for hygiene reasons, particularly when working in a place like the hospital.
4 | Sleep Mask and Earplugs
Whether it’s pulling a late-night studying for an exam or working an overnight shift at the hospital, the training to become a physician often involves going to bed at irregular hours and sleeping during the day.
Light plays a significant role in regulating our circadian rhythm. We are wired to be awake when it’s bright out and go to sleep when its dark. Trying to flip that on its head often results in suboptimal sleep.
This is where sleep masks and earplugs come in.
Sleep masks block light from hitting your eyes, fooling your brain into thinking it’s still dark outside and helping you stay asleep.
Earplugs ensure that you won’t be disturbed by the sounds of the other 90% of people just starting their day. This includes any roommates or family members that you might live with.
I recommend a sleep mask that has eye indentations, also known as a contoured eye mask. They’re more comfortable and keep pressure off the eyes.
5 | Smart Lights
Continuing with the theme of irregular sleep schedules, number five is a set of smart lights.
Smart lights can help simulate sunrise, which is far less jarring than waking up to a loud alarm clock in a dark room.
Additionally, blue light-sensing receptors in our eyes regulate our circadian rhythm, so waking up in this fashion will help get your day started on the right foot while also setting an internal clock for your wind-down time that evening.
As someone who has struggled with sleep issues, getting bright light upon waking has worked wonders. And even if you’re on an irregular schedule, waking up before sunrise or working nights, smart lights allow you to dial in your circadian rhythm however you need.
Smart lights also allow for automatic changes to the light color, light temperature, and brightness. Blue light in the evening is detrimental to sleep. For this reason, automatically dimming and warming the light temperature later in the day is best practice.
Smart lights also automate other functions based on your preferences. For instance, you can set them to flash blue to notify you if it begins raining outside or automatically turn on and off when you arrive or leave home.
Smart lights also pair well with…
6 | Smart Speaker
Number six, a smart speaker.
If it’s not obvious by now, aspiring doctors at any point in their training are busy people. Most will go to great lengths to optimize their schedule and free up as much time as possible.
Smart speakers can be a great tool to help free up time.
Whether it’s placing a call, sending a message, or setting a reminder, smart speakers can do it all with just a voice command. They also integrate well with other smart devices including smart lights, plugs, and thermostats, so the potential for automation is huge.
You may wonder why saving a few seconds or a minute here or there matters, but time savings, no matter how small, reduce friction. And when you think about these time savings over weeks, months, or even years, they quickly add up.
If the person you’re buying for has other Apple devices, I would strongly recommend the Apple HomePod. It prioritizes privacy more so than other options and integrates seamlessly with other Apple devices.
7 | Slow Cooker/Multi-Cooker
Number seven is a slow cooker or multi-cooker.
While training to become a doctor, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy diet. Between going to class, studying, research, and clinicals, it can be hard to motivate yourself to cook during what free time you have.
With a slow cooker or multi-cooker, you simply throw in a handful of ingredients, set the temperature and time, and are welcomed to a delicious and nutritious meal sometime later.
You can also meal prep, whereby you prepare large quantities of food ahead of time and have meals ready to go for later in the week without much additional effort.
I personally started with a Crockpot, which is a great entry point into slow cookers and multi-cookers; however, once I was introduced to Instant Pots and their pressure cooking function, I was an instant convert.
While slow cookers like Crockpots require some planning ahead, the Instant Pot’s pressure function allows for quick cooking and last-minute decisions.
8 | Hourglass Set
Number eight is an hourglass set.
One of the best study hacks to help fight procrastination is the Pomodoro technique.
You start by focusing on a singular task in a 25-minute work block, then take a 5-minute break, and repeat.
When using this technique, most people use their phones to track the time intervals. Although this works, it’s not necessarily optimal.
The real benefits of the Pomodoro technique are that it decreases friction, makes things easier to get started, and helps you maintain focus. Once you get working and get into a groove though, you don’t necessarily have to stop every 25 minutes.
If you’re in a good flow, having a timer go off on your phone can disrupt your rhythm. It also makes you interact with a device that has a high potential to distract you – your phone.
The beauty of the hourglass is that it tracks your time intervals but doesn’t disrupt you if you’re in a good rhythm. It’s also simple and unobtrusive making it unlikely to distract you.
I recommend getting a set of two hourglasses, one 25-minute and one 5-minute, so they can easily measure their Pomodoro intervals.
9 | Suture Practice Kit + Separate Needle Driver
No matter what specialty the person you are buying for is going into, they will need to know the basics of suturing for their medical school third-year rotations. If they happen to be going into a surgical specialty, then they will need to know a lot more than just the basics.
Suturing is one of those things that you have to learn by doing. Taking the time to learn about all the different suturing techniques doesn’t do much good if you never pick up a needle driver and practice.
For this reason, every aspiring doctor can benefit from a suture practice kit.
I would also recommend getting them a separate needle driver to go along with it. The needle drivers that come with these kits are often suboptimal.
10 | Something Related to a Hobby They Enjoy
And lastly, number ten. This is more of a broad recommendation as opposed to a specific item, but get them something related to a hobby that they enjoy outside of medicine.
During undergrad, medical school, and residency, medicine is the focal point of your life. It is an incredibly rewarding time, but also a very stressful one.
For this reason, maintaining hobbies outside of medicine is a necessity. They provide a much-needed outlet to de-stress and decompress.
Getting someone a gift related to a hobby they enjoy, especially during this time in their life, will likely be more meaningful than most other things.
If they’re into cooking, maybe you can get them a nice knife or cookware. If they’re into painting, maybe some new paint supplies. Or if they’re like me and into cycling, maybe a new bike computer, or power meter, or high-quality bib shorts.
Some of the best gifts I’ve received had absolutely nothing to do with medicine or doctoring, but rather the things that I loved to do when the white coat came off. If you can tap into that, then I’m certain that the extra thought will be greatly appreciated.
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out 7 Products that Make Medical School Easier.