Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education


Educational Services and Leadership


College of Education


Johnson, Ane Turner

Committee Member 1

Dayton, Catherine

Committee Member 2

Spencer, Leslie


burnout, Medical education, Medical Student, Stress, USMLE, wellness


Medical students--Health; Medical students--Examinations


Medical Education


Research indicates that medical students experience unusually high levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and loss of empathy while in medical school. As the number of medical students rises and residency positions remain stagnant, the USMLE receives greater emphasis as a barometer to determine residency placement and future career paths thereby increasing levels of stress among students. Stress is associated with diminished self-care, potentially leading to a negative impact on well-being. This ethnographic, qualitative study sought to examine the extent to which the anticipation of, preparation for, and implications of the USMLE contribute to medical student stress, wellness, and self-care. Through forty-four interviews combined with immersed observation, and multiple brief interactions with medical students, faculty, and staff at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, the impact of the USMLE on the health and well being of medical students was assessed. Results clearly indicated that the USMLE adversely affects medical student wellness, particularly depleting physical, social, and psychological well-being. While a few students were able to successfully manage through the exam preparation, the vast majority decreased or depleted their coping reservoir over the course of USMLE preparation exhibiting emotional, social, and physical ramifications.