Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Just a thought

Our days are so full at the moment that part of me wonders whether they are preparing us for life working as junior doctors on the wards. We rush from lecture to lecture without a break in between, and frequently have days of 7 or 8 hours straight contact time without space to eat or pee (sorry for the detail!) without eating during lectures or tutorials, and excusing ourselves to find the nearest bathroom. There should theoretically be a 10-minute break between lectures/tutorials, but everything runs overtime as the sessions are so content-rich, and the lecturers frequently have to leave us to cover the last part of the lecture ourselves.

That said, I'm loving it!

And everybody seemed fine in the anatomy prac - even those who hadn't seen a cadaver before. I really enjoyed it as I love the practical aspects of anatomy. A few of us were really enthusiastic (within limits - there was no cheering involved!) and I like to think that this made it easier for those who might have had difficulty. I got really keen when I found out how hard atherosclerotic arteries are and tried to get people to poke them. I worked out I'm an anatomy "poker", which was a surprise. I like to get in there and get my gloves dirty. Another surprise!

I don't believe how fast the past week and a half have gone. The days are so full and busy that they just fly by. I am happiest when kept busy and occupied, so I'm pretty chirpy right now!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Hooray! More of knowing very little! Lucky for me I have had a lot of practise at knowing very little, and am quite good at being positive about it.

Hopefully in the future I will get worse at knowing very little, and so will know very little less often. This will come with further study and brain storage space, which may involve donating the part of my brain which is currently devoted to keeping me sane. However, I'm not sure which part of the brain that is, as I still know very little, and thus can do very little to preserve my hold on sanity.

I have started compiling a list of words at the end of my study revision notes for each week, to jog my memory and try to remember. I call it my Dummy's List. Hopefully with the aid of my list, my lack of fear about being seen to know very little, and my new-found insanity driving me to study at all hours (because if I could choose a way to be crazy I would choose OCD study-nut right now!) I will eventually progress from knowing very little to knowing slighty more than very little. Ah, I can only dream!

And no, I haven't been drinking. Not one drop. Perhaps that is the problem.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The ghoul within

Where oh where did the weekend go? I shouldn't complain. At least I had a weekend!

Next week is exciting - it will be filled with a lot more content-rich lectures rather than the standard introductory lecture. We should start to learn a lot more! I'm pumped.

The first week involved a lot of touchy-feely subjects. Now, I think it is important to work on patient communication and empathy. Being able to talk to your patients is a skill that I rate VERY highly. I have seen it make a significant difference in patient treatment and outcomes. But when most of the lectures were on patient communication or subject introductions, it felt a little, well, silly.

I will also get to examine a cadaver in an anatomy lab for the first time. It won't be the first time I have seen a dead body - I have seen quite a few patients die in front of me (thank God I couldn't get through the 5 or 6 specialists to lend a hand - I love working in hospitals!), and have helped in the examination of dead babies, but I have never actually seen a non-plastinated, resected cadaver before.

To be honest, the ghoul in me is waiting to see how the others in my group handle it. I am curious to see how different people deal with what has to be a difficult experience for the first time. They all seem pretty sensible, but you never know how some people will handle things.

By the way, I am not talking about looking forward to seeing somebody have an emotional reaction because somebody close to them died and seeing a dead body brings back all of those feelings. Or if they are shocked and frightened because it reminds them of their own mortality. That would be completely insensitive, nasty and inappropriate. I hope that if there is anybody who goes through such issues in our course (or in courses anywhere) they get help and talk to people about what they are experiencing. I hope they realise that they aren't alone and that people will understand.

To be honest, I probably should examine this ghoulish tendency to make sure that it is not stemming from some sense of superiority because I have seen a lot of tough things before, so it is one area I have dealt with, whereas there are other areas in the course that I'll have no experience in at all and so will feel quite inferior. I know we are all in this together and should support each other's weaknesses and give help where we can. In an ideal world, that is how it should work.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Oh for some decent free junk . . .

Hooray for free junk!

This week I more than doubled the amount of free pens and waterbottles I have received from work/career-based sponsors. The MDO's (Medical Defense Organisations) were out in force this week, giving us free stuff and signing us on for free "memberships" while we are students (although I'm doubtful that these "memberships" would offer any kind of serious legal protection, but there are some benefits).

This made me wonder how much money they plan on getting out of us when we are graduated doctors. I know that nothing comes for free, and having worked in allied health in a hospital for years and received next-to-nothing from company reps, I get very nervous when companies start throwing stuff at us for no apparent reason other than the fact that we are "future doctors". (My biggest two scores before becoming a medical student were: a coffee cup which had sat unclaimed on a desk for a month, and a couple of rubber duck stress toys which I saved from decapitation. Nobody picks on rubber duckies when I am around! Nobody!)

That's another thing - being called a "future doctor" or even worse, "doctor-in-training" just doesn't feel right. We're one week into a medical course. We are medical students. Only just. I am confident when I feel I know something, but nothing scares me more than a confident over-statement of one's own abilities. "I am a Doctor-in-Training, and today I learnt what a femur is!" Oh dear.

The most interesting thing was that the best freebie was a portable coffee cup from the defence forces, trying to get us to sign up for quite lucrative scholarships (roughly $50k per year) which would be followed by quite a few years of service afterwards (and a directed career - no thanks). I once went to a presentation by an army radiographer about his time serving overseas, and I swore to myself during that presentation that I would NEVER do that to myself or my family. Between taking x-rays (in a tent!), he served as infantry and then had to assist in operations on the militia he shot. Seriously. I know the scholarship and the career could be good for some people, but no thanks. (I grew up as an airforce brat, so I was scarred enough by the lifestyle without putting my kids through the same thing.) But thanks, I'll take the coffee cup! I'll need all that I can get if I am going to make it though without that lucrative scholarship.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More anatomy . . .

Day two of medical school is over and I just thought I would write a few more notes on my impressions so far.

I am actually excited this time about doing anatomy, which is interesting because if I had revealed this to my past self, she would have declared me to be an impostor. (If I told her that I was doing anatomy because I am studying medicine, she would know I was an impostor!) When I did anatomy in my first degree it was an absolute grind of rote memorisation, focusing on regional anatomy. We covered a little of the function but were mainly concerned with EXACTLY where bits were located in relation to other bits, and what every single little lump, bump and hole was called. It was as painful as it sounds.

Enter the medical course with its focus on PBL (Problem Based Learning) and concentrating on the actual practical use of the anatomy. We get to focus on why things are there, what they do and how they interract with everything else! It is much more motivating. The fact that I am potentially going to be treating people and potentially cutting into them is also a great motivator!

I also want to get everything I can out of our cadaveric dissection classes, so I have purchased McMinn's Colour Atlas of Human Anatomy which focuses on pictures of real cadavers. Memorising nice pictures with blue veins, red arteries, green lymphatic vessels and yellow nerves is quite different to looking inside a real person. Somehow I feel I owe it to the person who donated their body to get the most I can out of dissecting it.

Also, histology seems to be making sense. When did that happen???

Monday, January 22, 2007

Happy as a pig in the mud . . .

Well, today was the first day of medical school for this little blue-stethoscoped duck, and it was fantastic! At the end of the day as I was driving away I felt really good and was thinking, "Wow, this is very much where I am meant to be." At the uni that is, not driving AWAY from the uni!

I am going to be VERY busy for the next four years. Actually, I am going to be very busy for the rest of my professional life. I was reading the material and thinking that I am going to love being busy looking at these things and having the privilege of working with people during their toughest times and most of the time being able to help them. For the first time I really get to focus on UNDERSTANDING why a patient is sick rather than the mechanics and physics of the allied health field in which I am qualified. It is very exciting.

Many of the lecturers got up and told some moving and tragic stories that they had encountered in their professional career, and I noticed something odd about myself. When I am actually there at work experiencing something first-hand, I seem to be able to remain more detached about things than when I am reading or hearing a story about the same sorts of tragedies. Perhaps it is because when I am working I can concentrate on my part of the job rather than on the terrible nature of what is happening to the person or people in front of me. However, when somebody is telling me the story and I have nothing to do but sit, listen and focus on what they have been going through, I can get a little misty-eyed. I don't quite run bawling from the room, or even need a tissue, but some stories get to me.

It started me wondering about how psychiatrists deal with this. I understand that they maintain professional detachment, and also concentrate on analysing the person's illness or issue, but they are essentially sitting there listening to the patient rather than spending all of their time fixing their leg while they are under anaesthetic or patching up a wound in emergency. They would hear some terrible stories day in and day out. Do psychiatrists ever get a little damp around the eyes or do they develop a harder skin over time?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The first day of school . . .

Monday is the first day of medical school, and I'm starting to feel like I'm starting school again for the first time.

By tomorrow night, I'll have my outfit chosen - not too dressy (it's uni, after all!) and not too casual (dressing up is fun). As long as I don't turn up with a steth around my neck nobody will care. They will all be too worried about what everybody else thinks of what THEY are wearing! Does anybody want to hazard a guess as to how many tragics are going to have packed their steth in their bag? Fifty percent? Ten percent? Ninety-five?

Speaking of packing my bags, that will be done, too. And I'll have a packed lunch. I haven't been without a fridge and microwave at work for years, so I'll have to get used to having a proper packed lunch again. Sad, I know.

Just like my first day of school many years ago, I won't be able to sleep and I will be up and dressed before it is light because I will be so excited that it is finally happening. I'm making sure that I enjoy the excitement before I get bogged down in the stress. I can't wait!

Of course, I've yet to decide on the most important thing of all - how to do my hair for the ID photos!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I'm back, baby!

The holiday was lovely and as refreshing as any kind of crazy holiday can be, and now I am back and feeling totally unprepared for starting medical school! Oh well. I suppose I can try to relax with the thought that no matter how I am feeling, there will ALWAYS be somebody less prepared than me!

Monday, January 8, 2007


As of tomorrow morning I am going away on a holiday to catch my breath and relax for a week and a bit before the adventure of studying medicine begins.
I hope you all have a lovely week and make sure that you stick to your New Year's Resolutions. I, for one, can promise that I will not be shaving my head.

I haven't been on a holiday since the start of 2005, so there is no need to say that I am VERY excited!

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Change of Address

I just changed the address of the blog to reflect the change of name that occurred a few weeks ago. Now that I am in the no-man's land between being a student and being unemployed, I need creative procrastination techniques and it is too hot to clean.

I hope this hasn't put anybody off who was reading the blog, and I hope they can find it again. It is unfortunate that the old address doesn't link here directly.

I am going away on holidays for a week and a bit on Tuesday, and we are having a friend house-sit. This means that I really have to clean the bathroom and the fridge or she might take one look at either of these things and walk back out the door! Thankfully cleaning the shower, the fridge and the fishtank are all quite cool activities, so I might get on it now while the weather is hot and I feel like doing something.

Also, for fun:

Your Career Personality: Organized, Responsible, and Future-Oriented

Your Ideal Careers:

Biomedical engineer
Business executive
College professor
District attorney
Hedge fund manager
Investment banker
Military leader
Political strategist

Are you telling me that I should just skip medical school and become a military leader? How does somebody become a military leader, anyway? What would you have to list on your resume? "Good at skirmish. Likes chess. No fear of blood on hands. Completed Certificate II in Troop Rallying."

Can't say I have even seen an ad for a "Military Leader" in any kind of employment listing. I guess it's a closed market.

I also love the fact that "Surgeon" is listed on the same list as "Military Leader". I think I am completely unlikely to pursue a career in either.

Saturday, January 6, 2007


Yesterday I found myself absolutely terrified about what to do with my fish. Nothing out of the ordinary was happening with them, everything was as per normal. But I was terrified and obsessing.

It was also my last day of work. I am now officially unemployed, and a full-time student again. But I wasn't worried about that. I was fretting about my fish. Displacement, anybody?

I had a lovely last day at work, and hope to be seeing all of the wonderful people I have been working with sometime soon. I promised to come and visit them and ask all kinds of silly questions as a medical student and junior doctor. People wrote the nicest things on my going-away card, and all the doctors told me that I will make a great doctor. It was a lovely thing to say, and I'll accept the complement. (Part of me wonders if anybody ever gets told, "Um, well done getting into medical school, but all of the staff here at the hospital think you should reconsider and go and study accounting." I think not.)

Right now I am thoroughly enjoying being excited and enthusiastic about something again. I am on the edge of the big, deep, scary pool about to jump in, and I know that it will be very tough swimming to the other end, but from out of the water it all looks so exciting and new and I can't wait.

I woke up at 7am this morning (which is mad considering it is Saturday and I went out and celebrated last night) and played the piano and read "Hot Lights, Cold Steel" by Michael Collins from cover to cover. It was a fantastic read and reaffirmed my reasons for never wanting to enter surgery. I think any young gunner with stars in his or her eyes should sit down and read it and find out just how glamorous and well-paid life as a surgical trainee really is.

It was fantastic to lie down on the couch and spend the morning reading a book. I haven't been able to do that for years. Something always distracted me or I wasn't able to concentrate well enough to maintain interest. I must be happy.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

A scary thought

Today I while at work I had a scary thought. I was talking to one of the nurses, and he told me that they "keep the good interns and registrars in the loop and the bad ones out of it" when it comes to many aspects of their treatment of the patients.

While this must make life difficult for the junior doctors who have been perceived and branded as "bad" and may not always be ideal for patient care, my thoughts after hearing it were a little more self-centred, and I wondered:

How do I avoid being one of the "bad" doctors and become one of the "good" ones?

Having been on-hand when it makes a hell of a difference, and being a person with high standards of work for myself, I really want to know whether there is an actual attitude, demeanour or set of skills that can make somebody "good" as opposed to "bad"?

Is it really fair to label somebody "good" or "bad"? They are all at work, and trying, although in every profession some people try harder than others.

Should I stop thinking about this and just try my hardest and know that it is the best that I could have done? I have been told that the enemy of good is better. I've seen things turn from a reasonable outcome to a very bad one because a doctor with high standards just kept trying. Sometimes things just go pear-shaped and it is just one of those things that happen, even with the best doctor imaginable.

The only answer I could think of is that I should simply try to do the best that I can, to remain a resonable human being, and to take each day as it comes. And make sure I don't get confused with the names of all of the drugs. They scare me, too.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007


It's raining, it's pouring, I am on my last week of full-time work and my medical school still hasn't got it's act together with enrolments. Great.

After spending five years in full-time employment, it is going to be tough getting used to the way things work at a university. I'm the kind of person who likes putting her paperwork in on time, getting things organised (e.g. my vaccinations, blood tests and first aid certificate were all completed weeks ago) and having things ready early. I need to learn to relax, as I can see that the university I'm going to is going to drive me crazy if I can't let it go.

I'm not sleeping well. I keep having visions of being on holiday in another state, and having to get on my mobile phone and ring around the university to try to get this organised. It took me five phonecalls yesterday to get onto an actual person without being cut off or put through to an answering machine. All of this was supposed to be taken care of last year.

If I were administrating a large group of people and there was a major delay on administrative matters leading up to a firm deadline, I would at least attempt to notify them and keep them in the loop, at the very least with a large e-mail. It would stop the mass of panicked calls I am sure they are getting right now. A little pre-emptive action can save a lot of work and anxiety.

On a brigher note, it's raining, it's pouring and the cats just stood and looked out at the pouring rain through their newly-unlocked cat door this morning, sulking for a good half-an-hour before moving to more comfortable and warm sleeping spots inside. They are so cute when they sulk.

Monday, January 1, 2007


This is it. This is the year that I get to start calling myself a Medical Student. In three week's time, I'll walk into a lecture theatre filled with my fellow students and begin the adventure of becoming a full-time student again.

To say that I'm excited would be an understatement.

In a month's time things are going to be going full-speed ahead. But for now I am tying off the old threads of my current life and getting prepared for a lot of things to change completely.

It is quite tough emotionally leaving one career in which you have become established and experienced in order to begin another from the lowest possible level. I'll really miss the regularity and (relative) predictability of work, and I'll especially miss the money and my workmates. My goodbye party is next week, and I don't think I'm quite ready for it. There will be tears. But I think I'm going to get so much enjoyment out of studying medicine that it will make up for all of it.

I have worked in large hospitals for years, and I am just so thrilled to be able to focus on the why and how of health and disease and people, rather than being expected to only know the minimum necessary to do my job. I want to know these things and now I'm getting the chance!

I can't wait to wander around a hospital for the first time as a med student. I have done it before as a student for my current job, and I was so unsure of myself that I didn't really enjoy it. I'm grown up and experienced this time and am very excited.

I can't wait to learn to pop in a cannula. Yes, I know it sounds mundane. I've been trying to get into a cannulation training course at work for a little while now but never quite managed to convince management that it was necessary enough. (They would have thought it was odd if I had tried to convince them any more than I did.) I'm looking forward to doing it and getting good at it. (One day I may have to place one in a baby, and THERE AND THEN is where all of the practise and training will come in handy.)

I can't wait to actually spend time in various specialty areas as a medical student rather than somebody who breezes in and breezes out, just doing the requested service in the area. Areas that I'm particularly excited about spending time in include psychiatry (yes, I've heard the stories, but I've always been interested in it and am curious to see what it is like), oncology, gastroenterology, and surgery. I'll probably change my mind during the course and afterwards, but I like being excited about things and having something to look forward to.

This year is going to be so exciting. And exhausting. But I'm a bit of an Energiser Bunny when I need to be (I keep "goingandgoingandgoingandgoing") so I'm not too worried. I'm also old enough to know when to say stop. Thank God I didn't study medicine any earlier in life.

Bring it on, baby, bring it on!!