Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Textbook addiction

Do you, or does anybody you know suffer from textbook addiction? If so, I can't help you - I suffer too.

You know the feeling - you are feeling completely lost in a subject (if you don't know this feeling, then I am jealous), and you just need to find a decent text that explains the topic well, particularly because you are going to be covering the topic innumerable times over the coming years of study.

You go to the bookstore and they call to you from the shelves:

"Aren't I nice and shiny? Review my lovely colour pictures! Observe my informative flow-charts and clinical review boxes! With the knowledge contained in these pages you shall become an expert, or at least proficient enough to create a coherent exam answer! You just KNOW that you'll fail without me, right?"

I usually try to resist, but while studying medicine it is awfully difficult. There are so many areas that we cover, and so many wonderful textbooks. They look interesting. Most of them were written by actual medical doctors. They have pretty pictures.

The other day I had a quick review of the books that I have bought over the last 6 months. I counted them. Let me just say that I won't be buying any more for a little while yet.

Now if you'll excuse me - I have to go and read a lovely shiny textbook.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Grand rounds

Thanks to Fat Doctor for including me in Grand Rounds this week.

And thanks for Milk and Two Sugars for submitting me - I would not have thought to do it myself.

It is always nice to feel appreciated.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mmmm, Prostate Cordial

I went to the pharmacy today to pick up some moisturiser, as it is reaching the time of year here where my skin decides to spontaneously peel off. That is, if I don't moisturise with some heavy-duty moisturiser.

I was simply astounded at increase in the number of "alternative" therapies being promoted on the shelves. Including "prostate cordial". Seriously. The mind boggles.

Now, I realise that there are a number of things that conventional medicine does not treat particularly well at the moment (although new and wondrous things are always in development), and people have every right to choose their own forms of treatment. This is not an argument against alternative therapies.

It is just that it seemed like there was something really wrong about selling alternative therapies at a pharmacy. The public at large tend to trust pharmacies and pharmacists, and a product that is sold at a pharmacy is more likely to be seen as accepted or endorsed by the medical community.

Nothing makes me more angry than people who suffer because they listened to some "alternative" health care provider who told them some unproven treatment would heal them where conventional medicine would not. I'm talking about the people who hawk alternative treatments to people in the early stages of cancer, which at that point is entirely treatable. When the patient persists with this alternative treatment and dies when they had a very good chance of going into remission because the cancer was caught early, I believe that the person who "advised" them about the alternative healthcare should be subject to criminal charges. This is the kind of "alternative therapy" that gets makes me furious.

My concern is that, by selling weird alternative products on their shelves next to more reputable products, a pharmacy business is endorsing them as a product of equal value, at least in the eyes of the members of the public who don't like medications and get drawn in by claims of a product being "natural". The last time I bought cough syrup, the girl behind the counter of the pharmacy tried to get me to buy some herbal elixir instead. It cost three times as much. I politely requested the regular variety.

Where does accountability for this kind of thing lie? I am not suggesting that all of these situations are life-threatening. But surely there should be some standards for selling what are essentially expensive placebos in the same business where most people go to get their regular medication?

How do qualified pharmacists feel about this kind of thing?

Saturday, April 14, 2007


I am occasionally on-call for my old job at the hospital. I am unsure of how call works in other countries, but for nursing and allied health here, we give our home phone-numbers to the hospital, who call us in during the night if we are needed.

Sometimes I can get called in four or five times during the night for my job. As it is a twenty minute drive to the hospital (and another twenty minutes home again), it can be quite gruelling.

Everybody has their own feeling and experiences with call. I thought I would share mine.


1. Driving home when everybody else is asleep. The whole world is dark, often the road shines and reflects the street lights, and no-one is moving except for me and the bakery trucks.

2. Working with a group of people in the middle of the night when it isn't terribly rushed or stressful. I love how people seem to pull together and become more of a team out of hours. You stop being an anonymous face known only by your job title, and become an individual.

3. When I get home and the rest of the world is sleeping, except for my cats. It is their day-time, and they get so VERY VERY EXCITED that a human is awake and moving around at the same time they are. They get inexplicably happy. I love it.

4. Feeling like you are going into work to be part of a team and make a difference.


1. When the cats become disappointed that the one awake human in the world has gone to bed, and decide to pounce on my husband's legs to see if he will wake up instead. This is a trick that gets discouraged.

2. Arriving at the front door of home only to have my mobile phone go off and be called back into the hospital before I can even undo the lock. I once had this happen three times in a row. The third time, I started crying. One of the nurses saw how haggard I looked and of her own volition called around her area of the hospital to make sure that there was no more work for me before I went home again. (This little bit could be moved back under "Love".)

3. Changing back into my pyjamas only to be called back in again straight away. Now I sleep in my clothes.

4. Being called when my on-call time is over, and there is somebody else who does my job actually at the hospital doing a shift. This usually happens while I am asleep recovering.

5. Telemarketers who call during the day while I am asleep after working all night after a full shift the day before, and have 10 hours off to recover before it all starts again.

On-call is different for every person, even those in the same job. Sometimes it helps to focus on the little things that you love about it. It make the nastiness a little sugar-coated.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Baking + Eating = Metabolism Study!

I have one more day until my holidays are over. One more day. *sigh*

I am working the entire mid-year break, and then we don't have another holiday until the end of the year.

I take small breathers during the day all the time, so it really isn't a problem for me. For anybody who feels stressed, I can highly recommend getting into a routine where you go to a cafe and sit down with a hot beverage (decaf skinny latte, in my case) in a real cup/glass. Find a nice cafe on your way where you can take your time. Make it a part of your routine. Sit there, read, study and soak up the ambience. I love it.

So what should I do with this one last day?

"Study, study study!" says the evil shoulder Study Bunny.
"Listen to your evil shoulder Study Bunny!" says the good shoulder Study Bunny.

Actually, I am going to be spending a fair portion of tomorrow studying. Thank goodness I actually like learning what we study, otherwise it would be painful. I am also having a study session with a friend during the day.

Perhaps during a lull we shall break out some past exams and spur ourselves into studying some more. I can envision at least one lunch/snacks/diet coke/BAKING SUPPLIES run. It doesn't take long to make a batch of cupcakes. We will be studying glucose metabolism, so baking cupcakes is practically study!

I haven't made anything from "How To Be A Domestic Goddess" by Nigella Lawson for a very long time. I'm excited. But not as excited as my inner Study Bunnies. They tell me that I am not allowed any cupcakes until I can tell them how glycogen storage works. They know that I am highly susceptible to bribery of the cupcake kind.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

And now for some more fun fluff . . .

I don't hold with Tarot cards having any mystical abilities at all. I think that the value that they have is the same kind of value that a Rorschach inkblot test would have. Your interpretation of what you see in the cards is more about what your mind is thinking at the time than anything special from the cards themselves.

Anyway, here is a pretty picture:

You are The High Priestess

Science, Wisdom, Knowledge, Education.

The High Priestess is the card of knowledge, instinctual, supernatural, secret knowledge. She holds scrolls of arcane information that she might, or might not reveal to you. The moon crown on her head as well as the crescent by her foot indicates her willingness to illuminate what you otherwise might not see, reveal the secrets you need to know. The High Priestess is also associated with the moon however and can also indicate change or fluxuation, particularily when it comes to your moods.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Does this mean I am going to pass? ;)

Thanks to Audaci for the link.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Happy Easter, or the Return of the Study Bunny

I hope you all had lovely Easters. Mine was sweet, relaxing, and chocolate-filled, just as a good Easter should be.

Sadly, due to the fact that it is now the Easter holidays, I have to begin my process of revision for the upcoming exam. I have never had to schedule revision for 17 weeks of semester before. The logistics are . . . interesting.

Anyway, the next few months are going to be a teensy bit challenging. I'm not going to be able to have more than one drink at any social function, considering that I will either be studying immediately after it is over, or early the next day. Instead of being a Designated Driver, I am going to be a Designated Studier! God help me.

To cope, I am going to have to metamorphosize into the medical student version of a lycanthrope - I will become the Study Bunny. As the above picture shows, the Study Bunny is not at all cuddly. Except when she wants to be. Then you had better close your eyes and hang on to your teeth.

The Study Bunny can be found in several places, generally around large piles of paper, coffee cups and signs saying "Sit still and pass!" Her natural habitats include PBL rooms, study areas in homes, or frequently at the drive-through at McDonalds during a Diet-Coke run.

If, for some unknown reason, you want to locate a Study Bunny, wait until the early hours of the morning, when you can listen carefully for cries of "What on EARTH is the Bolam Principle? Gaaaa! I hate ethics! Why do I even need ethics??!! I'm a MEDICAL STUDENT! I'm never going to treat an Ethic! Aaarrggh!"

If you happen to be unlucky enough to reside with somebody who has morphed into a Study Bunny, you can defend yourself from random attacks. Similar to more traditional monsters, Study Bunnies also have their weaknesses. If you wish to placate the Study Bunny from a distance, leave a nice, chilled bottle of beer or box of chocolates in the nearest fridge. Your Study Bunny will have developed a sixth sense for anything fun or procrastination-oriented by this point, so will soon be making a beeline for the fridge without really knowing why.

For extra brownie-points, leave a note. A nice note. Add hugs and kisses. Do NOT make the note a To-Do list.

If under attack by a Study Bunny (have no fear, the bite does not pass on this form of sickness), arm yourself with the holy chant, "I'm so proud of you and all of the work you are doing! Well done!" This may disable the Study Bunny, and even cause a barrage of tears. Know your nearest source of tissues.

Instead of a cross, the Study Bunny can be warded off with a large piece of paper detailing the time and date of the exam. This will frighten her so badly, she may run the other way howling.

Things likely to infuriate the Study Bunny include:
1) Scheduling an unnecessary family function during her two-month-long full-moon. She will be furry, fanged and in no mood to attend.
2) Going to a fantastic party during the same time period. She will want to attend, and will become even more fanged and furry out of anger at not being able to make it. If you ARE crazy enough to attend by yourself, do NOT come home and say that it was the "best party ever". You will die. Slowly.
3) Spending all weekend doing nothing except drinking beer, watching tv and playing computer games, only to complain that you feel exhausted. There may be bruises involved in this one.
4) Telling the Study Bunny that she studies too much. The Study Bunny needs encouragement, not an excuse to procrastinate.

If you live with a Study Bunny of your own, don't fear - she will be back to normal and fur-free before you know it. If you want to help even more, schedule her a leg wax and back massage in the days after the exam as a nice surprise. Nobody hates being a hairy-legged stressed-out Study Bunny as much as the Study Bunny herself.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Another baby post

It is funny how life seems to go on around me as I sit and study medicine. Several people close to me are very pregnant and due soon. Being a similar age to them and also married, it sometimes feels odd that I am not going to be having children any time soon. Odd, but a relief.

There are two things that I have done in life that have helped me enormously when dealing with small children: owning cats and working with babies and little kids. Sure, saying that having cared for cats for years helps with children sounds strange to begin with. But think of it like this: cats make up their own minds about what they do and don't want to do.

If you have to make them do something, such as taking a tablet or even holding them when they don't want to be held, you have to be able to do it quickly and with the least amount of distress for them and for yourself, no matter how much they don't want to. (Fortunately babies aren't born with massive claws. Or sharp teeth. Not that I have ever been scratched badly or bitten by a cat, but it would be one less thing to worry about.)

Holding squirming cats has made me good at holding squirming babies. I also seem to talk to babies as if I am talking to one of my cats. Which is just darn weird. However, they seem to like it. By the time they are past being treated like cats (at around 1 year or so), they are more like cheeky little people, who I can deal with as long as I get to hand them back.

Working with small children as part of my old job helps, too. If I could stand in a hospital room flailing my arms in the air and cheering without feeling silly while being a working professional, I can do it in a private residence without even flinching. It is much less likely that the Departmental Director will walk past you and complement you on your cheering skills while you are at a friend's home.

I am very much looking forward to dealing with babies clinically for the first time, as a medical student. They are so different from the average adult patient that it will be quite novel. Of course, there will probably be quite a few comments about me getting clucky from my (much younger and unmarried) fellow students. Meh. I can live with that.

So friends have their babies, and I have my medical degree. I need to make sure I am living in the meantime, as well as studying. Fortunately, I still have a semi-active social life, as well as a husband and a home furnished with cats, which helps.

I think that studying medicine is actually very good for me. I am less stressed and am actually living my life much more than I did when I was working full-time. (I used to have to run out to the nurses' station and for Gastrogel shots on a regular basis on the bad days. There were a lot of bad days.)

I actually have goals outside of study that aren't even work-related. Sometimes as we work on things we fully intend to get better at, we grow in ways we never expected. I know that as exams approach this might change a little. But it is still there to begin with, which is something I never accomplished while at work.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A thought or five

I really have to thank Funky Mango and MrHunnybun for tagging me with the Thinking Blogger Award that is doing the rounds. Thanks, guys, it is nice to know that people enjoy reading what gets written here. :)

Here is the picture:

I like the fact that people are passing on their appreciation, but I will also add that if I reference anybody here, they don't have to continue the chain. Here is the site that started it all.

Actually, I am going to include blogs that have most likely already been included somewhere else before in this. Some rules were made to be broken, and if I like reading these blogs a lot, other people probably do as well:

1. Shiny Happy Person and her posts at Trick-cycling for Beginners. An insider's view of what it is like to be passionate about psychiatry and about the difficulties working within the NHS, where apparently water features rate higher than working phones in the budget.

2. Fat Doctor's posts. I love reading about life that happens alongside being a doctor. As somebody who has vowed to make sure I make time for things that matter, I love reading her posts.

3. Terrible Palsy. I love reading about life from her perspective, and how she is fiercely supportive and protective of her son (and indeed, all of her children!) while working towards giving him as normal a life as she can. She also provides excellent insight into being a parent of a special needs child trying to get assistance from a government that is . . . less than supportive.

4. Shrink Rap is an excellent blog written by three psychiatrists in the USA. Their stories about their different fields of work give great insight into working life as a shrink.

5. Creating the God Complex. MedStudentGod writes some very funny posts that are often cynical yet highly passionate about his role in health-care. Any young, budding med-student wannabe with stars in their eyes should have a good read and learn a few things about medicine and life.

Well, that's my little list. If you look to the right, I have listed the blogs that I read compulsively, so it should be clear that I enjoy them. I read others too, but just haven't quite gotten around to linking to linking to them yet.

Honestly, I never liked "awards" anyway. They always made me feel paranoid and left out. So if you are on the list to the right, you all make me think and you write great blogs. So there!


After tomorrow is over, I am going to be on holiday for a little over a week. I am so excited!

It is mostly going to be revision time, of course, but the fact is that I don't have to go anywhere near uni for a whole week! No PBL! No Learning Objectives to hash out the night before when I would much rather be memorising/understanding things!

(Unfortunately I'm not the kind of learner who memorises from looking up the answers to questions from PBL. Sad but true.)

After that, we only have two months until our mid-year exam, and I am terrified. I know that the chances are that I will pass, but it doesn't stop the fear.

Fear is not a good thing for me. I am currently so nervous about missing something on a patient interview that I am often the last one to jump in and start questioning mock patients. This is a shame, because I LOVE talking to patients. I find them to be so very interesting and like learning things about them.

(N.b. This is not in a creepy over-involved sort of way. I just like seeing people as individuals, not as "patients". In my "real" job, I once met a female patient who got to work with one of the first computers in our country when she was studying at university. She told me that the computer took up a whole HUGE room and that she had to take her shoes off before she went in. The best bit was that she told me this story in front of a student I was supervising. The student went from seeing her as just another old lady to seeing her as an educated, intelligent individual with a rich past. It is amazing what you can learn about people in the space of five busy minutes. I love moments like that, when you prove that you should never underestimate or stereotype people from what you see when you first look.)

I have never been a person who jumps into something fearlessly. I like to know where I am, what I am doing and how I am going to do it before I even start. I look on at those who leap in with jealousy, as I envy their confidence and lack of Angst. Apparently I was this way as a toddler, so I am a little more forgiving of myself about it these days! I just have to get in there and give it a go. I suppose that when I actually do something, I want to do it very well.

Thinking about study, at the moment I feel like I am in a little boat, trying to negotiate my way through a very dark and stormy sea, being battered every which way. Every time I think I see land to steer towards, I get blown off course, lose sight of the target and have to start again. Fortunately I am in this sea with a LOT of other paddlers! We might be feeling lost, but we are all in it together.

Yes, I know it is melodramatic. But I'm a medical student, not an author! ;)

Sunday, April 1, 2007

A change of outfit

I have changed the colour scheme of the blog. If it painful to look at, please leave a comment!

An utterly unforgiving post

I have worked out what kind of neighbours the new people next door are - they are SQUABBLERS. With a good dash of the Squealer and the Whinger added in.

Ok, so we all have the odd argument from time to time. However, there is NO NEED to make it so loud and dramatic that the whole neighbourhood can hear you.

You are not in a movie or a sitcom. Nobody wants to listen. We just want you to shut up. If you get loud enough and start screaming, the police may be called, because we can't tell the difference between your squealing from annoyance and your squealing from being beating with a heavy wooden object. (And I would never want the latter. Not really.) Maybe then you will get an idea of how utterly non-glamorous screaming, squealing and whingeing at each other is.

I don't know where they are from, but when they start screeching I get flashbacks to Kath and Kim. Except this isn't funny, and you can't turn the mute function on.