Thursday, May 31, 2007

Finish line . . . so close, yet so far

I have to say that I am thoroughly looking forward to exams being over.

Walking around uni near the other medical students, you can tell that everybody is on edge. People are more rushed than usual, less chatty and sometimes appear rather shrill and desperate. Or perhaps it is just me.

Last night I missed several of my favourite TV shows because I was busy doing past exam papers, and I didn't even notice. I didn't even take the time to record them. Stress.

You can tell why we are all terrified - none of us have ever done a medical exam before. There is an infinite amount of information that we COULD learn if we had forever. The aim is to learn as much as possible and understand it enough to be able to either pass the exam or excell, depending on what kind of person you are.

I don't want to blitz the thing (but if this happens, I wouldn't complain), but I would like a good, solid pass.

My ultimate nightmare is opening up that exam paper and not knowing a damn thing. I haven't started to have nightmares yet. I will probably start to have them after the exam is over and done with, and I'm trying to relax on my holidays. I think we had better all get used to exams, as it will be our lives for the next twelve or more years. Joy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fat Doctor, you have made my day!!

Welcome back!

I was feeling a little bowled over by everything in life at the moment, but I read on creatingthegodcomplex that Fat Doctor has returned.

I'm so happy.

The only things that would make life better would be if I blinked and lost 10kg by magic, and then somebody backed a truck up to my house and dumped all of the best medical textbooks in the world on my doorstep. Oh, and I got a certificate from the university that said I have automatically passed all of my exams for the next three and a half years because the same magic process that took away the 10kg also implanted the knowledge and expertise of a fully-fledged doctor in my brain.

But now I'm just being ridiculous.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What is the true value of lecture attendance?

Another day of study, another day of pounding through the information hoping that enough of it sticks.

Does anybody else find that they get next to no value out of most lectures? I sit there, try to take notes and listen, but I know that if I spent the time reading through excellent textbooks along with the lecture notes we are given on the web, I will retain and understand so much more!

Why don't I get a lot out of lectures? One problem is that when they move too fast across a difficult concept (or one that I personally find difficult), I get bogged down and have trouble moving on with later concepts that require understanding of the previous idea. Now, the tests and education I had to get to start with should be some kind of guarantee that I am not especially thick, so it can't just be me.

If I were at home going through these notes myself, I would stop at the point at which I had difficulty, refer to a textbook (or, God forbid, "the Internets" ;) ) understand it in a few minutes and move on, getting much more value for my time and actually doing some study that I would have to go back and do later.

Another problem is that sometimes the lecturers come out with statements that don't quite sound right, from things that I or the people around me have studied before. I have heard some slightly off-kilter claims about certain topics that are claimed point-blank as fact when I know that they are contentious at best. This makes me entirely less likely to trust the rest of what the lecturer says, and want to run home to my textbooks or Pubmed instead. Usually I get fixated on the point, and the rest of the lecture is a waste of time.

So why do I even bother going? It is the one time during the week that I see several of my friends. It is nice to catch up with the people you WANT to spend time with of your own free will, rather than the people you are lumped together with in your PBL group (as lovely as they may be). In theory, I could replace this with coffee for the days that I actually have to be there.

I also like most of the lecturers as people, and feel that if they were giving a lecture that was only a quarter full, they would feel bad. I know this sounds silly when I write it down. Perhaps I should strike it off the list! Or just go to the lectures of the lecturers I like. (Kidding!)

There is also the fact that during the lectures the teacher sometimes goes over points that they don't cover in the slides. Unfortunately this is now almost irrelevant in our course. In the good old days when the lecturer was the one teacher of your subject, you could rely on them giving hints about exam content. Nowadays our lecturers don't even write the exams, so there is no guarantee that the same information covered in the lectures will be specifically covered in the examination. The questions are drawn from a broad pool of questions submitted by a massive number of universities, and they base their exams on questions from this pool. I know that this potentially standardises the quality and knowledge of graduates but it somehow makes the concept of the lecture a little less exciting.

So those are my reasons for and against lecture attendance. I'm not about to skip out of it entirely, it is just something that I have to take into consideration when my day is full of both lectures and study and there isn't enough time for both.

Monday, May 28, 2007

More study stuff . . .

I just thought I would add another post about the way of studying that actually DOES work for me – and yes, it is making sure that I understand how things work and find them interesting.

Memorising lists just doesn’t work any more as a sole method of study – not that it ever really did, it is just that in undergrad when you have 5 exams, with one exam per subject and several days in between each exam, you have time to go over, memorise and revise your little lists. It won’t get you great marks, but you will pass.

In medicine, that just doesn’t happen. Sure, there are lists to learn. But they generally need to make sense so that you know what you are talking about, otherwise you will not understand what you have learned or how to apply it, or in the worst case just forget what the list is completely.

We have to memorise and learn so much in medicine that the only way to really get it to stick is to understand it well. That way, if you forget a little part of the entire situation (which is me all of the time!), you can logic it out to a point where you recall what it is that has slipped your mind.

And another thing – Diagrams Are Your Friends. Particularly simple ones. If you have a complex one, either make it simple, or break it up into lots of simple diagrams. Unless you are a freak with a photographic memory. I’m not. I need simple.

I love arrows. I love diagrams. I used to love prose, poetry and lengthly, interesting phrases. Now, if it is short and has pictures, it is the best thing in the world. Oh, how things change!!!

How much more things are going to have to change when I get out there and start studying for specialist exams . . .

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I'm still hanging in there

Just a quick post for anybody who reads this blog to let you know that I'm still hanging in there. Exams are very close, and the Study Bunny has me locked in a cage in the corner with only my notes for company. He keeps threatening to hook me up to a caffeine drip, but I tell him to sod off because I don't go in for that stuff any more.

This is an interesting stage of medical school for all of us little first years. We are currently studying hard for our first big exam. I am surprisingly not as stressed as I thought I would be, however I think that this is because I am relatively confident that I will pass. I tell myself this because stressing excessively will result in me burning out, and there is just no point in that. I am here to live as well as to study medicine.

Ironically it is my paranoia and insistance on studying the whole way through that has resulted in me being more relaxed now. I'm not saying that it will lead to brilliant exam results (I almost never get those) but it means that I'm feeling more human.

If I pass and finish the degree, I'll become a doctor, the same as the person who freaked out and got straight high-distrinctions and the Dean's Medal. As the old saying goes, P=MD. (It isn't that I don't care about learning a lot - I do care. It is just that I am interested in learning as much as I can to be a good doctor, not so that my knowledge translates into an excellent test score.)

I'm still enjoying learning the things that we are, even this close to the exam. This probably means that I have some major psychological coping mechanisms in place, or that I am in the right place doing the right thing. I can't wait for next year, when we cover more pathology and more clinical information.

Other people in my course aren't coping so well with the stress of it all, but I am hoping that they will calm down after the first Big E is out of the way. Hey, it's just an exam. They should come and hang out and study with me for a bit. We'll be fine. Study Bunny says so.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Sleepy Time

Studying the metabolism of alcohol just makes me want to go and crack open a nice crisp cold beer that is sitting in the fridge.

Sadly, I probably should stay away from the alcohol from now until my looming exam. I don't need any more excuse to all asleep on the couch instead of ploughing through past papers and textbooks.

Does it scary anybody else how quickly knowledge seems to seep out of your brain, even when you have actually studied the material a few months ago? This is really quite annoying.

On the bright side, if I have studied the information before and understand it, I can either work it out myself or it doesn't take too long to re-learn.

I occasionally hear reports about it being more difficult to learn new information the older that you get. This scares me a little, because not only am I not exactly an infant any more, but I am going to be studying as a registrar in my mid to late thirties. It is entirely possible that I won't quite be a consultant until I am 40.

I have known some wonderful registrars in that age group who did excellent work, so I shall choose to ignore the anecdotes and just get on with the work!

My brain is so sleepy right now.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Farewell, Fat Doctor
Another one of my favourite bloggers is gone, due to conflicts with work.

Fat Doctor, who has to be one of the most popular medical bloggers on the web, was outed at work, and has had to close down her blog.

If you read this, Fat Doctor, you will be missed. Best wishes with your future.

I shake my virtual fist at whoever showed your work to your boss without even having the courtesy to talk to you first.

I'll try to work out what happened to Flea - his blog seems to be gone. Kevin, MD has written about this, too.

Also, Dr Dork is currently on hiatus.

On a completely different topic, congratulations to all who received their GAMSAT results today. (GAMSAT is the Australian version of the MCAT.) The wait for results was long, but I hope it was worth it!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

8 Random Things

Thanks to Milk & Two Sugars for tagging me with this meme. I have been a little slack lately with blogging (and definitely with a dearth of quality posts, sorry!), so I felt it would do me good to reply to this one. I shall try to make them a LITTLE interesting.

Here goes:
1) I don't prefer beer or wine. As long as it is good quality and goes with whatever I am eating at the time, I am happy.

2) I have always had trouble getting to sleep, even when I was a baby. Medicine is curing this. (Studying medicine, not taking them!) Hooray!

3) I have seen a counsellor before, and thoroughly recommend going to see one if anybody feels like they need somebody to talk to. It is surprising how upset you can be without really knowing.

4) I hate clowns. I just hate them. I would rather cuddle a crocodile. Seriously. Ugh. There should be a law against them.

5) I have seen both Elton John, Bono and James Morrison (the jazz musician) in person. They are all surprisingly short.

6) I have terrible taste in clothing, but secretly long to have any kind of fashion sense. Unfortunately, I'm just too cheap.

7) I love marzipan. (Wow, these are just getting more and more profound! Aren't you glad you are reading this? Seriously, go and read something that improves your brain and your life instead. ;) )

8) I love gadgets. I love new, shiny technology. New, expensive toys at work make my life worthwhile.

And a ninth one, just for extra value and to make up for number 7:

9) I am obsessive about details. I am flexible, but like to do things a similar way every time, in set sequence, and make sure it is all done, thoroughly, and in meticulous detail. I care about my work.

There you go. I'm not going to tag anybody. I have been reading textbooks and need to go to bed. If any textbook authors read this, I tag you. Why not? You never know.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Another day, another new week, another new topic at uni.

I am really enjoying getting to know all of these wonderful concepts. Human physiology is just fascinating, and I wish I had studied it earlier.

I love reading about something that I have only had a rough idea about until now. When I read about how it works (even from a first-year medical student perspective) it is like a light goes off inside my head, and suddenly things I have learnt or noticed before actually start making sense.

I feel so blessed and lucky to be where I am right now.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Where to go, what to do?

I can tell that I am in procrastination mode about my upcoming exam.


Because I am currently thinking more and more about what kind of specialty I want to get into. I had a chat at work on Wednesday with an anaesthetist who got me thinking about anaesthetics. She hadn't planned on getting into it at first because she thought it would be boring, but had the opportunity to try it for a year and absolutely loved it. She finds the physiology, the drugs, and the challenges absolutely fascinating. Because her reasons were reasons that resonated with me, I began considering it, too.

This is interesting, because it is an area that I would have never thought about getting into until I saw it from the perspective of an anaesthetist. My main concern would be the ability to stay awake. Perhaps I need to take up sodoku, crosswords, or the ability to read lengthly journal articles while keeping one ear open. (I'm working on the last one now at work. You never know, it might work . . .)

However, currently obsessing about this would be silly for many reasons. In Australia, we don't have to start specialising until at least a year or two after we finish our degrees, as we work as interns and residents. Anyway, I'm just thinking about things. Obsessing would be silly for many reasons at this point in time, including:

a) If I don't pass the upcoming exam, I won't fail this year outright, but it will be a hell of a lot more stressful and will be a bit of a blow;

b) I know for a fact that I will change my mind many times, possibly even during my intern and resident years. While this is not wise and it won't make for the fastest career progression, it is just how I am.

c) I am focusing on something far away rather than the things that are more pressing and in front of me.

At least I know that I want to specialise, which in a way is motivation to study.

So I'll just sit here, sipping my glass of white wine, enjoying the smell of dinner cooking slowly (thank-you, Nigella!) and do a couple of past exams. If there is one thing I am good at, it is passing things, surviving and getting by. A wise (but young) doctor I work with once described me as a seeker - I won't settle for not being happy and will look for what challenges me and keeps me interested. I don't know it that is my other skill, or a curse.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Bon appetit!

I love to cook. And considering the incredible variety of cookbooks on the market (as well as fantastic magazines like Delicious) it is clear that I am not alone.

What do I look for in a good cookbook? It should never be too big, or attempt to cram too much information in using fine print. These books are nearly impossible to use, don't tend to have interesting pictures or stories, and probably won't get used as often. The recipes should never be too exotic as to be impossible to find. The recipes should ALWAYS work.

I'll share a personal story about a kind of cookbook that I love. At one point several years ago I was undergoing some major changes in my life, and was staying overnight in the house of my sister-in-law (who happens to be an excellent cook and presents dishes in immaculate ways I will never have the energy or creativity to manage).

I kept waking up what seemed like every few minutes with what felt like terrible anxiety attacks. I could feel them coming on as I was asleep, and woke up terrified each time. The last one was so bad that I didn't dare try to return to sleep straight away. I got up, trying not to disturb anyone, had a shower and got dressed (at 2am), and went out into their living room to try to find something to read. If you have ever tried to do this in a strange house where you don't even know where the light switches are, you will understand that it is a challenge! There on the bench-top amongst a pile of cookbooks was a cookbook by the Two Fat Ladies.

I loved the pictures in this book, and I especially loved the stories both about them and about their food. I had never watched their television show, so I was fascinated - my God, those women have some incredible anecdotes! It calmed me down and distracted me to the point where I managed to return to bed and sleep the rest of the night, possibly dreaming of a couple of middle-aged overweight women chasing pheasants through the countryside, with an old-fashioned hunting rifle in one hand and a pound of butter in the other. (This has never happened to me again. The panic attacks, not the dream!)

I imagine that the connection between stories and good food is much older and deeper than the current trend of celebrity chef cookbooks, and that is probably one reason why we enjoy these books so much. The family gathering around a great feed where we all feel loved, understood and share our lives is something that is important in most cultures, and holds great emotional value to many of us.

If we can't have the old-fashioned feasts any more, we can at least enjoy good recipes and good anecdotes, as well as learning a thing or two from people whose backgrounds are wonderfully different to our own.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Time for another drunken post . . .

. . . huzzah!

There is nothing quite like going out to dinner with friends and having a fine time, even if (as it was this evening) for no reason in particular apart from celebrating the successful end of another day.

I think that we should all concentrate on living in and celebrating the here and now much more than we seem to. I don't think any of us are personally responsible, but I have a theory that we are all conditioned by society and the media to focus on the negative.

Have you ever noticed when you turn on the news or pick up a newspaper that the majority of the content is very negative? It is something of which we should all be consciously aware. I believe that if we take too much notice of it, it can get us down.

There ARE terrible things going on in the world, and we should be aware of them and care. But spending a lot of time being miserable because of a combination of the evening news and of the little mundane things in your life that get you down is simply going to waste your time.

I have mentioned in a post before that I believe that we should enjoy each day as it comes and not wish our lives away, and I am going to say it here, again. Partly because I really believe it very strongly, and partly because I had a glass or two of nice wine with dinner.

One of the most relaxing holidays that I have ever been on involved going to a place that had no televisions, newspapers, radios or mobile phone reception. It was in the middle of the rainforest, had lovely food, luxurious surroundings, and a spa bath in every suite. It was so relaxing to just be able to focus on what you saw arround you, all in the present moment.

Life is stressful enough without all of the added worry that the evening news brings. Try switching it off for a week and see how much more relaxed you are!

You don't have to be unaware of what is going on in the world - reading the internet news can keep you informed. There is just something about the uncontrolled content, pictures and presentation of the nightly news that can be stressful.

Anyway, if there is nothing else of value in this post, please go out to a nice dinner with friends and have a glass of wine or two, not for any particular reason, but because you want to and you value a good time and good company. Life is too short to need excuses to enjoy yourself!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

I'm back

Please excuse my recent lack of regular posting. Things haven't been running as smoothly as I would have liked and I am busy navigating rather stormy seas. I'll be fine, I just have some buckets to bail before things start to sink.

I'm sure you all know what it is like - you think that you know something or can do something and then the rug gets pulled out from under you and you don't know which way is up or quite where you are standing at that point in time.

Everything is fine, I have just been very busy and have needed a little breathing space. Exams are close, I'm feeling stressed, and I like things to be just as they are supposed to be. Frankly, I'm a little too sensitive and compulsive about certain things for my own liking sometimes.

One day I will learn to relax and just go with the flow. Baby steps. Have you all seen, "What About Bob?" I love that movie.