Monthly Archives: May 2009

Full Disclosure

I’m tired and stressed.

I’ve reached the point where there’s stuff that I really do need to cover (cholesterol and muscle contraction, for two), and then there is other stuff that I have gone over twice or three times and really should know and probably *do* know but am not actually convinced that I know it, and that is making me freak out.

Apart from the girl who does the evening shift in Starbucks and a five minute conversation with my mother every night, I have not actually had contact with people who aren’t medics since last Sunday morning. I am hoping like hell that church tomorrow morning will improve my mood.

I had a moment, earlier on. I was sitting in my carrel and it all just got too much and I had to go and sit out in the stairwell and have a cry to myself. In the last two months, I’ve had maybe four days and another five evenings where I haven’t done any work, but, besides that, I have been going flat-out since Easter Monday and I want this to be *over*.

And if I don’t pass…

There is nothing shameful about doing resits. There is nothing wrong with things not going exactly the way you planned them. Really, take it from someone who did medicine by the scenic route — cocking up my A-levels was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

But this year, I don’t know what I’ve got left to give. I don’t know if I can keep going for another nine weeks.

I just want to be a third year.


Posted by on May 30, 2009 in Blog, Medicine


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A Commandment Worth Remembering

This week, I had the worst day I’ve had since I started revision.

I’ve had rubbish days and I’ve had unproductive days. There was the day when I tried to work in a study room in the QM, but that turns out to be a lot like working in a prison cell and it doesn’t really do much for someone who goes slightly crazy if she can’t see the sky from time to time. And the day when I had a complete meltdown over the conus medullaris, of all things. And the day when my study partners and I were sitting at the kitchen table, stressed out and stressing each other out and trying to learn things and really getting not a whole lot done. And the day of iron deficiency anaemia, when I came so very close to setting fire to Berne and Levy. Do you see where I’m going with this? The last five and a half weeks have not exactly been shiny and fluffy.

But this was different. Because in spite of all that, I’ve been happy. Mostly. I’m generally a happy person and I always try to look for a good side to everything, and I’m well aware that that might drive some people a little bit nuts, but it’s how I want to live my life and it certainly makes for a better experience than the alternative.

So, when I started staring at a folder full of notes and thinking dark thoughts and deciding that there was no possible way for me to pass this exam and wondering what kind of idiot I’d been to think I could do this and despairing over how slowly the work was going and how quickly the time was going…

It’s not like me.

I’d barely slept the previous night — going to bed very late (which was entirely my own fault) and then being woken up at dawn (for reasons that were unforeseen and totally unavoidable) combined to mean that I’d got maybe three and a half hours sleep, and looking at it from the other side of a good night’s rest, I know that I was cranky because of the sleep deprivation and the work was going slowly because of the sleep deprivation, and that the whole thing spiralled from there. I’m back to my normal, terrified-but-chirpy self now, but I know that I’m far from being the only student to have had those dark thoughts in the last few weeks and I read something today that I thought was worthy of sharing. It’s the conclusion to the new Hippocratic Oath:

“While I continue to keep this oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the Art, respected by all, in all times.”

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Posted by on May 21, 2009 in Blog, Medicine


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The good news is that our final piece of coursework came back and I don’t have any coursework resits, which means that I will be DONE as soon as my final OSCE is over. In fact, my aggregate coursework result will be an A or a B (never been too sure how the calculations work, and it depends on how well the critical appraisal grade is balanced out by the rest of them) so I’m very very pleased with that.

The other news, which was inevitable and therefore not bad, but is also not exactly inspiring me to jump up and down in glee, is that I have my final exam timetable:

Monday 1 June — 0930 — Paper 1 — Hunter Halls

Tuesday 2 June — 0930 — Paper 2 — Hunter Halls

Thursday 4 June — 1310 — OSCE 1 — Far Away Hospital

Friday 5 June — 0900 — OSCE 2 — Clinical Skills Suite


Yesterday, I took the day off — it was on my revision timetable as a day off, and now my house is clean and my freezer is filled with enough curry to feed a couple of medium-sized African nations for a fortnight. This morning was the final comm skills session of the year, and then back to work after lunch. It’s going to be a long, hard slog to the finish.

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Posted by on May 13, 2009 in Blog, Medicine


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Can It Be June, Please?

I’m a person who enjoys the simple pleasures in life — clean sheets, good cups of coffee, the smell of a new book, hot showers, a big bowl of rice and daal, the occasional morning off… And at this time of year, I appreciate those things even more. I take an extra five minutes to brew the real coffee. I wait for the moment when my muscles unknot underneath glorious hot running water. I think my bed is the best place in the whole world. I love my Sunday mornings off and I cherish them the way some people cherish diamonds.

So, you can imagine that I was deeply unimpressed on Sunday when I was walking towards the subway and, without bothering with little things like asking permission, my brain started to recite the signs and symptoms of pulmonary thromboembolism.

“Piss off,” I said. “Are you crazy? You’re not supposed to be working until one o’clock this afternoon!”

“Right ventricular heave and increased JVP,” it replied.

It’s almost ridiculous to think that I could have forgotten what it was like, this time last year. I remember the things that I did — all the nights of getting the last subway home, and living on pasta from Little Italy and coffee from Peckhams, and photocopying pages of immunology diagrams at midnight, and standing in the middle of the (empty) atrium and getting two verses into I Am What I Am before I realised exactly what I was doing. All of this, yes, I remember. It’s the relentlessness of it all and the utter physical exhuastion that comes along for the ride, that’s the part I had forgotten.

I don’t think I’ve ever worked as hard as this, and definitely not for as long as this. I worked hard for my BSc finals, but it was a lot easier to ‘question spot’ for them and, anyway, a big chunk of my degree class was based on coursework. And twelve thousand words of dissertation on a month-long antibiotic resistance experiment that failed spectacularly is hard work, but it’s a different kind of hard work.

In some ways, it feels a little bit good. I’m plugging away and making inroads and there’s knowledge in my head now that I didn’t have three weeks ago, and if I pass this exam, it will be because I have worked my bloody arse off. I crawl into bed at night and crash, and, for seven hours, I sleep the sleep of the people who have totally earned their sleep. But in other ways, I’m just so tired. In my revision timetable, I have a day off scheduled for next week (except for PBL, I still have to get up and go to PBL) and it’s like this enormous shining beacon on the horizon.

Did you know that one of the symptoms of total sensory deprivation is a reversion to childlike emotional responses? That’s us. The highlight of our day is getting a tick on the list of PBLs that have yet to be revised. And scrumpling up a piece of paper with a long long pathway that we just learned and scribbled out from memory, and then throwing the piece of paper at the wall? That comes a close second.

26 days. And counting.

This incoherent mess of a ramble is brought to you by a day of gallstones and hypersensitivities and stomachs, and, you know, it being two o’clock in the morning.

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Posted by on May 5, 2009 in Blog, Medicine


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