Tag Archives: Stress

That What You Fear The Most

I spent so long being afraid I didn’t know enough, or that I wasn’t working hard enough, that by the time exams were upon me I had lost the power of sleep.

Even after a relatively pain-free first hurdle – the clinical examination – I still didn’t trust myself.

Two days later in the first or our written papers, my head was so fuzzed I couldn’t connect what I knew with the questions on the page – and I working at a snail’s pace, I simply ran out of time.

So, like Crazy Mary, what I feared the most just met me halfway.


Filed under Med School

The Finals Countdown

My final exams start a month from now, to the day. Between now and then I have four (count’em, four!) more days in General Practice, one more Emergency shift, six days on campus, and gaps in my knowledge you could drive a truck through. And so it is triage time.

I am hoping that, somehow, the things I don’t know I know are greater in number than the things I don’t know I don’t know. As these two knowledge groups are inherently unquantifiable, I will only think of them again if I need to confuse somebody.

Which leaves me with the things I know I know and the things I know I don’t know. Right now I feel like the split is about 20:80 – that said, the 80% is probably half things I have forgotten and need to embed in conscious recall, and half things I have just not got around to reading up on.

I feel a bit sick now.


Filed under Med School

Whip It

Ninety-five hours after the last ‘pens down’ and the annual season of sleeplessness and self-flagellation is almost behind me. Not that I’m still sleepless and whipping myself – I just think it would be premature to declare the season closed before the release of results.

Unlike previous seasons, I’m not actually sweating on results. My performance was not without flaws (OSCE Eye Examination: Please let me forget you) but for the first time in the history of me and medicine, I feel reasonably confident that what I did was enough to pass.

There is a little voice in my head which wonders whether this is a delusion, but it can shut the hell up, I’m having a holiday.

For the sake of my future patients, naturally I would like to do more than just enough to pass. This desire represents the start of the annual season of trying to do things a little better than before. Past experience suggests that no matter how much time I spend now trying to organise myself into having notes that look more like the notes people might want to share with other people, by the second or third week of semester I will have a plastic bag full of loose sheets of scribble and seventeen unsaved word files on my desktop.

See? I told you the season of self-flagellation wasn’t quite over.

On the flipside of all of this: I am getting a much clearer idea of what works for me in terms of learning medicine, and I’m not a total doofus. While there may be only one more set of exams between me and graduation, I still have to qualify as a fellow of some kind of college – which means more exams. I’ve concluded I need to shift my strategy from the current ‘don’t freak out’ to something a little more constructive, like… ‘keep reading and trust what you know’. And maybe try to reduce the number of notepads I write notes on from double to single figures.

Despite the horrible stress of the lead-up, when they finally arrived I have to confess that I actually enjoyed the exams. I don’t know whether this was because of the immediacy of the challenge, the catharsis of releasing all my bottled-up knowledge, the sheer relief of working my way through them and having them behind me or some other mysterious factor. I hope that this time next year the memory of having enjoyed them will be stronger than the fear of failure and I will be able to prepare for exam season with a sense of anticipation and joy rather than dread.

Hahahahahaha. Ha.

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Medicine is for Masochists

The closer I get to exams, the more I hate myself for my stupid lack of study coherence and the less I remember why I am doing this to myself. And to those around me. [insert flogging noises]

I’m waking up at ridiculous hours and it’s not helping me remember all the things I need to know. And yet I am stupidly easily distracted. I need a burrow or something. A burrow with a heater, some blankets, caffeine and food I don’t have to think about or wash up after.

Meanwhile my long-suffering MPYCC is sweating over Law lectures and generally tearing her hair out over my vagueness and the simmering sub-surface stress that accompanies this time of year.

Medicine. Seriously, why?


Filed under Med School

Yum Cha My Life

I have been boring/busy/uninspired lately so have spared the world the detail. Now however I feel like downloading a sampling of tasty treats from my consciousness. You could probably drink a nice cup of jasmine tea while you read it because I fear I may be about to babble.

It is one month precisely until exams. Starting with OSCEs, which stand for something about Clinical and Examination and other than that I’m still at a loss. Suffice to say that a month from now I will be required to do 13 stations of ten minutes each in which my clinical competence will be assessed.

This week I feel I am completely prepared for the “Close the Curtain Around the Bed During Ward Rounds” station and the “Theoretically Sanitise Your Hands With Stinky Pink Antimicrobial Handrub” station. Other than that, I feel my competence needs some finessing.

Failed attempt at inserting IV cannula today, needs more practice. See above.

Currently on the ward we have a patient who is 101 years old. Day one on ward rounds, she grabbed my hand and clutched it throughout the consultation. I felt some kind of connection with history and a good-going tremor. Anyway, we are clearly friends.

Day two on ward rounds, she asked me if I have any Chinese blood in me. Not that I know of, though people do seem to think so on a relatively frequent basis. In practical terms, this translates to people speaking to me in languages I do not yet recognise, getting chili on my Vietnamese chicken rolls as a matter of course, and not being denied such delicacies as beef tendon or chicken feet when at Yum Cha. Non-membership still has its privileges.

Day three, today, my super-centenarian announced straight up that she owed me an apology for asking if I was of Chinese descent. I assured her that no apology was necessary. Apparently I reminded her of a friend (insert potentially-patient-identifying historical facts here) from some time before the television was invented or possibly the gold rush era. I have no clue as to why this should offend me.

Straight after this consultation my entire team suddenly felt a desperate desire to know my ethnic origins. Which are distinctly unremarkable. I look like my grandma, though not quite as wrinkly or diminutive. Possibly certain of my great-grandfolk came from Wales or Cornwall or the Baltic states, but no, generally I don’t deserve the chicken feet.

Speaking of feet, I have been doing some running in a now-thwarted attempt to get fit, get healthier, decrease my pre-exam stress levels and generally have a low-cost low-maintenance sporting and social outlet. Most of that worked, except that I apparently have done something to irritate my sciatic nerve and now it has been suggested I stop running for a few weeks. Back to the swimming pool. Annoyed.

In January 2010 I had Yum Cha twice in two days and I haven’t been able to eat it since. Primarily because this town does not extend to Yum Cha. But still.

Girlfriend is such a stupid word for someone I’ve been living with/in love with for eleven years. Partner is too sterile. Fiancée is illegal. My Most-Preferred Yum Cha Companion will have to do for today. Naturally I am worried that this is somehow an offensive term. She is probably more worried that it is 10:40pm and I am not yet asleep.

Tonight I ducked out to drop the DVD equivalent of chicken soup to a nosocomially-infected friend (Series II, Friends) and on my return, my MPYCC was casually whipping up a sweet ginger syrup to accompany some silken tofu we happened to have in the fridge.

My life is pretty good.

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Filed under Family, Food, Med School, Uncategorized


This is the fourth week back at uni, I am in third year, and I am supposed to know stuff. Sadly for the last week or so I have found myself completely thrown by the simplest of questions.

Read an ECG? Blank. Describe the sounds inside that lung? Blank. Save the life of Sim-Man? Blank.

Where I get really frustrated is when I know that I once knew something and I can’t recall it. I know I used to understand how ECG worked and how to read it; I’ve left it for too long and I can only get halfway there.

These frustrations have been adding up. I’ve been getting increasingly stressed, grumpy and despondent. I’ve been feeling like the biggest dummy known to medical school, ever.

Yesterday I had a reassuring talk with a registrar who I followed a couple of weeks ago. He reminded me of the endless sea of medical knowledge, and that we can’t hold it all no matter how much we swallow.

Still, I hate not being able to spit stuff out when it counts.

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If Wishes Were Fishes I’d Have A Rainbow Trout

After loving psychiatry so much, my rotation through the maternity ward reminded me of all the things I will miss out on if I follow the psych pathway instead of rural general practice like I had always planned. So the seed of doubt is planted.

Luckily I have a good few years to figure it all out and see where I best fit. That’s assuming I pass everything… Exams are more than seven months away but I’m already starting to feel some niggles of apprehension. I think this is mainly because of my intractable lack of organisation. Grand intentions and massive failure to follow through.

I feel like I need a system and I don’t have one. Bits of mind maps, bits of flash cards, bits of handwritten notes, bits of typed up ones. I doubt I’m the only med student in the world who struggles with this, but the balance of evidence suggests that the majority have neat folders, stacks of home made flash cards, and reams of tidy notes which are complete and cover a single topic per page.

I basically have a couple of lumps of blutac, some string, and a dog-eared spiral-bound pad of coloured paper covered in multi-coloured random scribble and semi-logical diagrams. Couple this with a misshapen muesli bar, a paper clip attached to a blue rubber band, a petrol receipt and one of those individually-wrapped tropical fruit Mentos you get at conferences, and you have my study compendium.

The electronic equivalent is presented below.

Or, Mac 'Sticky Notes' And How They Work For Me

How about that… Informative and colourful.

( … help me … )


Filed under Med School