Friday, 22 November 2013

End of pre-clinical medicine/Revision begins

There are two quite significant things which have been playing on my mind today:

The end of pre-clinical medicine

So today was our final day of pre-clinical teaching. As of today we have been taught all of the necessary basic sciences (anatomy, physiology, pathology, etc) which we will need during the clinical phase of the course and as foundation doctors. In a small way I'm feeling a minor sense of achievement - since last September we have covered A LOT of work and so far I've managed to keep up with most of it. In that way I'm quite happy with myself - before starting medical school I remember feeling very overwhelmed by my masters degree and being worried that I'd immediately fall behind with all the lectures and so on at med school (of which there are much more compared to any other undergraduate degree). But for the most part is has been largely okay (so far).

It's also pretty cool to think that now I've got a good basic understanding of every aspect of the human body - I know I spend a lot of time moaning and being stressed out by this degree, but deep down I really am interested in how the body works, what goes wrong with it and how to fix it. Reading about body facts, etc, was something I used to do quite a lot when I was little, so in a sense today is the satisfaction of a sense of curiosity which I developed early on in childhood, and that feels very good indeed. But I know it'll feel even better if I can pass these exams and actually get to put this stuff in practice during the clinical phase of the course!

I'm also very happy that I (hopefully, assuming I pass) will never have to go to any more crappy small group work sessions again. Seriously, I really like everyone in my group, but it's been such a waste of time really - I could have worked much better through things at my own pace!

Most of what we have learnt has been very interesting, including the non-sciencey stuff too (e.g. sociology, etc). The only problem is that due to the intensity of the course and lack of time for revision, stress has overshadowed the genuinely interesting aspects of the course. I try not to let that happen too often, but unfortunately over the past 15 months it has happened quite a bit. Honestly, it has been very, very stressful at times, though from what I gather, the way I feel is pretty normal amongst med students. But, all things considered, I know that doing medicine has definitely been the right decision for me, and I feel I've gained a lot of knowledge and fulfillment from doing this course - and that definitely makes me feel content with myself.

Exam stress

My attitude towards exams (with just over two weeks to go) has been alarmingly bipolar lately in that sometimes I feel completely on top of things, and like I have plenty of time left to do revision. I also try to make myself feel better by telling myself that since I did well last summer hopefully that means I can do okay this time round too. I usually feel like this when I've managed to make a good deal of progress in a single evening or managed to get my head around something which has been really stumping me (usually neuro).

Other times, I feel totally overwhelmed by it all and a sense of fatalistic resignation. It's all feels like it's too much because I only have just over two weeks to try and make the first two years of a normal medical degree stick in my head, and what's worse is that next month's exam will mostly concentrate on the modules which have been taught this term i.e. the ones which I don't feel particularly confident about anyway.

The really annoying thing is that I often alternate between the two opposites of "yeah I can do it!" and "I'm totally fucked" several times in one day. It is beyond exhausting and stressful. For example, today, I wrote up a number of neuro lectures including a rather tricky one on cranial nerves in the afternoon. I felt I'd made some real progress so I spent the afternoon and evening feeling genuinely okay about the exams next month. Then tonight...all of that confidence just ebbed away slowly as I realised just how much I still have left to do. About an hour ago I made a revision timetable for the next two weeks, and I've been feeling mildly panicked ever since - it just feels like there's way too much to do and not enough time!

There are times on this course when I've literally felt like a little child who's afraid of the dark or a spider or something. I can't describe why I'm afraid of it or what I want to do about it, I just want to hold onto something or someone - anything or anyone - for some comfort, and for it to just go away. Basically, I need to be told that it's going to be okay and that I can do it, and more importantly I really need to believe it myself. I'm not fishing for compliments here, but this is really one of the few places where I feel comfortable enough to vent and express these kind of deep feelings freely, so I guess I just need to get these worries off my chest because there's really nowhere else I can be this frank about just how scary it can be.

But ultimately I'm not a child and there's no security blanket out there for me, I need to try and get through my own issues - but it's going to be a horrible fortnight. That much I know.

Today has been beyond confusing - on the one hand I've felt a real sense of adult accomplishment at finishing something as demanding as the first phase of a medical degree...and on the other hand I've literally felt like a scared little kid. I just really, really, really hope that I can pull this off next month, god only knows I need to unwind a little over Christmas!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Coming up for air

So it's been a while since I last updated this thing. It's pretty obvious from reading my last entry that about a month ago I was feeling really down and I was heading for a crash of one form or another. As it happens, that crash came a few days later in the form of a (normally dormant) health condition which reared its ugly head again and meant that I ended up going back home for a period to recover.

I'm fine now, and in a way the time off was useful because it helped me destress a bit and I returned to uni feeling more hopeful about things. I should also add that the condition is NOT stress related, so the fact that it happened at a really stressful time is just coincidence (or perhaps serendipity...).

Anyway I've been back at med school for about three weeks now and I'm feeling a bit more optimistic about my chances and prospects regarding next month's final pre-clinical exam. One of the biggest things which was stressing me out about a month ago was my renal module and how behind I felt with it and how tricky renal physiology is to understand. Thankfully, I've now largely caught up with it and, even better, the bastard loop of Henle is now starting to make a bit more sense so it's not as awful as it first seemed.

That said, I do still feel like there is an awful lot of content to revise before next month's exam and we still have another week of classes to go before we go on study leave. I think I've arrived at a vague conclusion that I simply won't be able to revise everything in equal depth with only two weeks dedicated revision time, so I am trying to focus more on nailing key topics rather than getting bogged down in the finer details of things which are less likely to come up.

For example, I could spend an entire evening trying to memorise all of the million and one respiratory gas laws which we were taught - something that's unlikely to come up and even if it did, would only count for a few marks - or I could make sure I understand the physiology of ventilation and gas exchange inside out. Or COPD or asthma or anything else which is more likely to come up. It's a slightly risky strategy and not one which I feel comfortable with since last summer I actually managed to revise everything, but I can't see any other way really - there's simply too much to cover and not enough time. I'm also trying my best to keep up with year 1 content because I feel that since I've already passed it once, it could potentially be easy to gain marks in again...especially since I would consider last year's modules to be my strengths.

Generally I'm just happy to be in a better place than I was last month. Yeah, I'm still pretty tired a lot of the time and I don't like the cycle of "wake up-uni-home-revise-sleep-repeat", but at least I get to sleep more easily nowadays and having finished writing up all of my anatomy and physiology notes, I now feel more confident as the clinical stuff is much easier for me to revise (and way more interesting). So really, I'm just hoping that if I keep plugging away at it, I'll get a decent result come December.

Thank you for all the reassuring and helpful comments which were left on my last post...they definitely helped cheer me up whilst I was recovering at home!