I’m hoping my absence from blogging will be an accurate representation of my lack of existence outside of studying right now! I’m sorry for the quiet; a post every other day may be just what I need to alleviate stress so I’m going to try and stick to that. For now….
I think I’ve found the trick to negotiating medical school (that sounds incredibly bold coming from someone who has only been at it for 2 weeks): I have to relinquish the need to know everything presented to me. I know that it seems counter-intuitive for a soon-to-be doctor to be choosing to actively ignore certain information or concepts but there is absolutely no way to master everything contained in the lectures and material we are given. Broad concepts, details and diagrams abound here and there’s only so much I can process. The faculty are constantly encouraging us to view medical school using the analogy that we’re trying to drink out of a fire plug. I think that’s an excellent analogy; I’m drowning, sopping wet and woefully uninformed about the availability of water fountains. Perfect. But in all seriousness, the analogy is true. We are being thrown material and we need to try and develop a big picture and recognize the details integral to processing the main tenets. Too bad everything seems incredibly important.
As of today, we have one week until our first exam and I have enough on my to do list of studying to last me three weeks. Condensing and consolidating-that’s the new plan. Fortunately we have access to past exams dating back almost 20 years. They’re an excellent tool for examining what material will be stressed but they don’t necessarily create a sense of ease. Instead, I feel literally bombarded by potential study tools. I think the first two exams, and intervening lecture and study time, are a test period. I’m still figuring out how to study, what materials to use, how to establish a balance…it’s really a process and I’m thinking I’ll figure out my own perfect balance in several weeks time.
I’ve noticed another medical school tendency (apparently I’ve become an observer since entering this institution): there are really good days and really bad days and it all depends on retention and the Socratic method. If I’m asked a question by a TA, peer, or professor and I can provide a response before they even finish the question, it’s a good day. I’ve retained information, been able to make connections and, most importantly, I’m able to sift through the absurd amount of knowledge I’ve crammed into my head without becoming overwhelmed. Bad days, though, are when I have no idea what anatomical structure someone is talking about or worse yet, I can’t even figure out what part of the body they’re referring to. At this point, we only have the thorax and lower extremity as options but that ain’t as limiting as you’d expect. Those moments are the absolute worst; they undercut every snippet of confidence or assurance you’ve established and push you headlong into hours of studying in the library…with no reprieve. It’s a very delicate balance between grasping the material and falling short and sometimes the boundary is so tenuous, it is tough to define. Maybe that’s the hardest part about medical school, not only realizing you can’t retain everything but actively accepting the fact that you won’t.
Up to this point, we’ve been immersed in a purely anatomical mindset regarding the approach to medicine and the body. Today we finally get to use the knowledge base we’ve established and start playing with stethoscopes and sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff). What a throwback to my first Playskool plastic diagnostic kit, complete with stethoscope, ophthalmoscope, and heart shaped band aids. I was always able to cure my sister; I have about the same capacity to heal now as I did then so I’m really excited to start learning something, anything, about the diagnostic process. Hopefully I’ll be able to find the pulse…gotta start somewhere.
Fun fact that I managed to learn while studying approximately six hours a day: rubella in newborn infants is often called the blueberry muffin syndrome. Don’t look up pictures-you’ll never feel the same about a muffin top again.
Until next time…