Today I spent two hours taking a practice practical exam and I was oddly calm throughout! The awe-inspiring, second years set up a mock practical exam in our cadaver lab in preparation for our first exam this Thursday. There are 50 stations and we rotate every 90 seconds, urged on by the most high-pitched, irritating bell. Ding! You done messed that one up! It truly eggs you on.
90 seconds may seem like a really short time period but it’s more than enough time to identify the tag at hand and then proceed to question your answer, convince yourself you’ve identified an incorrect structure, and have a near panic attack. It’s just as much a test of endurance and resilience as it is a test of acquired knowledge. While there are 50 spots, there are 75 students, so after almost every other identification, you happen upon a “rest” stop. Those 90 seconds span what seems like hours as you review all of the structures you’ve seen and anticipate what is to come. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to experience the two-hour exam without having our grade at stake. Not only did it prepare me for what’s to come on Thursday, but it also gave me a good idea of what it is I need to address in terms of my studying and where my focus should be in the coming days.
I went back late this evening to look at some of the structures I had trouble identifying earlier in the day. You would think the cadaver lab would be an eerie, if not downright frightening place to be late at night but it’s oddly peaceful. Maybe there is desensitization creeping in to my attitude but there is such quiet and calm—there’s no frenzied activity or harried pace. It’s almost the only place you can find reprieve, so long as half of the class hasn’t beat you to the punch. I find myself moving slowly through the lab, finding what I need without feeling like I’m encroaching on someone’s space or using up valuable daytime studying hours. I always start with my lab group’s body and then move on to others. I’ve certainly developed a type of rapport, be it one-sided, with my cadaver. When she was tagged, twice, on our exam today, I felt instantly comfortable with the identifications because I was assured of my own knowledge concerning her anatomy. Our professors suggested that our cadavers are truly our first patients, and that we will learn more from them, and the gift they’ve bestowed, than all of our future patients combined. I think I finally realized what they have been saying when I approached our table during the practical today. Our cadaver has helped me become comfortable with terms, figures, and aspects of the human form that I couldn’t even name two weeks ago. She has taught me patience, care, concern, and selflessness. When we opened her rib cage the other day, and found extreme evidence of cancer, I couldn’t help but feel sad—I found myself hoping that she hadn’t suffered. This woman will forever be a part of my educational and personal development; I only wish I could find a way to better thank her.
I’ve finishing up studying, and this blog, prior to midnight. This is definitely an achievement for me; I may even be asleep before 1 AM. I welcome that. Tomorrow is another long day of studying before Monday hits and we only have two more lectures worth of material to cover before our exam. It’s the final push but only for this three-week stretch. 9 more weeks of anatomy to go!
Fun thing I learned while trying to memorize the lymph flow pattern in the breast:
The lingula, an extension of the left lung, “licks” the heart. Just a funky way of remembering its location!
Until next time (which may not be until after our first exam),
PS Cross your fingers for me on Thursday from 1-8. Yup, our exams are around 7 hours long. Why shouldn’t they be?!