Friday, May 26, 2006

It Takes a Village

It's Friday night and I'm totally exhausted. The week from Hell came and went...and I passed all of my finals! We didn't get our hematology grades back yet, but we were told that if we had failed, we would have been notified.

And I was not notified.

13 exams in one month. 6 of them were this week. Studying (cramming) a semester's worth of information into your brain the night before a cumulative exam, that would stand as your grade for the entire course, was daunting. And this happened 5 nights in a row!

It was a struggle to block out everything else going on in life to sit down and study a different subject day after day. Knowing that once you finished a 100 question exam, it was time to hit the books to tackle the next one. There was no time for distraction. No time for relaxation. No time to smell the roses. No time to simply have a bad day! I felt more like a robot than a human being as the week dragged on. A robot that had a few screws loose and was about to short circuit!!

The pressure over the last few weeks left me feeling really vulnerable and I found myself leaning on my family, friends and other classmates to help me get through it. Although I know that's a natural reaction to high stress and pressure...I don't like feeling that way. But, I'm lucky and grateful to those that stood by my side, listened to me and encouraged me.

It Takes a Village...and in my case...a village that spans the globe!"

Muchos gracias. Domo arigato gozaimasu.

Thank you very much!!!!!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Great Story!

Now this is a doctor that I wouldn't mind working with! (Although his buddies taking his blood should be wearing gloves!)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bloody Insane!

This morning's Hematology exam was a mess. This is the third class that this instructor has taught us and his last three exams have been challenging, but fair. So, we weren't expecting a torturous exam. The first ten questions sent quivers throughout the classroom because you could hear people moaning and groaning.

We all left the classroom feeling the same way and saying the same thing, "I think I failed."

Unfortunately, those words came out of my mouth too.

There's no time to dwell on it though...cumulative dermatology exam 20 hours from now. It's rumored to be a very challenging exam...

...the insanity continues.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Halfway There...

It's Tuesday and three exams are behind me...three more to go.

Surgery Part 2,
Physical Diagnosis,

Tomorrow: Hematology (not fun)
Thursday: Dermatology (interesting)
Friday: Rheumatology (somewhat interesting)

The worst part about finals week is the lack of sleep. It's the lack of sleep that exacerbates the anxiety, fear, tension...that leads to panic, tears....and more tears! Cramming a semester's worth of work into your brain the night before a cumulative final exam that accounts for your entire grade for the semester is INSANE. Absolutely insane.

This week has been the toughest week to get through since the program started. This finals week makes last semester's finals week seem like a cake walk. And I'm sure I'll be saying the same thing when Semester 3 comes to a finish. Word has it that next semester is harder b/c all of the exams are held to the end...and it's the summertime!

Summer + PA School = Lethal Combination

Saturday, May 20, 2006


I have diagnosed myself with a new disorder.


This disorder does not currently exist, but I'm sure every PA student in the country will back me up. Perhaps I'll write my senior thesis on this subject.

Springtime Attention Deficit Disorder (SADD).

I had no problem hitting the books in the Fall and Winter. But, ever since the birds started chirping...I have a much harder time concentrating on my studies.

Unfortunately, I think this disorder will carry through the summertime...

My motivation at this point is simple. I want to go to Washington D.C. for Memorial Day Weekend. If I pass all of my finals this week, I am off the following week. If I don't pass my finals, then I have to stick around to take a cumulative make up final. And that would ruin my plans for the weekend.

I basically only have one non-married girlfriend left in this world!! And she lives in D.C. We always have a great time together...and t-rex is definitely in need of some F-U-N!!!

6 more finals to go....

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Commitment Phobia

I can't believe that we finished our last class for semester 2 tonight!

Only 6 more exams (in 5 days) and then it's over! Unbelievable.

What's even more unbelievable is that I start rotations in less than 4 months! We were given a "wish list" a few days ago. We have to do 7 required rotations in family medicine, internal medicine, OB/GYN, pediatrics, long term care, ER, and surgery. Each rotation lasts 5 weeks. But, we also have to repeat one of the required rotations and choose an elective rotation. The elective rotation can be anywhere and doing anything. For example, forensics, plastic surgery, neurosurgery, cardiothoracic surgery, dermatology, psychiatry etc.

I was overwhelmed by all of the options and unsure of what elective I wanted to choose. The kicker was that the "wish list" is due tomorrow! Yeah, we were given 3 days to map out our future. We are able to change it as we go along next year...

So, for now I chose to repeat either primary care or emergency medicine. And I chose infectious disease, psychiatry, and dermatology as my three elective choices. We'll see how that turns out...I know I will be changing my mind often. I am somewhat of a commitment phobe!

But, that's the beauty of this profession...unlike MDs...I can change specialities throughout my career. I just want to make sure I get a very well rounded rotation experience!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Million Dollar Baby

Going to the gym is my way of dealing with stress. 30 minutes on the arc trainer and life is good again! If I have extra time to lift weights...birds start singing and rainbows appear! As busy as the program keeps me, I still try to get there at least 3 times a week.

Last summer I took boxing lessons with some of the other personal trainers at the gym. I saw the boxing trainer trainer tonight and he started asking me about the program. I guess I sounded like a sissy, because he smirked at me and reached for his gloves.

He handed me the gloves and told me to start throwing punches. It felt good to be "back in the ring" again. We sparred together but he never actually hits me (hard, anyway). As we were sparring he kept yelling at me to keep my guard up. And he said something that really struck home..."Step into the Punch!"

"You know you're going to get hit and if you shy away from the punch, then you're going to knocked out! You have to step into the punch and take it. Then fight your way through it! Keep you guard up and step into the punch!"

So, I'm done being a sissy with this school stuff.

My guard is back up, and it's time to start stepping into these punches!


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Welcome to Hell!

So the feeling I had a few weeks ago that I was just going to cruise through the rest of the semester has been obliterated! There is a lot of stuff going on within the program and as a result, they've added on two more exams. Basically, the admin "forgot" to give us the surgery mid-term! So, now they added on that exam as well as another pharmacology exam. Apparently, the admin "forgot" to put antibiotics on the exam we took the other day. So, they're throwing together another exam for that.

Of course my class wasn't going to take this without a fight. So, the director of the program addressed the class and apologized for the miscommunication and carelessness of the staff. He also opened up the floor to hear all of our criticisms and concerns about how things are going. There are a handful of instructors that do not take their job as seriously or as professionally as we (as a class) would like. So, once that was revealed, I was surprised that the director actually took it to heart and promised that he would look into it. He is the type of guy that you DON'T want to get in a confrontation with!

He came back and addressed the class again the next day and told us that he is addressing all of our concerns. He even typed up a 3 page memo detailing the changes that he's making in the program. He also asked us to type up an anonymous letter with any other concerns we have about our education and the instructors. I was impressed...very, very, very impressed.

He went on to tell us that we are an exceptional class. He said that some of our concerns are the same as previous classes and that some of our complaints are common at all PA programs, especially at this stage in the game. But, he said that our class approached the issue professionally and that he is pleased with how well our class gets along and at how well we are all doing. Apparently, the senior class does not get along and they have a lot of problems. Our main class is next to the director's office and he says that he never heard so much laughter coming from a PA class before. There were other experienced instructors in the room that agreed with him.

So, that was very encouraging. But, then he went on to talk about the summer semester and our rotations in September. He went on to tell us that we are in HELL and will not be getting out of it anytime soon. He sympathized with our situation by acknowleding the stress we are under and the fact that unless you've been through this process you don't/can't truly understand it. The truth of the matter is that it's only going to get more intense, especially when rotations begin.

I tried to walk away from the meeting focused on the good stuff that was highlighted. But, it is getting tougher in the sense that we all feel like we don't know a damn thing. And they tell us that is exactly how we're supposed to feel. But, that is NOT a good feeling! As much as I enjoy learning about medicine, there is a constant, nagging, feeling of vulnerability and insecurity. And the realization that all of this training (torture) is for a J-O-B!

I know things will get better again once we get through the next 2 weeks, but we're all freaking out. We're all questioning the process. We're all wondering how and why we got ourselves into this in the first place! So, we moan and groan and tears of frustration are pretty common. The thought of keeping up this intensity for the next year and a half is daunting. Knowing that it will get worse come September is downright frightening! But, as a class, we pick each other up and that is really what keeps us going. That is what keeps me going. I also bank on the satisfaction that will come when I start treating patients. It's a short program, but a long road to travel.

And right now we're traveling over some bumpy ground.

A Glimpse of the Finish Line

Semester 2 Completed Classes!

Final Exams on Deck:
Lab Medicine
Surgery (2 finals)
Physical Diagnosis

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Simple Life

I was talking to a friend the other day about how I feel like the weight of the world is back on my shoulders. He questioned why I felt that way and I didn't really have an answer. Besides the 10 final exams that are waiting for me, life is good. But, there is a heaviness that comes with this program, with this responsibility...with practicing medicine. And some days that heaviness simply wears you down.

But then my friend broke it down for me, in very simple terms. "You will study, you will pass these exams, and then you'll start the 3rd semester. You will study, you will pass exams, and then you'll start your rotations. You'll study, you'll pass your exams, and learn during your rotations. And then you will graduate, and study, and pass the board exam. And then you will work as a PA."

I couldn't argue with him, because he was right. But, it does not feel that simple. There is so much to learn about medicine and it's impossible for one person to know it all. And therein lies the responsibility...the heaviness.

On the flip side, if it were that simple...I wouldn't be interested anyway!!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Semester 2 Countdown

I really cannot believe that Semester 2 is coming to a close. Three finals are done...only 10 more to go!!

This week was a rough one though. I spent the majority of the week recovering from a stomach virus. That was not fun and it made last week's jet lag seem like a piece of cake! When you're not feeling great, it's hard to focus on anything...especially studying.

Today was our Pediatrics final exam. I did really well on the first two exams but I had a feeling that this exam was going to be a doozy. And, although my gut was out of whack this week...I was right. One of the best things about my class is that we all seem to react to the exams in the same way. And it feels really good when you walk out of the classroom and see your classmates in the hallway with expressions on their faces that match exactly how you're feeling.

After several minutes of moaning, groaning, and bickering about answers, we wind up laughing at each other and at ourselves for the different reasons why we chose an answer. My personal favorite is, "when in doubt...pick all of the above!" We've learned by now, that life goes on after ridiculous exams...especially on Fridays when Happy Hour begins at noon!

I have learned some very useful skills over the last few weeks. I've learned how to insert foley catheters, nasogastric tubes, and draw blood. Learning how to draw blood has been my least favorite experience. I do not have a problem dealing with the sight of long as it's someone else's blood! I do not like to have my blood drawn. I do not like needles going into my own arm. And I do not like having students practice drawing blood on my arm!

I was lucky though since my partner was an experienced phlebotomist!

Trust me, that was not a lucky coincidence! ;)


If you took the cast of Scrubs and filmed them during the didactic year of medical school, you'd get a really good sense of what it's like to be in my class! Tonight was yet another episode full of laughter!

We had two hours of Physical Diagnosis lecture tonight and the MD featured the entire two hours on the RECTUM. Normally this MD gives us powerpoint handouts, but tonight he told us that he just wanted us to sit back and learn by observation. Yup, that meant that we looked at slides of different rectal disorders for 2 hours!!! It was downright disgusting!!!!

The doc lecturing us has a great sense of humor so that encouraged the other comedians in the class to bring it up a notch. I laughed so hard that tears were streaming down my face.

It's nights like this that carry us through...