27 August 2009

First weeks: Survival

The information load during the beginning of medical school is massive, my science topics right now include gross anatomy, histology, embryology, physiology, biochemistry. These courses require massive amounts of reading and understanding of relationships, connections and general synthesis of information. The biggest problem is how to acquire all the information AND make those connections in the couple hours a day I'm not in class. One method would be to layout a coherent strategy of rotating through the topics for new reading, review and discussion, but my current strategy is more along the lines of reading and learning as much as I can for the next topic on the schedule then freaking out when I'm asked a question on an old topic that I "should know by now" and trying to emphasize that for a spare five minutes. Rather dizzying to be sure.

Then I've got three other, softer side classes, including one appropriately described as "how to be a doctor". I suppose it is good they require this class because some of the questions asked by fellow students seem to imply they believe they are training to be a life coach, a counselor, a law enforcement officer or something other than a physician. Community physicians come in and work with us in small groups on how to physically perform exams, how to get collect information from patients and then answer all our random questions on the social, business and lifestyle issues of being a practicing doctor.

The program I'm in also includes a large amount of "clinical correlation" which means that every time we talk about a scientific idea, we also get a patient presentation or diagnostic test result or something that would relate that idea to actually being someone's doctor. I can't decide whether I like the amount of it we get. I mean, sure it is great to go through some examples, but when every second or third paragraph in the text is interrupted by "this is why people get tennis elbow" or "clavicular fractures usually occur in this area" or "testicular swelling can cause discomfort", it makes for difficult reading. I know the program is responding to the complaints of prior students about making the information real and this is a nationwide trend, but I'm not convinced yet.

14 August 2009

Welcome to campus

So, this was the first week of Medical School, two days of orientation and three days of classes. Orientation was pretty much the only preparation I had for how many hours I was going to have to sit still in a classroom. I can't speak for everyone, but my undergraduate and even graduate education included a number of different classes, scheduled specific days of the week at somewhat random times which allowed for a long lunch some days or an early afternoon or less often, a late morning. The transition from having an active, moving job to sitting still has not been easy. Count me as fully unprepared for what 8 hours of lecture might do to my rear end, my brain and everything in between. Today is the first day I left the building before 5p and I haven't even been studying on site!

We have already started dissecting our cadavers and the good news for me is that apparently I've already killed any negative olfactory response with some of the other odors I've encountered on the ambulance for the past 3 years. The dissection promises to be an interesting experience and I hope I can feel confident enough in locating the structures not to be completely annoyed by the process. We've also been dumped into the deep end for physiology and histology, hopefully I'll be able to get on top of some of the material soon so I feel less than completely lost.

It has been a long time (if ever) since I have felt so out of place and overwhelmed in an academic environment. The only saving grace is that most folks seem to feel pretty much the same way which means I'm not way behind, but ultimately the assessment is based on competence not on a comparison to the other students. I guess the only theory right now is just to keep plugging along and do the best I can.

05 August 2009

Moving day, part 1

I can never decide if short distance moves are a curse or a blessing. There is less pressure to actually be organized and get everything done in one trip, but this also makes it drag on and on. Today K and I got a trailer, filled it full of stuff, tossed a couple more things in the back of the pickup and drove to the new house.

Before we left, I knew the power wasn't on in the new house, but it is mid-summer after all, so there was enough light to see by as we hauled everything inside. We resolved the power issue with a phone call I was expecting to be pleasant but was actually quite annoying and required me taking a certain "tone" with the company rep. Sorry to you company rep, but the lady the day before had quite clearly stated same day hookup was not a problem and made NO mention of an "extra convenience charge". Good news, just before we left this afternoon, the guy showed up and performed the magical 1.5 minutes of work required to "install" the power and we returned to life in the 21st century.

Problem #2 was discovered shortly after arrival, the water was off. K searched the basement and was unable to find a valve, so I got on the phone with the water company to make sure it was an issue with us and not with them. This rep was able to confirm that the account was square on their end, and eventually we found the valve. Which had been shut off because it was leaking. It had not been leaking at the time of the house inspection. The limited assortment of tools we took with us did not include a wrench large enough to tighten the valve and return water to the house. A visit to the locally owned hardware provided us a quick tour of the new town I'll be living in and a wrench, a pair of pliers and copies of the new house key.

Problem #3 was discovered fairly early on, but unfortunately this one has not happy ending yet. Apparently the stairs in the new house are so low ceilinged and so narrow that the box springs for the bed do not fit. We tried, twisted, moved, squished, wriggled and did everything we could think of and got the box springs half way up the stairs and entirely wedged. We were able to get it down again, but as of right now, I might be sleeping in the living room.

03 August 2009

Last shift

Tomorrow is my last full time shift on the ambulance, the last time I will be certain to work with The Asian. I've been gradually saying my goodbyes to folks as I don't know who I'm going to see again. Plus, turnover at the ambulance company is high enough that I'm not sure who will even still be working there by the time I work a few shifts again. It is weird to be saying goodbye to a place I never intended to stay. Three years of applying and waiting for school have made for some interesting times with a fun, caring group of people. There are a lot of things I've learned while working on the ambulance and it has been great experience.