26 January 2011

Pumps and pipes

Currently studying the cardiovascular system so thinking about plumbing, pipes, pumps and the failure of these components.  For some reason, the physical aspects of hearts and vessels make sense to me in a way that my limited understanding of flow-related physics suggests they should not.  Subtle nuances of ECGs are not my cup of tea but electricity was an even worse topic for me in physics.  Working on the ambulance has finally come in handy for something though, I know more about ECGs than I thought by virtue of seeing hundreds and listening to folks trying to decode them or teach others to understand them.

Other pumps and pipes in my life are not being so cooperative.  After months of struggling with the temperature, I finally found someone to fix the electrical problem at the school house which was causing the upstairs to be unnecessarily hot.  Then the downstairs heat at our house seized up.  When it was -15.  All is repaired now but I don't really want to think anymore about pumps and pipes.

13 January 2011

I can do that?!

Some days I stop to think about what I am learning in medical school, what people are going to trust me to do when I leave this building soon and I am actually frightened.  EMT work was much less disturbing because in general, the people I could kill were already dead and I was not in the chair where the buck stopped.  But now, I'm going to be able to prescribe doses of medications that could become toxic before I see you again and some other doctor will be trying to figure out what went wrong.  Give drugs which will hopefully help but may irreversibly damage your heart, your kidneys or your liver.  Hold your infant when he is still covered with amniotic fluid and needs life-saving medications.  Try to stamp out the cancer that is slowly taking over your body by poisoning you with radiation. Of course I'm not going to do all those things, but the possibility is real.

I want to remember the feeling of awe I have right now.  I've never really felt like physicians held overwhelming responsibility or a position of great status, but I don't know how I'm going to meet the standards society expects.  I know that no physician starts out making all the right decisions, that is why we have such long training periods during which everything is reviewed and nit-picked to the finest detail.  As I'm accumulating textbook knowledge and seeing the science as more and more feasible to master, the next uphill battle is looking mighty steep.

06 January 2011

Trying to remember to be calm and think

After a bit more than a year break from writing to indulge in general medical school freaking out, a summer research project and the start of second year, I'm thinking about writing again.  Brief update: the man and I have adjusted to living mostly apart, we got a second dog and so far I've passed all my courses.  I feel like I might have a bit more to think about and say as I am pushing through the pathology of various body systems, approaching Step 1 board exams and clinical rotations.

Exams are heavily on my mind as the current curriculum includes an exam for each body system we cover (including the related pharmacology) and the ever-present specter of Step 1 lurking over my precious free time.  Why is Step 1 so stressful?  Because residency programs (post-medical school training in a specialty) use it to rank applicants and there is an overwhelming relationship between where you do your residency and what kind of jobs are realistically available to you afterward.  My school has contracted with a paid review program to prepare us for Step 1 and yesterday my class took a short practice exam that is supposed to help us figure out our weaknesses and focus our studying - I'm hoping that the biggest suggestion isn't going to be all the systems we haven't covered yet!

As a generally good test-taker, I haven't worried much about standardized exams.  I used some study prep materials for the MCAT because I'd been out of school so long, but I didn't really stress about the exam.  Step 1 is a whole other beast in my mind, it feels ridiculously important, overwhelmingly difficult and is actually causing me major anxiety.  In times of trouble, I always fall back on old habits - including trying to cram hours and hours of studying into my life even when it becomes ineffective.  I'm trying to remember perspective and focus.

Thanks for checking in, hope to write more for you soon!