It has been only a few months since my last post, but can I just say that I feel about fifty years older than I did in July?
Second year of medical school is in full swing. By full swing, I mean this is literally the first day since the beginning of August that I have laid on my couch and watched TV all day long. This school year has been CRAZY. I remember the good old days of first year where we only had an exam every third week and I could spend the weekend following that exam relaxing. Ladies and gents, those days are gone.
At Boonshoft, our MSII classes are much shorter and faster than first year classes. To put that into perspective, by this time last year we had only covered anatomy and a small portion of biochemistry. So far this year, we have had an entire overview of the year, our neurology course, our psychiatry course, and a hematology and chemotherapy course. In other words, I’ve had a significant exam, final, or quiz about every five days since the beginning on August. YIKES. I don’t know how else to emphasize the stress, mental and physical strain, and utter insanity of the past few months other than to describe the changes in myself that I’ve seen.
For starters, I’m usually a pretty high-stress person. I was told in second grade that I was a worrywart and that pretty much stuck my whole life. Until now. During our foundational course for the year that took place in August, called PB&T (Pathobiology and Therapeutics), we had an exam covering over 500 net pages of new material EVERY. WEEK. People, that is insane. As you could imagine, I had a great (horrific) time worrying over and stressing about the material, how I could study that quickly, when I was going to shower, etc. On week three of that course, I basically hit the limit of my stressing capability. This will come to anyone who knows me as a big surprise, because usually I can muster up a good amount of fretting over just about anything. On that particular pre-test weekend, though, I quite frankly ran out of stress. Since then, I find that I am significantly more pleasant before exams, I’m pretty sure my blood pressure is lower, and I’m even sleeping better. Nice work, medical school.
Speaking of physiologic changes (don’t worry I won’t get super nerdy), I think I LOOK older. Not necessarily in the best of ways (as in I now have wrinkles underneath my eyes), but regardless, the stress of the past year and a half is definitely beginning to manifest. Before our white coat ceremony, we get pictures taken for a “baby book” that administration kindly compiles for us. This book has our picture, our interests, our undergraduate information, and the like. The running joke at our school is that by the time we graduate, we really WILL look like babies in those pictures. I already believe it.
Of course, all these crazy personality and physical changes didn’t happen without a bit of medical school fun. This year, having hardly any time to do anything outside of studying, I’ve begun to enjoy studying quite a bit more. I realize that sounds insane, but let me explain. The material we are learning this year directly applies to hospital work. I can now call my dad (who is an anesthesiologist) and talk to him about some of the drugs he uses on the job. My clinical vocabulary has significantly expanded: I can reason through nearly any medical word I encounter simply because I’ve become so familiar with all the roots. I’m learning more advanced clinical techniques like the female pelvic exam, and we are practicing focusing our patient interviewing skills around specific symptoms. I am finally starting to feel like a real medical student! Sure, it means I live at school (I literally just spent 18 hours a day at school for the past four consecutive days), but the fact that I’m finally starting to really learn medicine is amazing.
Aside from the thrill of feeling like a physician-in-training, I’ve gotten more enjoyment out of learning because of a group of people with whom I now study. Every pre-test weekend we live at White Hall as a sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated, mildly psychotic family and it’s just precious. I’ve spent more time with that group of people this year than I probably have alone (Wow, typing that makes me realize how true that is.). The connections we make, the knowledge we gain, and the late-night shenanigans that we experience together makes all the studying bearable. We are definitely all in this hellish but amazing world together, and we help each other get through it.
The next two weeks are the only two weeks of the entire school year thus far that will not include any graded activities. For me, that means taking time to sleep, cook, relax with my family and friends and cat, and shop around for some good anti-ageing cream (oh boy). I think I’ll celebrate by kicking it all off with a nap.