Friday, January 3, 2014

what I learned my first semester of medical school

Well. I'm officially am one eighth of the way to becoming a doctor. I've taken the last week and a half since my last exam to both reflect on how much has happened, and to try to block some of it out as well. I've heard it's kind of like childbirth ;) Here are some of the things I learned my first semester of this crazy (crazy stupid?) journey to becoming a doctor:

say goodbye to free time! After working for two years in a fairly normal 9-5 job, with free evenings and weekends and holidays, going back to school means saying goodbye to that joyous amount of freedom. What was once spent watching my favorite TV shows, reading blogs, playing with my dogs, hanging out with friends, and shopping is now spent huddled over text books and atlases, trying to figure out what exactly we're supposed to know for the upcoming quiz/practical/exam (spoiler alert: you have to know everything). Once in a while, when your brain refuses to think straight, you'll allow yourself 18 minutes of free you can either use it to nap, or cry.

oh yeah, there'll be crying and it is usually ugly crying over your textbook. I don't think I'm that emotional of a person, but sometimes after weeks of not sleeping or eating normally, and being a whole appendage behind in anatomy, and you don't know how you can are going to keep all of those arteries straight, sometimes you just sit at your desk and cry into your atlas. Other times you may cry: when your bread is moldy and you don't have time to get more. When you forget your lab notebook with all of your notes in it at home. When you feel guilty that you aren't spending as much time with your pets. When all of your life plans kind of go to shit. When you have to cut a human head in half.

cadaver lab is single-handedly the grossest and coolest thing you've ever done. I don't think there's a lot that can prepare you for being pushed into a room with 60 medical students, 15 dead bodies, and 3 professors, and told to take the bodies apart. If you're lucky like I was, you'll have lab partners that make the experience fun. Cadaver lab is stressful and confusing and aggravating, but fun and exciting too. Sure, seeing a pelvis get cut in half can really mess with your head, but how many people can say they've held a human lung/heart/bladder/ in their hands? Someone donated their body so that you can learn from it - that's crazy! You feel a connection with them and feel you can't thank them enough when it's all over.

coffee makes the world go round. I'm certain that coffee should somehow be included in our tuition - free coffee for all! When really...

you'd much rather be drinking. Too bad sucker. You have an exam every Monday from now until the end of the semester. That's what Monday night drinking was invented for.

you'll forget how to human. In our history and physical class (where we learn to take...history and physicals), we're taught all about basically how to be a doctor. Introduce yourself like this, wash your hands like that, ask questions like this, look at them in the eye this percentage of the time. As you sit in lecture you're like yeah yeah, thank you, I know how to talk to people....until you walk into a room with a stranger pretending to have something wrong with them and you just....freeze. Words don't come out right, you forget to ask important questions, you don't know how to end the conversation, do you shake their hand when you leave? WHEN DID I FORGET HOW TO HUMAN?

Some days, this is all you can think about. I wish I could say that I felt confident about this whole medical career thing these last couple of months, but sometimes it's just like...what have I done?! There's so so so much left to learn, so many years of little sleep in my future, and sometimes I feel like I'm putting my life on hold for indefinitely to do this.

oh, and you pay $300K for this experience. The interest rate is getting higher and higher? Awesome.

but i promise it's not all bad. there's a lot of great things too. I was lucky enough to find a really great roommate who will have dance parties in the middle of marathon study sessions, who takes care of my pups like they are her own, who became a confidant in times of stress, and just an overall wonderful person to have around.

you get to play doctor. Granted, learning to put a cast on during one casting clinic is not actually learning that much, but it was pretty sweet to pretend for an hour. Makes it all feel a little bit more real than just sitting in lecture learning about action potentials.

you may learn a thing or two. or 2 million. At the end of the semester, I was feeling like I wasn't any smarter than I was when I started back in August, until I was reminded of how much we actually learned. All of gross anatomy! Embryology! Histology! Biochemistry! Core Physiology! Microbiology! Immunology. 30+ credits worth of science, all in one semester. I learned all of that, was tested on it, and then told a hundred times that I can't actually forget any of it (whoops).

it's really not bad at all. You get the chance to be a student again, "hang out" with your friends all day (granted, hanging out involves text books), you make your own schedule, you get a few weeks of vacation (that you don't have to save up PTO for), you are learning things you'll actually need to know for the rest of your career, and at the end of it all, you'll be in a position to save lives.

That's pretty sweet.