Thursday, March 24, 2011

Another strange first

Tomorrow we have a huge hand-in. One is a 2000 word essay on medical humanities for which I've been studying theatre craft. It seems a little odd at first but there's a great deal of overlap in the skills of the arts and medicine, although clearly the knowledge base is hugely disparate. After all we are humans, working with humans, practising on humans. Our bodies sadly don't always accept the rules of science, that is if our minds even let us take the medicine.

The other is a portfolio about teaching practise. This can be as long or as short as we like. (Well, as short as we like provided all the sections are covered.) I've seen people on facebook boast about their 111 page project or 200 page + folder that won't close. Mine's about 50 pages. Ish.

But the strange thing is that I've finished. I've been finished completely since Wednesday but mostly done since last Saturday. This is crazy. In my last degree I worked up until the last minute of every deadline. This degree I have avoided that (I think with my advanced age the stress may induce a heart attack). However I'm still usually working up until the last 24 hours. Now I have all this time to mull over what I've done wrong, or missed out, or not included WHILE THERE'S STILL TIME TO CHANGE THE SITUATION. This is a very strange, and hugely unpleasant sensation. I am also not talking to people from my course because I don't want to tell anyone I've finished. Either because it may distract them (I know it did for me when I was working late) or because I'm worried I may find something else about the project that I should have done.

Luckily I have another project to through myself into. We're being asked to write a research proposal and my professor has given me a specific topic relating to new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. So it's back to the grindstone...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Getting older

One of the nicest things about getting older is feeling less worried about doing things differently. When I was younger I used to think that my peculiarities made me separate from everyone else and would prevent me from ever fitting in. Now I feel less isolated by these peculiarities and am actually convinced that if I think something then there's someone else (or really everyone else) thinking the same thing.

So, for example, finding a good pen that makes my handwriting better will naturally make what I write better. I love stationery psychology.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A sad first

Yesterday I found out that one of my patients died soon after I met them.

I'm studying palliative care at the moment so that shouldn't have been as big a surprise as it was. However contrary to popular belief, palliative care is not a euphemism for dying. Palliative care is the term used to describe care that is non-curative and centres on symptom-relief.

In many ways its been one of the nicest placements to study on: watching people feel better for their treatment rather than telling them to lose weight or that they require medication for life. But there have been many deep and serious conversations. I've asked people about their plans for their very real and sometimes imminent death, spiritual needs and legal requirements.

One thing we learn is that in order to prepare for a Good Death you need to first accept that such a thing is possible. In the UK, and many Western cultures, death has become medicalised. We see it as something terrible that represents the failure of our medicine to work and keep you alive. Yet it is a fundamental part of life.

As medical students we often talk about death, and there's the inevitable but unsolveable debate about the superiority of a slow or fast death. But somehow it was the extreme finality of this death that struck me as upsetting. Maybe because I was told directly, after asking, where my other experiences have all been inferred when a very sick patient is no longer in the same bed on Monday morning.

Anyway, I felt sad. I shared my sadness. I hugged a friend, then returned to the library.


Every two weeks we're expected to attend a workshop, the theme of which changes to some higher curriculum I haven't yet identified. This week, following a workshop in 2010 entitled 'Who needs healthcare?' we were asked to debate the point 'Who gets healthcare?'. From a role-call of 70+ students, some 9 of us turned up. So our GP facilitator adapted the structured session to something more informal.

We ended up debating the health care system with public vs private as our central debate. Unsurprisingly something down the middle was described as having the best healthcare outcomes but the NHS was rounded defended by most of us present. I just wondered to myself if they have these debates in other countries? For example, in the states (whose healthcare system we all insulted with great vigor)? Or France, who have a private insurance system and better cancer outcomes than in Britain.

He asked us if healthcare was a right. I feel it is but was questioned about the worldwide implications of this. I enjoyed the debate... but then, I usually do.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

being scared

I don't think its surprising that a lot of what we do as medical students is quite scary. Whether its seeing operations, having an emotionally charged conversation or being asked to perform a clinical skill, we are really involved with day to day health care that affects patients, their families and the wider community. This term I am studying oncology and palliative care. Needless to say I have had a number of conversations about death, dying and, inevitably, life as well. These can be serious, important conversations with people facing their last weeks alive. So I end up thinking about these events and how they are shaping my life. Yet in spite of recent events I can recall immediately that the scariest event that happened to me so far, as a medical student, was when I was asked by a health visitor to undress and dress a newborn baby, for weighing. I was petrified. I think the mother was too...
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Saturday, January 8, 2011


Revision always brings out my inner baker. This was an attempt at Cinnabon style cinnamon buns. They were lovely but but.not quite right. Ho hum. It's a work in progress!
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Friday, January 7, 2011

Deadlines deadlines deadlines

So it doesn't take much to realise that med school is a lot less glamourous than you may think. Even if you've been been to medical school. I am in a glut of deadlines, facing down an exam next week, followed by an assessment then a competency resit. Yes, I failed the ECG reading competency. Which is surprising as I'm sure I got the diagnosis correct! But I think it was the rest of it that failed me.

While another item on my ever-growing 'to do' list is in no way welcome, I'm really ok with failling this competency. I get another opportunity to resit it, which means I haven't failed the year (perspective is easily lost when you are immersed in the course), I get more practice focusing on this incredibly important skill and another excuse to watch this video.

Cracks me up everytime!