Laws of the Lake

20 Jul

After two nights in a row of staying up until the sunrise and a series of failed nap attempts between, I’m happy to say that I am officially on vacation. Currently topping off this “last summer” with the annual insane family trip to northern Michigan…. There are 12 of us lovingly crammed into a cabin that we have returned to year after year for almost two decades. And now that I’m exhausted completely beyond function, I’ve decided that this is the perfect time to document our implicit vacation rules and principles. The Laws of the Lake, if you will:

1. No more shoes. All feet will be bare in the cabin, on the grass, on the beach, and in the lake. The day doesn’t count unless your feet end up blackened.
2. Drink all kinds of Michigan wine, all the time.
3. All fruit shall come from a tiny stand on the side of the road. Even better if the signs advertise “Cherrys” or “Bluberrys.” (More authentic.)
4. Always change your swimsuit right after a dip in the lake so you don’t get the dreaded Swimmer’s Itch.
5. You must quickly reacquaint yourself with all of the cracks and divets on the busted, wonderful tennis court.
6. It is essential to show off your muscles through feats of strength, such as arm wrestling and picking up people twice your size.
7. Be prepared to show off your ‘mallow toasting skills.
8. Do not, under any circumstances, get eaten by the terrifying gar pike.
9. All board game content must be as dirty and politically incorrect as possible.
10. Always cheat at euchre. Always.
11. Make sure to stand downwind of the Skunk Fountain at least once to really take in the sulfur smell that will flash you back to childhood in an instant.
12. Read something amazing. (Working on Unbroken, myself!)
13. Spend some time sitting on the edge of the dock and do nothing but watch the water.
14. Climb things. Trees. Dunes. Family members. Pretty much anything is game.
15. Laugh until you cry every day.

So far, so good. Now I suppose I should FINALLY get some sleep.

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Hiatus Guilt

7 Jul

Title says it all, I suppose… I tend to work on a pretty strict policy of  “write when you get the urge” and sometimes that allows time to just slip away a bit. But that’s not to say that a lot of exciting things haven’t happened lately… The most obvious is that I finished off my first year of medical school at the very end of May.  And now I’m checking off days of my “last summer”, which seems to be determined to fly by as quickly as possible. Trying to savor it as much as I can before M2 year officially starts in mid-August, but am spending MANY of my days in the ED, doing research. Can’t say I mind though… heavens knows I missed the ED like crazy this year when I was confined to the dungeon computer labs or lecture halls. At least right now I get to work with patients every day, which keeps me pretty happy!

I’ve decided that one of the beautiful things about a career in medicine, especially at this stage where we are learning so much so fast and simultaneously trying hard to make the most out of our free time, is that every day you get a new “first.” So, here’s a handful of the better “firsts” I’ve experienced in past month or two, just from the nature of this lovely lifestyle:

  • I did my first full History and Physical on a standardized patient… and then on an actual patient in the ED.
  • I was introduced as “Dr.” for the first time to a patient by another physician… it seems that in the ED, this is the easiest approach, rather than explaining to patients just how useless I still am as a baby M2.
  • I tubed a river in a rainstorm for the first time, which was pretty awesome. (And with some of the best company I could have ever asked for!)
  • I watched my first tib/fib fracture reduction on a completely conscious (and incredibly impressive) patient. That one was pretty memorable and reminded me just how cool ortho is…
  • I signed my first lease on a condo with more than one bathroom (3, actually!) and a finished basement. Movin’ on up in the world!
  • I got my first ever undergrad to work on my own research project with me. (I see you, minion. :) Nice work!)
  • I had my first patient-restraint fail, which resulted in me getting kicked in the gut a lil’ bit… Pleasant.
  • I ran my first 5k! Not a huge deal, but was very fun and is something that I can check off from that 27 for 27 list.
  • For the first time, I watched a patient be told they had cancer. Brain cancer, actually. Completely unexpected. Heart-wrenching day, though it did help put a lot of things into perspective…

Alright, I’ll try not to stay away so long next time. :) Off to go have a few more firsts!

Is this normal?

2 May

It’s May… No idea how that snuck up on us so quickly. But that means that we are officially in our last month of M1 year. I think many of my classmates and I are fighting the burn-out a bit, as we near the end of our five week long Infectious Disease sequence. More and more conversations seem to be centering on lack of sleep, anticipation of summer, and readiness to be done with M1 year. But when I realized that this was our last month of this year, I got really sad… I have loved M1 year. This year has been the pinnacle of self-involvement in my adult life. Not that I’m particularly proud of that… but it has been quite a privilege. I mean, at the end of the day, all I had to really do was study and play with my friends and, if it was a particularly stressful week, maybe travel somewhere or have a bunch of rehearsals. This year was just all about learning and adjusting to the vague idea that we will one day be able to take care of sick people. Yes, I’m excited for summer to come, but mostly just for the weather and the prospect of running outside and spending some time by the pool. I’ll be conducting a research project in the ED over the summer, which I’m mildly excited about… but in all honesty, I’d rather be in classes and studying than back in work-mode. Not normal, right? I had a conference call for my research project today and it’s amazing how quickly I snapped back into researcher/employee/professional mode for those 40 minutes. As soon as it was over I was thrilled to shake that persona off and just go back to just learning. I’m a little nervous to take a break from that for 2.5 months!

Okay, I recognize that in the fall I’m going to look back on this post and want to punch myself for ever doing anything less than relishing my “last summer.” Who knows, maybe by the end of the sequence I’ll be just as ready for summer to come as everyone else! And then, if this year is any indication, I’m sure it’ll be over before I know it and all I will want is to spend my days doing research again, instead of studying. :P

5 Shattered Illusions

28 Apr

Last weekend our medical school hosted Second Look Weekend for all the incoming M0s… (or M-naughts, as I geekily prefer to call them.) I think I’m still recovering, but what a fun, packed few days. Of course, I was reminiscing about my own SLW the whole time (trying to ignore the fact that I went out so much and got so little sleep that I ended up bedridden with bronchitis for days).  The M0s asked so many great questions and you could just tell how excited they all were to get into this new environment and start school. Which brings me to my list of the day… Five illusions that I had about medical school before starting that have been completely shattered. I won’t say that this shattering is necessarily a bad thing, it’s just always amusing to reflect on things you were once so sure of and then consider how they actually turned out:

 

1.  I’m going to treat med school like a job and just do it from 9-5 each day.

Cute thinking. As someone who was in the working world for 5 years (and simultaneously in evening grad/post-bacc programs) before med school, I think I developed this illusion through very logical thought processes. Unfortunately, it just really doesn’t work for medical school. There’s too much to learn and too many activities to participate in during the day that cut into study-time… And our schedules are constantly changing. I admire my classmates who can actually get into a solid and consistent rhythm and pull off the “9-5”, but it’s just not happening over here. (Perfect example… today I’ll be pulling a 8a-9p just with school, rehearsals, and meetings, and then the studying will start after that…)

 

2. I’m going to be studying ALL THE TIME.

This might sound like I’m contradicting #1 here, but another reason that a 9-5 isn’t realistic is that med school is actually so much more than just studying. Yes, I study a lot, but I also “study” a lot… you know, those all-too-frequent occasions where you and your close friends get together to study and then just play the whole time? Also, other med students may not have this particular problem, but sometimes I feel like I’ve spent the past year preparing more for a future in musical theater than medicine. I always seem to be rehearsing for some singing, dancing, and/or acting performance… but it’s the best outlet ever, so I gladly let it cut into my study time and destroy my 9-5 dreams.

 

3. I will find a really great study strategy and be able to focus wonderfully when using it.

No… I’m all over the damn place. I think I have changed my study method every single week of med school. I barely ever do that same thing twice. I know that would drive a lot of my classmates insane… maybe in the end, variation is my study strategy. I get so bored doing the same things over and over again and intrigued by any and every new method that presents itself. Also, turns out I’m super distractable (real word? Count it…). Like way more than I ever realized… So focusing while using any study method is a much larger challenge than I originally anticipated.

 

4. I’m not going to take on too much outside of school.

Fine, family, you were right. You win. I was stupid to ever have the illusion that I could idly sit in the background and just study and shadow and not get involved in every single opportunity out there. That being said… no regrets! I work best at my busiest.

 

5. I’m too dumb to ever be able to learn all of this stuff.

A sentiment I heard echoed over and over again by current M1s last weekend is that med school actually isn’t hard… it’s just a lot. (Insert generic drinking-out-of-a-firehose reference here…) I really doubted my (or any human’s) abilities to be able to ingest so much complex material before starting school. Turns out, the stuff isn’t actually difficult to understand, you just have to find unique and creative ways to remember it. People come up with the craziest mnemonics for this stuff, but they really do work and after awhile it’s not that bad.

K, this ended up being way longer than I expected. Perfect example of why I fail at the 9-5. Welcome to the family, M0s! Peace.

7 Things I Learned This Week in ID

21 Apr

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Howdy from Boston! Back here for the weekend to see my family and watch the marathon. (People who don’t know me well keep wishing me luck running the marathon…ha…nope. I will be the one eating ice cream on the side and watching the amazing people exercise.) But I’m REALLY happy to be here, especially after last year. Plus, I have had two full days without any studying to do, which is a serious treat. We are in Infectious Diseases (ID) right now, which is super intense, but I’m loving it and learning a series of very important life lessons. Here are few of the most pertinent ones from the past few weeks:

1. If you aerosolize an innocent bunny rabbit with a lawnmower, your immediate karma will be to get Tularemia. Moral of the story: swerve for the cute animals or pay a bacteria-filled price.

2. Every medical student will identify at least one disease per week to be desperately afraid of… and there’s some pretty decent variation! My friends have mentioned being terrified of: endocarditis, necrotizing fasciitis, sepsis, tuberculosis, and bacterial meningitis just this week alone. Moral of the story: We all get Med Student Syndrome from time to time… but especially during ID.

3. Apparently it is completely unnecessary to wear gloves when playing with cultures of live MRSA and other nasty bugs. Moral of the story: We are all actually going to die from all of those things we are afraid of in #2 above.

4. There comes a time in life when you have to carefully choose between whether or not you want to remember all of your classmates’ names or all of the bugs and drugs crammed into a week of ID. Unfortunately, for many of us, we let the names of the actual people go in favor of the far superior and less helpful bacteria… Moral of the story: If your name isn’t going to be on boards one day, it no longer matters.

5. You can get an infection in your cavernous sinus from popping a pimple. Yes, that can otherwise be known as a BRAIN INFECTION. Moral of the story: well, this one is kind of obvious…

6. Cats carry a ridiculous amount of nasty bacteria all up in all their crevices and now all I can think whenever I see my kitties doing something I once found cute is: “Oh god… where is the Bartonella? Is it on me? Is it IN me? You furry demons!” Moral of the story: I should probably stop letting my cat sleep on my face.

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7. Hot tubs, lakes, ponds, air conditioners, soil, animals, and people are all disgusting, bacteria-infested reservoirs that really only exist to infect everything else around them. Moral of the story: Move into a bubble.

Love ID so far. :) Now I gotta go get my Lannister-lovin’ on…

Traveling with Med Students 101

6 Apr

I learned some very valuable lessons over Spring Break. Twenty of us rented out an awesome house in Florida and pretty much forgot we are even in med school for an entire week. It was OUTSTANDING.  I’ve never gone on a trip with a lot of friends before and was nervous about negotiating group dynamics and not having any personal time/space. But honestly, this group couldn’t have been picked better if there had been freaking auditions, because it was just a perfect combo of personalities and energies. (Can you guys tell I’m going through withdrawal here??) So, here’s what I learned about how to go on vaca with a bunch of brilliant, effervescent med students:

1. Wake up early every morning, regardless of how late you were partying the night before, and either go for a run or do Crossfit. (Bonus points if you do pull-ups on the dock.)

2. Wear tiny bathing suits, because everyone in your group is going to look bomb and like a super-athlete, so you have to make sure you fit in. (Bonus points if you’re a guy in a rainbow Speedo.)

3. Catch a beach sunset. Take cheesy pictures, then stop in time to watch the sky glow.  (Bonus points if there is a pirate ship sailing across the horizon at the exact instant that the sun disappears… where’s Johnny Depp when you need him?)

4. Don’t read anything for school. Instead, have your classmates read out loud from Cosmo and “think aloud” from the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. (Bonus points if you can keep a straight face during any of these read-alouds.)

5. Play the drinking game Horserace. No further elaboration allowed on this one. (Bonus points if you can create a unique, absurd, yet appropriate cheer and hand motion to go along with the suit you’re betting on. Cluuuuubs!)

6. Have at least one member of your group act out a scene from a movie. We chose one from Slumdog Millionaire… (Bonus points if you get to be the one to hose off the smelly victim after the drama.)

 

7. Have at least one member of your group willingly become the poolboy. (Bonus points if the actual poolboy stops by one day and teaches him all about how to properly clean the pool.)

8. Film a three-minute tutorial on how to test the cranial nerves using one single cob of corn. (Bonus points if your “standardized patient” can accurately follow the corn with her eyes, feel the husk on her face, push against the corn with her cheek, and lick the corn.)

9. Wear an absurd amount of sunscreen and constantly check that all of your friends are also wearing absurd amounts of sunscreen. (Bonus points if you can find the one guy who always seems to have white smears of sunscreen left on his face and rub them in for him.)

10. Make a ridiculous collection of personal jokes that you will refer to constantly for the rest of the year until the rest of your classmates who weren’t on the trip hate you. (Bonus points if you keep saying them long after they should have stopped being funny. #blessed)

Absolutely wonderful trip. Thank you all for being amazing and helping me rejuvenate before our next monster sequence begins. In my mind, I am doing this to all of you:

Dr. Hair Stylist, MD

30 Mar

I apologize in advance for what may seem like a venty and/or judgy post… But I just feel the need to comment on this odd phenomenon that seems to keep recurring in my life… There have now been two times in the past year where I have gone to a salon to get a hair cut/color and have had the stylists (two different people at different salons) insist that their job is a lot like being a doctor.

Okay…

I will start by saying that I have a ton of respect for anyone in a service industry. It is not an easy job to please a lot of opinionated people all the time and it often involves long hours, low pay, and a lot of time on your feet. I worked as a waitress for several summers, I get that it’s not a slack-off job. Medicine itself is becoming more and more of a service industry every day. But I just really don’t understand the basis for conversations like this, sometimes:

Stylist: “So what kind of medicine do you want to go into?

Me: “Probably Emergency, but maybe surgery. I am very interested in trauma and acute care situations.”

Stylist: (while foiling my daunting mass of hair) “Yeah, this here is hard work. It’s a lot like emergency surgery, actually. What we do is very similar.” 

Me: “…..Yeah…. that makes sense….” 

Or take this conversation from an earlier appointment at a different salon last year:

Stylist: “Oh, you’re going into medicine? That’s so cool, what I do is a lot like being a doctor.”

Me: “Oh, cool, how is that?”

Stylist: “Well, we get to go in the backroom and mix the colors together for dyes and it’s kind of like chemistry at a hospital.” 

Me: “Yes. Exactly.”

Am I missing something here? Am I being overly judgy? Perhaps… but I will also say that both of these stylists, coincidentally, are the only people EVER to take 4+ hours at one of my hair appointments. Which is absolutely ridiculous, even with my intimidating mane… So maybe for them it is more like being in a surgery after all?

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