One Last Ride

I had to stop and take a moment this morning to fully take in the fact that my Step 2 CK scheduled exam date is exactly two months from today. TWO MONTHS. I actually didn’t realize how close we were to June, partly because up until about a week ago it had been so damn cold here. But now that it looks like spring is finally here to stay, I’m more acutely aware of how soon summer will be here, which means that I’ll be taking both parts of Step 2 pretty soon as well as starting my fourth-year electives and working on my residency applications.

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Man, that’s a lot to think about right now. I don’t think I’m prepared to be in Step Study Mode yet…it took so much out of me the first time around. But it just has to be done. I just gotta get myself mentally prepared for it. I just really hope that my decision to end my third year on the broad subjects of Family and Emergency Medicine ultimately pays off. 😅

Speaking of which, I’m really about to start my final rotation of third year tomorrow! Emergency Medicine is another four-week rotation and I have a strong feeling that these next four weeks will fly by just as fast as the month in Family Medicine did. I’ve heard only great things about this rotation, including the incredible amount of independence we as students enjoy while rotating in the Emergency Department. At this point in my medical school career, I’m beyond ready to take on patients on my own in order to assess their condition and to come up with a treatment plan for them. I’m looking forward to the wild experiences that I’m sure to come across in the ED, even though the pace is going to be vastly different from the relatively much calmer pace I enjoyed in the clinic this past month. My schedule looks pretty wild though. I have a bunch of evening shifts sprinkled sporadically throughout the month (my weekend days were not spared), a few day shifts, a good number of morning lectures, a couple of clinical coaching experiences, a Saturday overnight shift, and some other things that I’m going to learn more about in orientation tomorrow. I’ve heard that I can change shift days around though, which has been unheard of in other rotations. I might have to go on and look into doing that with some of my shifts, because I have a feeling that I’ll have a couple of time conflicts with other pre-scheduled events…we’ll see though.

As for my most recent shelf exam…I THINK I did okay overall. That mess was pretty challenging, even after all of that preparation I put into it. Even though I was uncertain about more questions than I would have liked, I believe it’s safe to say that it did NOT slap me sideways as I had feared! I finished the exam with some time to spare, allowing me to go over most of the questions that I didn’t feel too sure about. Hopefully I did better on it than I did on my Surgery shelf. That Surgery exam disrespected the hell outta me. Smh. And while I’m on the topic of Surgery, I finally got my rotation grade a couple of days ago. Not gonna lie, I wasn’t impressed with it. I actually was a bit bummed out because I had fallen short of the goal I had set for myself in that rotation, even after all the grueling hours I put into making sure that I performed well. I must say, the shelf exam didn’t really help me reach my goal either. But alas, what’s done is done. I did my best. All I can do is move on and use the lessons I learned along with the feedback I recieved to make me a better medical student and future physician. And besides, I have no desire to be a surgeon. So there’s that.

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I had a few clinic shifts to work leading up to exam day, including a couple of evening shifts. One of them was the Community Care Clinic, where I interviewed and assessed like five or six patients back to back. I definitely got a lot of practice in history-taking, patient presentation and document write-up there. The other shift was at the Delivering Equal Access to Care (DEAC) Free Clinic, where I was paired up with a first-year medical student in order to assess patients together. His main task was to gather a focused history from the patient while mine was to chart the patient and follow-up with any additional questions that I deemed necessary before going on to the physical exam. I was also responsible for presenting the patient to the attending physician. As I worked with the first-year that night, I was suddenly reminded of how far I’ve come as a medical student. I found myself casually using terms that he hadn’t learned yet, asking the patient very focused questions after the student gathered a great history in a style that I remember learning as a first-year, speaking with the attending about various medications and dosages to give to the patient, and teaching the student various things as we worked together through the shift. Although I’ve been aware of my overall growth as a student, I was still quite surprised at how much information I knew while I worked with him, and was even more surprised when the student commended me for being so knowledgeable. It was really cool to be in a position to teach him concepts that are now second-nature to me and to fully appreciate my exponential growth as a student in terms of knowledge base and comfortability in assessing patients.

The last things I’m going to talk about in this post are the two panels that I was invited to be a part of this past week. The first one was a MAPS panel at UNCG, where myself and a few other students from Wake and Duke talked to college students about our experiences in medical school. They were very appreciative of our honesty and that we all came from different backgrounds with different paths to medical school. I always love doing things like this, because seeing us talk about our experiences really helps to motivate them and shows them that they really can achieve whatever goals they set for themselves. Also, it humbles me and allows me to remember what it was like to be a college student striving to get into medical school.

The other panel was at a Narrative Medicine Symposium at Wake Forest yesterday and it involved me talking about how I use narrative medicine in my everyday life as a student in the field of healthcare. I sat on the panel with two other physicians and we all talked about the various ways we cope with the stresses of our lives. I mainly talked about why I started this blog in the first place, how I’ve been able to incorporate it into my everyday life and how I’ve expanded the platform overtime. I also touched on where my love for writing first started, how I’ve had to learn how to navigate writing about my clinical experiences without potentially violating the privacy of the patients that I encountered, and I even shared a few of the posts that I’ve written in the past with the audience! I’m so glad that I was invited to speak on the panel and that I was introduced to the notion of Narrative Medicine. It’s really wild to think about how many opportunities I’ve been able to capitalize on simply because I created this blog! And thanks to the support of each of you, I’ve been able to maintain this platform for as long as I have!

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Alright, I’m done word-vomiting. I’ve had a sort-of chill weekend but now I gotta gear back up and get ready for this last rotation of the school year. I also gotta get in on a couple of conference calls tonight for the SNMA. The grind never stops! I hope that your week is a delightful one! 😄

“If you can dream it, then you can achieve it. You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar 

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – If you want to learn more about the disastrous situation in Syria, check out the “Cries From Syria” HBO documentary. I watched it last night and it really shook me. The atrocities happening to the Syrian citizens are absolutely horrendous. Trust me, you’ll learn a lot about the crisis and will also have a better understanding of the implications that their civil war will have on our immediate future. Just to warn you though, the documentary is very graphic.

A Different World

The completion of my Neurology shelf last Friday marked the end of the fifth block of my third-year.

Wild huh?

If that isn’t wild enough, I’m about to start my 8-week long Surgery rotation this week, which is, from what I hear, a very different world than what I’ve been used to. The services that I was granted the opportunity to work on are Surgical Oncology, Ophthalmology and Anesthesia. That’s not a bad lineup at all, if I do say so myself. I’m excited about being one of those selected to rotate through Ophthalmology because as you know, I have had a strong interest in it for years now. It will be cool to get to work side-by-side with the residents and attendings in this specialty for three weeks straight, and I’m sure that I will get to learn so much about vision care and treating various conditions of the eye in general! Although I’m pretty much set on a career in Pediatrics at this point, I’m still planning on going into the Ophthalmology service with an open mind and will allow myself to really appreciate everything that this service has to offer. I will absorb as much knowledge as I can from everyone that I encounter and will deeply engage myself with the patients that I will be helping care for.

I will, of course, keep this mentality throughout my time on the other two services. I haven’t really had any experience in Anesthesia before, so I’m really interested to see what that service has to offer. And as for Surgical Oncology, which is the service that I’ll be spending the next three weeks working in, I don’t even really know what I’m about to walk into. All I know is that I’ll be in the Operating Room all day every day learning a ton about how to remove tumors from people while being constantly refreshed *cough* PIMPED *cough cough* on human anatomy. I’ve also heard that the days in this service can be very long. I’m talking about 5 AM – 7 PM type days. And here I was, thinking that starting at 6 AM was early. I’m not gonna lie, although it’s really dope that I’m getting the chance to engage in this learning opportunity, I’m a bit apprehensive about the fact that I’ll potentially have almost no time at all to do anything else outside of school these next three weeks. I’m also not sure how I’ll fare in the surgical cases that will run for 5+ hours at a time. It takes a ton of willpower and discipline to be able to concentrate on something for that long while standing up and remaining sterile. Plus, if you start to get really hungry, tired or you suddenly have the urge to use the bathroom, things can get really uncomfortable really fast. Aside from those two concerns though, I feel that my experience on the Surg-Onc service will be a dynamic and positive one. In regards to my Surgery rotation as a whole, I’m quite intrigued as to how everything will end up playing out!

In contrast to two weeks ago, where I didn’t have time to do much of anything outside of the hospital, I had an ample amount of free time last week due to the combination of MLK Day, shelf day and all the snow that got dumped on the region. I actually only worked three half-days throughout the week, and a good amount of patients ended up not showing up to their appointments due to the weather. However, I did get to interact with patients that were recovering from strokes and with patients who were dealing with conditions such as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and muscular dystrophy. I also was able to get a lot of studying in for the shelf exam (shoutout to being trapped in the snow) and participated in a lumbar puncture simulation, where we practiced performing an LP on dummies. I must say, I was successful on my first attempt. 😊 Please don’t ask me to perform one on a real patient though…I don’t think I’m ready to take that next step yet lol.

Neurology was a fantastic rotation overall, and I learned so much while rotating through it. I’ve vastly improved on my Neuro physical exam and even developed a system so that it would be hard for me to forget how to perform the exam. I saw a ton of neurological conditions in person that I had previously only read about, I had some unforgettable interactions with some of my patients and I got the opportunity to work with and learn from some phenomenal physicians. I sincerely hope that they realize how much their teaching is appreciated. I also hope that I had a great performance on my shelf exam. Although I feel like I did fine, you never really know with these standardized exams until you get your actual score back. At the end of the day though, this exam was only worth 10% of my overall grade, so I’m not too pressed about it. 😄

Make sure to have a spectacular week! And I’ll let you know how my first week of Surgery goes in my next post!

“Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it, the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me.” – Arianna Huffington

– Black Man, M.D.