Teacher, teacher

I’m doing an education elective this month.

I have almost always wanted to be a teacher (and an author).  Well, after I got over the wanting to be a vet (my parents quashed that dream when I was about 4 when they informed me that if I was a vet, I would have to take a bath every day) and work at KFC (I was a chubby kid who really liked the way it smelled, despite the fact that I was informed I would no longer like KFC if I smelled it every day… I didn’t even have to smell it everyday to develop a dislike for KFC as an adult).  Honestly, medicine came much, much later in life.

I realized as a teenager that I hate kids in mass, so perhaps teaching elementary or middle school was out of the question.  I also realized science was very fun.

Once I hit medicine, though, I came to this crazy realization that maybe, just maybe I could “have it all.”  Who knew doctors teach?

Probably most people.

But, the fact that it could be my reality blew my mind a little.

So, I have always thought teaching was important.  I tutored in med school, mentored new students, all that stuff.  And now, I am doing an education elective and launching some new education related stuff in my department.  It has confirmed that I want to teach more.  I think I might even start working on my masters in the next year or two (depending on how this whole juggling residency and baby thing goes).

The funny thing is about the elective is that, for the first time in a long while, it is like being a student again.  Sure, there is no call and my hours are a bit more set, but I have assigned readings and projects and assignments.  Plus, the studying/prep for my usual program academics.  I forgot a bit what it was like to be a “real” student.  I have a love-hate relationship with being like a “real” student.

My focus is suboptimal.  Lectures from 8-12 and 1-4:30  That is a lot now.  Friday afternoon half-day is like torture and that is just 1-5 one day a week.  Plus, the degree of interaction is much more than I’m used to.  Group work?  Heck, usually my whole program is the size of a group they have me working with.  Non-clinical assigned readings are novelties.  Doing assignments and writing papers are things I do much more rarely now, but they are becoming regular occurrences.  Presentations and teaching practice prep is similar, but different.  And then there is switching focus completely to study for my usual departmental half-day stuff and exams.

That being said, it is neat to learn more about being a better teacher.  And knowing that it is something I can do.  And will do.

Seeing the enthusiasm of the Med 1s in tutorial and how everything is challenging and exciting is super cool.  Learning about what always seemed to be the top secret world of designing OSCE stations and training standardized patients makes me realize how much goes in to our learning.  Finding ways to make things better for newer trainees is encouraging.  Even figuring out how and why I learn the way I do and how to make that work for me is useful.

Most of my friends are teachers.  Heck, I’m married to a teacher.  And I am realizing that in more ways than I originally thought, I am a teacher too.

I know, I’m a huge geek.  But, I’m okay with that.  Just humour me.

Big News (especially for my teenage bookworm self)

Yesterday, I went on Facebook and my newsfeed was blown up by news that I actually cared about that doesn’t involve the vaccination debate or the inordinate amounts of snow my hometown is getting.

Harper Lee is publishing a new book!

If you haven’t heard, then check out this article from the New York Times.

Okay, a new-to-the-world book.  She actually wrote it many, many years ago.

I promptly “reposted” an article on my friend V’s wall.  Because she is someone who shares with me an unhealthy obsession with the wonderful novel that we coined “To Kill a Bird” in grade 10 IB English.  We did presentations that were way overdone with excessive bristol boards and background research.  We finished the book before we were supposed to and re-read it and loved the movie.

I’m excited.  I know other people are too.

And I don’t usually even like sequels that much (although I do have to read them for closure).

As a big nerd, I must admit, this is a book that I am looking forward to more than many other books that I have excessively looked forward to.

Top Ten “Classic” Novels I Can’t Believe I Haven’t Read

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday list with the Broke and the Bookish is “the top ten books from genre x I can’t believe I haven’t read.” I feel like I can make a list in many genres, but I am going to go with the “classic” book genre.5f1e1-toptentuesday

I like to think I am well-read. That I have read all kinds of stuff because I want to and like to, but really, there are just so many more important works that I still haven’t read and many, many people have.

  1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. We actually got this as a Christmas gift from a friend. Patrick has now read it, but I still have not.
  2. 1984 by George Orwell. I see this intermittently on sale shelves at Chapters or hear it referenced in TV shows and movies. Still haven’t read it.
  3. Animal Farm by George Orwell. Another Orwell book. Clearly, I am avoiding him. I feel like a lot of people read this book in high school. I skipped that step.
  4. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. This is another book that gets referenced all the time by different people because seemingly everyone read it in school except for me.
  5. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Another high school miss.
  6. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron. I almost bought this with part of our Christmas Chapter’s gift card haul. But I opted not to because I know it will be easily found in the library because it is another popular and well-referenced work of literature.
  7. Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. It sounds interesting and sad and right up my alley. Yet I have not read it.
  8. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Sometimes I wonder what I really did read in high school/university given the theoretically great books I have missed out on. I still sadly don’t really know much about this book other than what movies/TV refer to.
  9. Moby Dick by Herman Melville. This is one of the few books I picked up and then put down after a few chapters.   It is shocking I actually gave up on a book.  I want to try again.
  10. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I got this as a free ebook on my e-reader. I need to actually read it.

What “classics” do you have yet to read?

Weekend library

This weekend, I hit up the big-university-that-my-residency-is-based-out-of’s library.  I love libraries and this one is no exception.  It was also surprisingly empty.  I blamed first week back to school.  The next day, Patrick and I checked out our city’s newest big fancy library and I figured out where all the students were (and half the city, I swear)… In the library.

My university library adventure was brought about due to a need for massive productivity.  Lots of presentations, studying and prep for interviews on the go these days.  My project of the day (really, this past week) has been a presentation on cannabis in cancer care.  Yes, medical marijuana.  Patrick keeps making note of how crazy that is.

It was too bad my presentation got postponed due to a scheduling blip.

The other odd part about university library is hot.  I have never been in a university library that was warm.  They are always cold.  I think they were compensating for the cold snap earlier in the week and had failed to return the heat to the usual “cool” level.  Big city library was hot too, but it was due to the droves of people (that I kept complaining “probably didn’t even really like books”).

Since coffee has finally stopped inducing vomiting, I got a hot beverage before going in to the library (I should have picked a cold beverage).  I tried a Flat White for the first time.

Life lesson… If you have been off caffeine for awhile and your fetus is not used to caffeine, a flat white is an interesting place to start (don’t judge me, “no caffeine during pregnancy puritans”).  The kid bounced around for a good hour or two after that.  It took me a while to figure out why.  I must say, it was pretty good, but to be honest, not something I would hunt down again (especially not during pregnancy).

Big city library has a cafe in it too.  It is a dream to me.  Library with built in cafe.  I just need to get rid of the droves of people.

While at university library, I was peacefully reading crazy details about the intricacies of taking marijuana when a piece of ceiling fell beside me.  It happens at my house and now at the library too.  It was a  small pice.  More a large paint chip.  I considered moving, but I opted to stay.  Classy, big university library.  Charge people thousands and thousands of dollars and have a ceiling losing bits (not much unlike my apartment, come to think of it).

I love libraries of all kinds.  Although crowded ones are my least favourite kinds. At least the city is full of cafes I can work at too (especially now that the coffee smell doesn’t kill me softly).  But, maybe the university library will stay on the empty side a bit longer thanks to the draw of fancy library, so I can hide out there a bit more.  Maybe. But probably not.

Head and Neck

I got an email with the topic for my very first treatment planning exam.

Aside… A treatment planning exam is an oral exam where we get grilled on our management of patients from presentation to treatment and follow-up to help us practice for our licensing exams at the end of residency.  It can include basic questions right up to referencing why we do treatment in a certain schedule and where a target its. They start in third year, which is where I am now.  They are supposed to start off easier and get harder as time goes by.  At least in theory.

The site is “Head and Neck.”


My issue with this?

Head and neck is probably one of the most difficult sites to treat and master.

I mean, we don’t do much head and neck related stuff in med school or even the first two years of residency and then, bam!  I’m treating cancers there.

At least, I have for the last two and a half weeks of this rotation.

I like head and neck.  I have said it is likely a site I’ll want to treat.  That doesn’t mean I feel anywhere near confident in it.

And it is my first exam.

When I opened the email, I just cracked up laughing.

Apparently most people get something like bone metastases from another primary.  Nope, not me.

Maybe it will be more simple than it sounds.

But, I don’t feel optimistic.

It is going to force me to read more.  But, I really was hoping for a relaxing weekend home.

That is how life works.  And how residency works.

Learning is good.  Looking stupid is part of learning.  I just need to embrace that.

Thank goodness Dr. Bond gave me some notes and tips.

I just hope my examiners remember I’m just in third year.

Top Ten (Twelve) Characters Who Would Have Sat At My Table In High School

I’m a day late but this week’s Top Ten Tuesday with the Broke and Bookish was too awesome to pass up. The list is the top ten characters who would have sat at my table in high school.5f1e1-toptentuesday

My table in real high school was a bit of a mixed bag. There were other nerds like me, and then the odd people we acquired and the people we were friends with as a result of various activities (mainly band and musical and yearbook. Half the time I was busy with some lunch time activity like choir or band or various yearbook meetings. But, when I was at the table, it was an interesting time. We often filled more than one table (shockingly) and did “crazy things” like build condiment castles one day and then spend the next cramming for that IB bio test we were all going to fail.

So, I expect my bookish high school table to be similar…

  • Hazel, Gus and Isaac from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I’m serious. Hazel is basically teenage me in a lot of ways, so I’m sure we would have gotten along. And the guys are very much like some of my friends in high school complete with the randomness and interesting characteristics that make them unique.
  • Quentin, Ben and “Radar” from Paper Towns by John Green. Maybe I like his books because he basically writes about characters I get or would have known. Either way, these guys all meet my table criteria. Quirky and nerdy for the win!
  • Eleanor from Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Powell. Misfits and outsiders were welcome. In fact Eleanor reminded me a lot of a couple people we hung out with in junior high and high school. Plus, I would have enjoyed their awesome taste in music.
  • Clay from Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Because the token nice, smart shy guy has to eat somewhere.
  • The 4 girls from The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares. Yes, all 4 of them. Because they are basically my 3 closest friends and I anyway, so why not include them all at the table?

Well, that is 12 people, so I guess the table is too full.  I think it is just a bit cozy.

What characters would have been at your lunch table?

How Did That Happen: How I Got Through Med School Orientation

I realized today that it is about time for med school to be starting up again.  It blows my mind that about a 6 years ago, I hopped on a plane with 4 giant suitcases and my drugged mother (she was hopped up on cough syrup) to move to the town where I did med school.  Interestingly, I am leaving today for that same city to visit some friends and attend a conference.

I had been there twice before.  Once for my interview and once on a whirlwind room renting hunt.

To be honest, I was less scared of moving or even starting med school.  The thing that produced the most anxiety in me was orientation.

Yes, you got that right… Orientation.

I mean, yes, of course med school was terrifying and being told some of us WILL fail in orientation did not help.  Each first had its own level of terrifying… First lab, first exam, first standardized patient.  But orientation still wins in my books.

Thus for all of you shy, introverted (I say both because they are different) new to everything about a place people, here is my How Did That Happen? for the week.  How I Got Through Med School Orientation.stethoscopes1

I know some people love that kind of stuff.  Socials, dances, sporting events.  Not so much my scene.  I get that some people consider these sorts of events a highlight.  Or at least they don’t dread them. I dread them.  That’s just how I roll.

My med school took the whole orientation thing seriously.  I’m talking a full week of stuff.  And it was “mandatory.”

Seriously, mandatory “fun”?  Sounds like cadet camp all over again (seriously, they had these evenings where we were obligated to attend a “fun” activity like sports (ew) or the zoo (okay the first time, but it was a pretty lame zoo) or a movie (probably a bad one).  We called it mandatory fun night.  It was funny because it was by far not the most fun night of the week (dances or concert nights or parade nights won every time).

Events for this mandatory fun included whale watching (the best part by far).  An 80s mixer (ummm… I like the 80s, but when you stick them in a mixer, not so much).  Outdoor games complete with a slip n slide.  A pub crawl.  Various talks.  Photo scavenger hunt (epic, but not as fun when you don’t know where you are or who you’re with).  Dinner with some Med2s followed by a dance.

I was not pumped.  Except for the whale watching.

I knew one person I went to high school with.  Not well.

70% of people knew most everyone.  They all did undergrads together, they did their masters together, heck, they did all of their schooling together and they live down the road.

Just shoot me.

So, enough whining… I’m supposed to be talking about getting through it.

First of all, I tried to embrace the fact there were other people as lost as me.  I found them.  Found the first one lost in a hall as ridiculously early as I was.  I stuck with them.  She fell asleep on the bus on the way back from whale watching.  I fought the urge to run away.  As it turns out, we sat togther through most of our classes.   The randoms I stumbled upon ended up becomign some of my best friends through med  school.  So, find someone looking as lost and sad as you and say hi.

Realize that med school is like high school.  There are cool kids and cliques.  It did not take me long to conclude I was not cool, nor would I be part of the key cliques.  They were already formed before I even came in.  That’s okay.  I’ve never been one of the cool ones.

Show up for events.  Seriously.  They said it was mandatory, but not everyone came and this ticked some people off.  When you are as shy as I am this is nausea inducing, but it was also how I actually was forced to meet people.  Nothing says get to know people than getting thrown in a 2 door car with 4 other people you have never met to tear around the city taking pictures (especially when we ended up breaking into a more senior med student’s (who I also didn’t know)  house…).

Have fun.  I mean, if you have to be there and people worked hard to plan it, there probably is some fun in there.  Some of our stuff was really awesome.  Other stuff was awesome for people who weren’t me.   Just try to have fun.  Fake it until you make it.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Find out what is okay to skip and know that it is okay to take a breather.  Yes everyone will question your decision.  At least the people who noticed you exist.  But mental health for the win!

Participate.  If everyone is doing something to make themselves look stupid, you might as well do it too.  It might end up being fun, or at least make for a funny story.  My team in these messed up olympics they held won.  We got gift cards for coffee or booze.  It was thrilling.

There is free stuff at some of the events.  Free reflex hammers (which is like gold when you are just getting started and anything “medical” is the best thing ever), free bags, pens and best of all, free food!  Moving and doing a million more years of school is expensive.  Love the free stuff!

There really is useful information in there.  You won’t remember it all.  But they do tell you some important stuff.

If your school is anything like mine, the dean of something or other will get up and tell you scary stats about failures, people crying and people quitting.  This really does happen, but it will be okay.  It is an important reality check, but it does really sting.  Especially when odds are you were already nervous.

Tell yourself it will be fun and okay and all that good stuff.  It will be.  At least some of the time.

Remind yourself that despite the social anxiety and such, this really is one of the most relaxed times in med school.  Embrace that.  The real work is coming.

Remind yourself it is just a week (or less, if you’re lucky).

If you’re from away, it gives a chance to at least kind of figure out how to get to and from school, where some key stuff is and get settled before the real work starts (although the hours were so crazy, it was still tough to get any real unpacking done).

Things like orientations are just a bit awkward.  They end and eventually you know people well enough, you kind of wish you could have done that with the same people a year later.  Not all of that stuff, but some of it.

As much as I think I could have done without so much mandatory “fun,” I really do think orientations are important.  I still say they are overwhelming.  But once it was over with, I had other stuff to worry about, so no need to dwell.

What was your orientation like?  Do you love or hate them?  Do you have any tricks to get through orientations and mandatory “fun.”

How Did That Happen?: How To Get Ready For The First Day of Residency

It is just about the week before residency starts. I am remembering how stressed I was about getting started and all that lovely stuff.stethoscopes1

So, this week’s How Did That Happen? is all about how to get ready for the first real day of residency. Did I do it all right? Heck no. But, I feel like most people wish they had done something different in one way or another.

  • Relax. I know, it feels counterintuitive when a week from now you will be able to write your own orders without someone glaring over your shoulder every thirty seconds. Seriously. It hasn’t started yet.
  • Do some things that you really enjoy but probably won’t have as much time for when you start residency. Patrick and I went swimming and I binge read fun books. Everyone has a thing. Do that thing.
  • If you had to relocate, explore your city. I still feel like, two years later, I am still trying to figure this place out. That being said, it is nice to get started at least knowing where a good coffee shop is, where to find the gym, how to get to and from work and some good parks/shopping. I like traveling and exploring, so I liken it to being a tourist in your new home. This is something we didn’t do much because we were busy visiting with family and such, but looking back, I wish I had.
  • Take time to be bored. Seriously. Do nothing. Then, remember what that feels like. In the future when insanely busy, remember that feeling.
  • Sleep in. I think this one speaks for itself.
  • Spend time with the people who matter in your life (if possible). They got you through med school and they will get you through residency. Enjoy their company during the in between. We spent a lot of time at home-home between med school and residency and it was really nice.
  • Organize your life. The practical stuff. Make sure your change of address stuff is done, that your bills are in order and finish all of that heap of paperwork they make you do when starting residency. Better to do it now than when things are busy.
  • Find the things you will need to actually do your job when the time comes. When I started residency, the movers dropped our stuff off a few days before things actually got started. I did bring my stethoscope with me in the car, but it took a while to find a white coat (which I didn’t need because my university issues them) and my pen light and reflex hammer. Oh, and pens. I needed pens because they disappear in a move like socks disappear in a dryer.
  • Find some good references or download some good apps. Realistically, you probably already have them, but it is nice to have access to a quick reference about common emergencies and orders and such. And of course, a good drug reference.
  • Check your schedules and go to orientations and things like that. A lot of hospitals have required sessions before you officially start or there is social stuff. I hate social stuff, but the information is good and the food is free (very helpful given you probably won’t get paid for a bit).
  • Find out where to go and when you start… Check to make sure you can actually find your way.
  • It isn’t unreasonable to do some refresher reading before you get started about some common issues or topics you will see on your first rotation. Don’t use all of your time to do it, you can’t remember it all anyway. Plus, you have all of residency to learn everything you need to know. You won’t learn it before you start.
  • Know that being anxious is normal. At least, that is what they tell me. This is a big step. That kind of anxiety stops you from going rogue and harming people. Most everyone survives.

How did you (or do you plan to) enjoy or prepare the week before starting residency?

I spent my birthday cutting up brains

Yesterday, I asked myself a strange question.

“If I told me __ year old self that I would spend my 28th birthday cutting up brains, would I believe it?”

Yes, it was my birthday.  And Patrick got me all four seasons of Everwood and I had surprise birthday cupcakes and bowling with the Child and D and I capitalized on tons of discounts and bought too many books with the gift card my parents gave me.  I ate a free donair and had ice cream and even got a real latte on a weekday morning (very luxurious).  It was a good  birthday as far as birthdays go, especially for me.

But, I did spend a chunk of my day cutting up brains.

As I have mentioned before, I am on a Pathology rotation.

As a result, I spent my birthday cutting up brains.

The last few days were neuropathology.  That meant, well, brain cutting.  Complete with a scalpel, butcher knife, forceps and a pancake flipper (to put the brain pieces we don’t use for slides back in the bucket for storage).

I suck at neuroanatomy.  My med school took it seriously, but I forgot all of it promptly after escaping the fumes of formalin that came to be known in my house as, “smelling like brains” (there is no better way to start your marriage than coming home to your husband “smelling like brains” and being told to go take a shower because you are that gross).  I need to learn it, but unlike the neuropathologist and neurosurg resident I was working with, I have to know the anatomy of, well, everything and learn other stuff too.

So, not only do I have poor manipulative skills, but I struggle to name arteries or know what structure is where (beyond the obvious, which are very different for me and for the pathologist) or what every structure does.  I did know these things.  Often it sounds familiar, but clearly not familiar enough.  And it doesn’t help when the other “learner” knows everything about brain anatomy.

I felt stupid.

It seems that is a trend this year, I have had a few rotations full of feeling stunned.  I hate feeling stunned.

Turns out, though, I am good at cutting the stuff up.  I follow directions well and have the right level of not caring about every little structure, but not butchering the right stuff.  My poor manipulative skills are improving.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t learn all of the anatomy over night.

I spent my birthday cutting up brains.

It is a strangely fascinating thing to do.  To see the anatomy first hand.  To try to figure out possible causes of death.  To start the process of confirming dementia.  To see how such small structures control such important things.

The brain stem.  The epicentre.  Where everything goes through.  It is just a bit bigger than a thumb.

The pituitary gland that controls all of our hormone production.  So small, you could lose it.  Pearl small.

Our bodies are so cool.

I spent my birthday cutting up brains.

When I was in Nuc Med, everyone made me promise I wouldn’t do surgery because of my terrible intention tremor and accident proneness.  I agreed.  Then, they were shocked to hear about me having to rotate through surgery.  Then, I had to do it again.  I am pretty sure cutting up brains (dead or alive) counts in what we were describing as surgery.

I still have all my fingers.  No harm came to anything or anyone (well, except my pride).

Patrick says that I was so weird as a kid and teen, I probably would believe I would cut up brains because I was strangely fascinated with the body.

Maybe.  But, once I hit Nuc Med and realized that I didn’t like surgery or cutting things up, probably not.

I spent my birthday cutting up brains.

Not many people get to say that.

I do.

That makes me really fortunate.  Even if it isn’t my favourite thing.

How Did That Happen?: How to survive rotations you hate

This week’s installment of How Did That Happen? is all about surviving rotations you hate.stethoscopes1

I know, there are people out there in the world who love all of medicine and enjoyed every single rotation they did. I am not one of those people. I tolerated every rotation. I did well on them. But, I did not see myself living in that department much longer than already required.

  • First of all, refer to the post on trying to be a good resident.  Trying to be a good resident or med student is always a good launching point for surviving any rotation.
  • Feign interest. I’m not talking being over the top. Just show up and act semi-interested and participate while not complaining.
  • Don’t lie or suck-up. Nothing is more annoying than that kid who always has their nose in the staff’s butt, no matter what rotation you are on. They always want to do this forever and love everything. If you like something, then say so. If you don’t, stop faking it. People can see through it or pick up on it over time. It makes you look bad. And annoying to the people you work with .
  • Be positive. Some days this is harder than others. But, don’t sulk around and be miserable. Find the bright sides in the rotation… Where this will help you in the future, how you are helping others… Those sorts of things. And cling to them. Especially when people ask what you think and your first thought is to say it sucks.
  • Look on the bright side. This is kind of like being positive, but moreso in your own head.   Think of how things could be worse or how much you have already completed or other milestones that get you through (like vacations, weekends, post-call days, academic half days).
  • Do your job. If you are on a rotation and you have a job to do, do it. Simple.
  • Figure out what you like and stick with it.If you can’t leave the rotation, join them. What aspects make you want to gouge your eyes out less? When I was on Radiology, I rewarded myself with Nuc Med stuff once a week. On Gen Surg, I would volunteer to do clinics because it was better than going to the OR.
  • Go the extra mile in ways you can handle.If you are a procedures person, offer to do the procedures you come across (even if they are few and far between). You are more theoretical? Volunteer to do the journal club or presentations. Even if you are bored or unhappy, taking steps to do things that show your interest in some area is better than nothing.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things. Sometimes, the stuff I think I will hate the most is the stuff that turns out to be okay. I generally say I don’t love procedures. I do, however love debriding wounds and pulling drains. I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t try.
  • Set goals.My program often doles out giant lists of objectives for every rotation. It is good to know what you need to do or even what you want to do, so that you can focus on getting it done (and getting the bad pieces over with). Plus, it can direct studying and such, so you hopefully don’t have to do it again.
  • Have a good support network. Have good people around so that when you have a rough day or are working with ridiculous people, you can vent and bounce ideas off of them. There are some rotations where my rant days outweighed the good days, but that is life.
  • Do other stuff. Some rotations eat your life. Sure, you might work a million hours and study most of the rest, but take time to go to the gym or eat out with friends. It keeps a person sane, especially during the rough stuff.
  • Remember other people survived this too. There has to be some way out if everyone does it.

What are your surviving bad rotation tips?