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 time...so 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 - you'll be able to tease each other when no one can find the huge nerve right in front of our eyes (it looks like a muscle! nope...sciatic nerve, ya morons), force the shiest one to do the weirdest things (here, take the scalpel and cut his penis in half so we can see the layers!), and be able to laugh when the cadaver arm accidentally falls around your waist during dissection of the brachial plexus. If you're not lucky as lucky as I was....best of luck to you. 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, maybe secretly give them a name, 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.

30 comments:

  1. Love this post! It is also spot-on from what I remember of my first semester of med school last time around... although I hope that you had significantly less crying than I did. And yeah, I'm stoked to (hopefully) be going back. Congrats on being 1/8 of a doctor, my friend!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. very well said. i heartily concur. with all of it. and life after med school is like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow that actually looks more like a mountain you're climbing. ask me in 6 months what life after residency looks like. i hear it's even better...

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think it's amazing that you're doing this. I'm in grad school and I think it's hard enough, I can't imagine how you do it. You're an inspiration!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have so much respect for people who study to be doctors, and lawyers, and get their PhDs. I made a conscience effort to pick a profession that didn't require anything more than grad school (which I believe hard enough!). ;) Congrats on being 1/8th done! :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. This post made my day. Hats off to you Fran!

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is spot on. Especially about the cadaver lab - I became a vegetarian for a year and although I eat some meat now, I still can't eat cold cuts. I get flashbacks to anatomy lab and just feel like throwing up. On a brighter note, med school gets a million trillion times better! Just hold out for the golden 4th year :-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yay Fran! I can sincerely say, from my exalted third year position, that it gets a whole lot better and worse as you go along. Just like what you're doing, but MORE. (It's awesome. And horrible.) You're going to rock it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh so thaaaat's what you have been doing! :) Sounds like fun girl!!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yay for finishing your first semester!! In my opinion, the first semester is by far the worse. Second year is much better, and third and fourth are better yet!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I work for a medical school. I coordinate the 3rd year Psych clerkship and the 4th year electives. Plus, I do all of the prep work and note packs for the year 1 and 2 psych courses. I think you sound like every medical student I have encountered! There will be a new level of fear when you hit 3rd year but at least then you get to feel like a doctor! Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  11. This sounds horrible! It's giving me PTSD flashbacks of law school...except we didn't have to cut open human bodies. But it sounds like you are doing so well and learning a lot. I think you're going to make a wonderful doctor, Fran! You got this!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Definitely makes diagraming sentences look like a walk in the dog park.

    ReplyDelete
  13. A lot of these (the free time, the crying, the money, the learning how to human) apply to law school as well...thank goodness we don't have cadavers or I'd be in trouble! ;) Great job girlfriend, so proud of you!!

    ReplyDelete
  14. And this is why you're my hero! What a great reflection on it - here's to the next seven!!!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Sounds more comparable to life with a newborn than childbirth... I can commiserate on losing free time, wondering what I've done, skipping out on some desired drinking :) oh, and being thrilled with y choice despite it all. Way to do that 1st semester - enjoy the break and then go get 'em, because you'll do awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm overwhelmed just reading this! Seriously, props to you, Fran! You are going to do amazing things :-)

    -AJ
    FitTravelerAJ.com

    ReplyDelete
  17. Ohmigosh. I don't even have words. Bless you, girl. Glad you've had some time to reflect and hopefully get rejuvenated!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Really enjoyed this post. I think it's so great that you're doing this! Keep kickin ass, girl! You can do it!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thank you! Thank you!! For doing what I would never be able to do! The world needs doctors and you will be an amazing one!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Great post, and great GIFs. I'm glad to hear things are going well for you. I'm getting tired of the school component of grad school, and that's nothing like med school. Some days I envy the 9-5 life. Best wishes for you and your future!

    ReplyDelete
  21. You know if you can have an overall positive outlook that you're on the right path! I know I never could have handled med school, but some of those things sound so familiar from my time in OT school. I definitely forgot to human more than once, and it was depressing to think how much I was paying to sometimes torture myself.It sounds like you're doing awesome though! Enjoy your break because you definitely deserve it!

    Kaitlin
    www.teaandsequins.com

    ReplyDelete
  22. Congrats on finishing your first semester! Quite a feat!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Congrats on getting the first semester under your belt! I love this post-- you still are able to keep things lighthearted yet real! Best of luck to you on this journey, you will rock it and be the best damn doctor ever!
    -Valerie
    www.the-style-files.com

    ReplyDelete
  24. This post is golden! I don't know if it was all the gifs (which made me lol super hard) or the fact that you were so brutally honest about your cadaver session that got me.

    I know it's silly to say, "Fran, I'm so proud of you!!" because I'm just a dork on the interwebz, but seriously, I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!! You jumps through a TON of hurdles this year and I doubt anyone else could've done it with such grace and confidence as you did. Can't wait to hear about the next semester!

    xo,
    katrina
    thedemuremuse.com

    ReplyDelete
  25. Congratulations on getting through first semester!
    Looking back, I feel like a large part of dental school was a black hole. When I hear about news events or tv shows that were on during those 4 years, I haven't heard of them.
    I saw this the other day..cracked me u. I give you the "medical school ukelele song": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0J6wE8bHrg

    ReplyDelete
  26. What a great insight to your first semester of med school! I really enjoyed reading this, Fran...and the GIFs totally made me laugh (the one from Pitch Perfect is my favorite!). I wish you the best of luck next semester!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  27. hahaha, this is brilliant.

    xoxo
    Ivy
    http://www.purrpleivy.com/

    ReplyDelete
  28. OMG...my ex-boyfriend was in vet school while we were dating and this just took me way back. The stress, the gross stories, the he-didn't-have-a-life-so-neither-did-I thing...man. Those times were tough! So I totally feel what you are going through even though I haven't experienced it myself first-hand. I honestly don't know how you do it! Just going to work every day is sometimes enough to make me stress-cry. You are a champ, Fran! All the struggles with be SO worth it when you make it through! Great post! xo

    ReplyDelete

I love hearing and chatting with you guys, so please make sure you aren't a "No Reply" commenter (that means your email address isn't shown when you leave a comment so I can't email you back!).