Glad to be Alive

Have you seen the news lately?  So have I.  The first place I find out about news is in the car on my morning drive to the hospital.

What do I think of all of this?  Well, I could write an essay about how I feel.  To put it simply, I am glad to be alive.

A few things have gone on in my life recently:

  • My netbook battery no longer works
  • My fridge stopped keeping things cold
  • My garage door broke
  • My air conditioner started making a weird noise
  • My phone line had no dial tone

Material things can always be fixed or replaced.  No problem.  Death is one thing that can’t be reversed.  I’ve seen people brought into the emergency department who we couldn’t save.  It’s scary.  It broke my heart when I saw a patient’s friends, who happened to be a few big strong men, crying in the hallway.  Dealing with my emotions regarding these difficult situations while also trying to study, learn, and pass my 3rd year rotations was tough.  Even though I am going into a profession that deals with life and death situations, I still feel this sting in my heart whenever I hear of sad news.  I might go into more detail on this in later posts.  We’ll see.

On a lighter note, the weather has been extremely hot in Loma Linda- 106 degrees to be exact.  That was the temperature I saw on a sign as I was walking the other day.  I feel like I’m getting burnt simply walking from the parking lot to the hospital each day.  My 5-minute walk already results in sweat on my face and a need to drink some water.  It is worth it though because I am happy to be on my first 4th year elective, neurology, right now.

My days at the moment consists of clinic from about 8am to 5pm.  Depending on what is going on, I get to speak with and examine the patient first, or I shadow the expert physicians and try to soak in their knowledge.  I have already been on clinical rotations for a year, but I still find it truly amazing to see the conditions I read in textbooks appear in real life.  Of course, interacting with patients is fun.  I felt a good feeling inside when I witnessed my patient’s smile and lifted spirits when I told her what I believed her ”shakiness” was and that there are treatment options available.  I also felt good when an attending told me I presented almost like a neurology resident.  Since I am going to apply to neurology residency programs soon, that was music to my ears.

When I’m done with my interesting days, however, the heat awaits me when I return to my car that has been baking in the sun for at least 10 hours.  I am grateful to whoever invented air conditioning.  I grew up in this Southern California summer heat, so I should be used to this by now.  Well, a fever is defined as a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees.  As an aspiring physician, I suppose that I just dislike feverish temperatures, whether it is measured on my patient or the outdoors.

Furthermore, the other day, I felt like my brain was fried when I took a 4-hour, 8-patient simulated exam, called the MACY, which all senior California medical students need to pass in order to graduate.  This is taken at each school, so mine was at LLU in the beautiful Centennial Complex.

On a side note, the Centennial Complex is a new building that opened in 2009.  It was where I had 1st year lectures, anatomy lab, and patient simulations throughout the past 3 years.

Anyway, back to the MACY, actors portray patients.  Our interactions are recorded on camera and reviewed by a trained grader.  Unlike a movie, there are no outtakes.  We are supposed to showcase our interviewing, empathy, physical exam, and problem-solving skills in a mere 15-minute encounter.  Then, we get 10 minutes to write a physician’s note about the encounter.  Honestly, I found it to be very difficult, even with my successful 3 years of medical school education.  It is an incredible learning experience though, and I’m happy that I get the chance to practice.

Step 2 CS (Clinical Skills) is a longer version of this exam, which I will take in October in Los Angeles.   Thank goodness I will have residency training before I’m let loose on my own.  I can definitely see how much I need additional education.  If you, my reader, end up being my future patient, no need to fear.  I will take excellent care of you; I promise.

Additionally, I’m still studying for Step 2 CK (Clinical Knowledge).  I take it in a couple days at the Redlands testing center.  This is a computerized test that consists of 8 one-hour blocks of about 44 questions.  We get 45 minutes of break time to use as we please.  Personally, I like to take a break after each one-hour test block, so that’s what I will do.  I prefer not to have a feeling of urinary urgency bothering me as I’m answering questions.  Step 2 CK is an exam that roughly runs from 8am to 5pm.  It is a marathon test that comprises of clinical knowledge learned during the 3rd year of medical school.

I feel prepared, yet anxious at the same time.  Ideally, I want to do better than Step 1.  I was satisfied with my Step 1 score last year, so I shall see how this next Step goes.  I’ve been doing my best studying, and I hope for the best.  That’s all I can do.  Study and pray.  Any prayers from you, my reader, are also welcome and much appreciated.  I have a sticky note taped to my bathroom mirror with my ideal score and words of encouragement.  People can dream, and sometimes, dreams do come true.  It’s always good to have goals.  I would not be where I am today without ambitious goals.

As you can see, life is busy, crazy, and scary, even without being in medical school.  Okay, okay, I’ll stop complaining.  One thing I know: I am glad to be alive.

My prayers go out to the victims of the Colorado shooting and their families and friends.

What I’ve learned is that medical school is hard, but it is worth it.  There are definitely sacrifices that need to be made in order to be successful, but I’m able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I still remember how exciting it was to be accepted.

To hopeful medical school applicants and other medical students, my advice would be to set goals and don’t give up.  It’s also good to be realistic.  This means something different for every person.  Expect each step of the way to bring new challenges, but make sure you remember why you do what you do.  No one ever said life would be easy, and medical school certainly is not.  Not everybody gets a chance to become a physician.  I do.  I’m lucky.

Did I mention that I am glad to be alive?