Wednesday, September 06, 2006

working and the medical student.

Somehow I've become a writer who can't seem to bring herself to write.

Okay, so to answer a question posed by bijouxoxo ten thousand years ago. Is possible to work and attend medical school?

My biased answer is hell no. Do it at your peril.

Medical school is all consuming. It's a jealous beast that wants the student's mind, heart, time, life. That's my word. There's just so much to learn and so little time in the day. Medical schools are trying to improve quality of life by shortening class hours but nevertheless we still spend at least 6 hours per day in class. Enough analysis, let me break it down but keep in mind that every school is different.

First Year, first semester: My courses were Anatomy (time consumer), Biochemistry, Genetics, Nutrition, Physicians Patients & Society (PPS, discussing how to be a doc, ethics, customs, etc, luckily only once a week but two hours long, in the afternoon), Longitudinal Preceptor Program(LPP; follow a doctor for 2 years, minimum 3 hours per session for seven sessions each semester).

A typical day started at 8am and usually ended by 4:30pm except on Fridays which ended at 12:30pm. Biochem and Anatomy started from day one and we had those classes every day. Anatomy took the bulk of the day with four hour labs 3-4 times a week in addition to lecture every day. Anatomy took all my study time. There was just so much to learn and so little time at the end of the day. I also made the fatal mistake of reading the textbook and just getting bogged down in details . As a result, I would often find myself behind in my other classes and have to do the cram and regurgitate thing.

First Year, second semester: Much better because now no anatomy lab. My classes were Physiology, Bacteriology, Nutrition Part 2, PPS 2, LPP, Physical diagnosis (in the evening). The funny thing about second semester was that we covered more material but by this time i was used to the volume so it did not feel so bad. They tricked us into thinking we would have more time during the day but somehow again classes started by 8am and ended by 4pm except on Friday of course.

Mix in studying after class, extracurriculars of your choice,an elective class or two that meets in the evening, plus hanging with friends at med school, hanging with sig others/fam, and basic downtime to recharge, chores like food shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning (many times i longed for a housewife to take care of those pesky chores) and i am not really sure how one can fit in a job. But maybe I just wasn't disciplined enough or liked sleep too much or reading blogs. I don't know.

Second Year, First Semester. A little better because classes usually end by 12:30pm. A little worse because now the syllabus for each block of pathology (usually lasting just a month or 6 weeks) was the same quanity as the material for a whole semester of physiology whose syllabus was bigger than a whole semester of anatomy. (a semester is about 5 months - mid august - december; jan-may). We had two blocks of pathology at the same time. Gen Path/Immunology for the first month; Hematology/Cardiology; Renal/Respiratory. We also added on Virology and Pharmacology. We still had to make time for our LPP sessions and we had Physical diagnosis once a week - a 2 hour class. + Labs for Gen. Path and Virology. + Epidemiology and later on PPS after epi was done (thank GOD)

I cut my extracurriculars to ONE activity, took no electives whatsoever and spent six days a week in the library studying until 9pm every day. I would like to say that I spent 9 hours a day studying but reality is sometimes we would get out of class at 2 or 3 or 4 or something would come up (like a nap) and I think I put in 4 good hours of studying per day. Despite this, a class or two would end up on the back burner and i would find myself cramming again.

Second Year, Second Semester: they took off the gloves. My classes were Gen. Path(Endocrinology/ can't recall!); Gastrointestinal/Reproduction; Dermatology/Rheumatology. +Neurology; Pharmacology; Psychiatry; and two more blocks of Microbiology. +Physical Diagnosis, PPS, AND studying for the boards. We had so many afternoon and evening sessions that studying became a luxury and not a given right. By April, I had to quit school and focus on studying. In other words, I stopped going to class and watched the videotapes in the evening and spent the mornings studying. Home became a distant memory. Sundays off became a rare event because we had an exam every monday it seemed.

Looking back now, I wonder how I even lived to tell the tale but the trick is, they slowly add the classes one at a time until one day you look up and realize, damn i have four classes on my plate + the incidentals. But by that time, you are kind of used to the load so it doesn't seem so bad. Other schools I hear, do one class at a time but they do it at warp speed so you spend maybe 2-3 weeks per class with only God knows how many hours per day before moving onto the next.

Hope this is helpful. I hope to discuss third year my next post. For now, gotta go to bed so I can be fresh for my patients tomorrow (laugh).

in a minute.