Clerkship updates! It’s been a busy past few months! I completed one month each of Internal Medicine (CCU/ER consults) and General Surgery.
What I enjoyed the most
I really enjoyed doing consults in the ER because I felt it really allowed me to hone my history taking and physical exam skills as well as come up with management plans. I met so many interesting patients and learned a lot from the fantastic staff and residents I worked with. In General Surgery, I had the opportunity to become more comfortable in the OR (I was initially terrified of going in there!) and practice useful skills such as inserting foleys and suturing incisions. I also had the opportunity to participate in laparoscopic surgery by assisting with guiding the camera, which was fun! I also developed a new appreciation for how difficult it is for patients to undergo surgery: the anxiety before surgery as well as the sometimes excruciating pain and post-op recovery.
What I struggled with the most
Internal Medicine and General Surgery have definitely been the most demanding in terms of work hours and I sometimes felt like I was floundering. I had managed to keep my mindset positive and motivated during my previous rotations but for some reason, I had moments of doubt and anxiety over the past few weeks which I can’t fully explain. So, I sat myself down, worked through my thoughts, prayed, and confided in family and friends about my struggles. I have emerged stronger and more motivated!
My take home message
Internal Medicine and General Surgery are great specialties despite the long hours. They each bring different perspectives and add richness to one’s medical training. The past few months have reminded me how important it is to guard one’s thoughts and to rely on others when we feel weak and downtrodden. Despite the challenges, I am excited to be pursuing a career in medicine and thank God for his ever abundant blessings in my life!
My very first clerkship rotation was in OBGYN outpatient clinics which I posted about here including some tips for surviving clerkship in general. This past month was a continuation of my OBGYN experience. The first 3 weeks were based in the birthing center where I had the opportunity to take part in a variety of interesting tasks:
Interview and examine pregnant patients in triage
Assist with vaginal deliveries and C-sections
Round on post-partum patients
Conduct consults in the ER
My last week was Gynecology-based where I got to assist with some gynecology surgical procedures in the OR, round on post-op patients, see patients in Gynecology/Early Pregnancy clinics and conduct consults in the ER.
What I enjoyed most:
I very much enjoyed interacting with pregnant patients and helping them through the beautiful, life-changing experience of welcoming their child into the world. I was also grateful to come out of this rotation with tangible, practical skills like delivering babies and suturing.
What I struggled with most:
The environment was fast-paced and quite stressful. It was difficult seeing patients experience pregnancy loss, particulary having gone through the experience myself. The schedule was exhausting with evening/night shifts and 2 weekends back-to-back. I definitely struggled with balancing work and family life and missed the kids a lot.
My take home message:
OBGYN is a great speciality in many ways. There is plenty of variety in terms of the work, it is rewarding bringing babies into the world and being a part of patients lives during such critical moments. For me personally, the demanding lifestyle was not a good fit for my family life, but I am grateful for all that I learned during this rotation and that it helped to clarify my interests more definitively.
This week was refreshing as we started the final block of the Fundamentals of Medicine: The Nervous System and Human Behavior. The previous block (Reproduction) was surprisingly one of the most challenging blocks for me due to the sensitive nature of some of the topics such as complications in pregnancy. It was difficult to listen to the lecture on miscarriage having personally experienced the trauma of a miscarriage 7 years ago. It felt like I was reliving the experience and I found myself thinking about my dear, sweet, unborn child that I never got to meet.
Moments like this plus settling my son into Grade 1, helping him with homework, occasionally managing on my own while my husband was away, plus the pressure of exams, made things seem overwhelming at times (there were definitely plenty of tears). But I continually remind myself how grateful I am to be in medical school and how much I enjoy it. And in those moments when I was really down, I thank God for his indescribable peace and grace that sustained me. I thank God for my wonderful husband, who despite experiencing his own stress and pressure at work, continues to support me and stand by me on this journey. I thank God for my family and friends who continue to pray for me and motivate me. Sometimes I feel as if I am a marathon runner who has supporters running alongside me shouting, “Keep going! Don’t give up! Keep your eye on the prize!”
One of my dearest cousins used to tell me that nothing worth having in life ever comes easily. This needn’t scare us about trying things and stretching ourselves beyond our comfort zone! It is worth the effort, tears and sweat in the end!
I am truly excited to be learning about the human brain, nervous system and behavior over the next few weeks. This week in the anatomy lab, I had the rare privilege of holding a human brain in my hands. I hope this will not be too gruesome for some of you to read but I had to write this to express my sincere appreciation for the magnificence of the human body and for those people who donated themselves for our educational learning. To be holding the essence of this individual’s personality, memories, hopes and dreams in my hands made me reflect on how important each life is.
Featured Image by Potential Doctor: Sunset view of Montreal after a hike up Mont Royal
Today was a very special day as my classmates and I celebrated a milestone in our medical training…The White Coat Ceremony! It was a beautiful and inspiring ceremony as we reflected on the next phase of our training, the moments when we will get to experience the triumphs and challenges of helping our patients navigate their illness.
In January, we will be transitioning into clinical practice which is when we will begin observational hospital rotations (alongside lectures and small groups) before beginning our official rotations in the 3rd year of medical school. I am very grateful that our curriculum offers us this opportunity to gradually transition into the world of clinical practice as we wrap up our Fundamentals of Medicine block in December.
Today was a reminder of the immense challenges ahead, but also what an incredible privilege it is to be in this profession.
Raising kids is one of the greatest challenges one can face. It calls for the utmost patience, unconditional love, and draws stark attention to our own weaknesses. I personally realized that I was not as patient as I thought I was. I can recall my angry outbursts and frustration with my two young children (particularly my son), often feeling like I had no idea what I was doing when it came to parenting. I couldn’t understand why they simply couldn’t listen more…and whine less!!
This summer, with my kids home with me every day for 2 months straight, I knew something had to change with my parenting approach. I didn’t like the fact that I felt so much frustration and helplessness. I decided to take concrete action and found that I started to see significant improvements in my son’s behavior (and my own!) If there’s one thing that I have realized with kids, it’s that often their negative behavior is fueled by my own behavior and attitudes.
So what action did I take? In a nutshell, I prayed daily about the situation and I read parenting resources voraciously. Then I applied what I learned consistently!
I have distilled what I learned down to five basic principles which I learned from several different books and online resources. I feel that these ideas have completely transformed the way that I see myself and my children. I will share these principles with you over a series of posts, but let’s get started with the first one.
Parenting Principle Number One: Positive Speaking
Speak positively about your child and to your child: A child responds to your demeanor and attitude toward them. If all they hear is negative words about themselves, this is how they will behave. Negativity can slip out unintentionally in a moment of frustration: “You’re so messy!”, “You’re so slow!”, “What’s wrong with you!!”. I know I have been guilty of putting down my son when I could have been more gentle or understanding.
How can you create a more positive environment for your child? Focus on your child’s strengths. What are they good at? What did they do well today? This can be in the simplest of ways, “Thank you for putting your toys away” or “You were really sweet with you sister today, that’s great!” or “You’re really good at building things, keep up the effort!” This doesn’t mean ignoring their weaknesses or any bad behavior, but it means putting more emphasis on what the did well rather than what they failed at.
This principle was inspired by reading “Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World” by Zig Ziglar.
Stay tuned for Principle Number 2 in this series of ‘Parenting Principles That Transformed My Life’
How do you handle a stressful job, demanding school work, family life, parenthood or the challenges of life in general? There is no one-size-fits-all solution but there are some strategies that can help us cope with the day-to-day demands we face. Based on my personal experiences, I have found that there are 4 things that consistently give me energy, stamina, improve my mood and attitude:
Regular exercise: It can be tough to find time to exercise 3 or more times per week. There are so many other things that need to get done! But, physical activity is as beneficial to our bodies as healthy food is. In fact, when it comes to cardiovascular health, physical activity is just as important as healthy food. It can take some time to find a regimen that works for you but setting realistic goals and easing into it could help set the tone for a more consistent exercise routine. Why not start with just 10 minutes every other day? Establishing the habit is the hardest part but you can do it!
A good night’s sleep: This means different things to different people. Some can get by on 5 hours while others (like me) need at least 8 hours a night to feel fully rested. I have personally found that my mood, attention span, ability to learn and handle stress are much better when I have been sleeping well. If you are feeling stressed, consider whether the amount of sleep you are getting is sufficient for your daily needs.
Social ties: Sharing our struggles with those we trust can take some of the burden off our own shoulders and help us cope. There is no shame in feeling overwhelmed or tired. Reach out to someone if you can!
Reflection: Taking time for reflection, prayer or meditation is a fantastic way to make sense of your thoughts and slow down the rhythm of our fast-paced lives. It can also help us bring to the forefront unresolved feelings, hurts or other difficult emotions. Why not set aside 10 to 15 minutes a day for this personal reflection time?
Whatever stresses you may be going through, consider the above basic strategies to help you cope. Simple but effective!
My recommended workout of the week. This is a great 30-minute cardio workout with light weights (5 to 10 pounds) that also targets chest, abs, glutes, obliques, shoulders and legs. For those with problematic knees (like me!), there is a modified version of the exercise displayed. In general, aim for exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once to get more bang for your buck!
There is no doubt that medical school sometimes feels like a marathon. There are moments of high energy and exhilaration. There are also moments when we feel like we are running out of fuel. The pace is fast, intense and requires consistent focus. If there is anything I am learning, it is absolutely necessary to take moments to slow down, reflect and catch our breath. Why are we doing this in the first place? Do we still have our eyes on the finish line? Are we taking time to enjoy the scenery as we run the race?
This week I felt exhausted from all the demands of medical school and family life. I woke up this morning feeling mentally and emotionally tired. I went before God in prayer asking for strength that only He can give. As I opened my Bible, I came across verses that immediately encouraged me and reminded me that it’s ok to feel weak sometimes. It’s ok to fall on our knees, hang our head and call out for some help. In that moment, we just need to take stock of the attitudes permeating our hearts and minds, and lift our head back up to keep our eyes fixed firmly on our prize. We will get to the end of the race and reach our goals in due time!
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
“I press on towards the goal…” Philippians 3:14
“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” I Thessalonians 5:16-18