Clerkship Update: Neonatal Intenstive Care Unit

I recently completed my 2-week rotation in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and it was a fantastic experience. The format of this rotation was such that medical students were integrated as part of the NICU team, attending sign-outs, rounding on patients, managing patients (physical exams etc), writing admission notes, progress notes and discharge summaries. We also took part in consults from the Obstetrics department and observed the resuscitation team who were prepped and ready for babies delivered by C-section.

What I enjoyed most: On this rotation, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with a a great team of staff physicians, residents, international medical students, nurses, nurse practitioners, nutrionists as well as various consultants. I very much enjoyed the teamwork! And of course,  I loved the patients (the babies) who were the real heros of the unit. I also really appreciated that we were assigned our own babies to manage and this afforded us plenty of autonomy and self-directed learning. On most days, we also had about 1 hour of teaching which was very beneficial.

What I struggled with most: Having to present my patients on rounds was quite intimidating some times but by the end of the 2-weeks, I felt much more confident, even if my management plans were sometimes off-track!

My take home message: The NICU was a fantastic experience and my favorite rotation so far. I am yet to do my core pediatrics rotation but I certainly enjoy working with the pediatric population. Since I also enjoy working with adult patients, I would currently rank pediatrics as a “medium” on a scale of low-medium-high, as a future potential specialty for me.

My current rotation is an elective in Pathology which has been very interesting and a different pace from clinical rotations. I will share my experiences on this in the coming weeks!

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Hubby and I on a date. We went on a nice long walk up Mont Royal, had lunch at a new vegetarian restaurant and went to see Mission Impossible: Fallout. We had a blast!
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We saw this piece of artwork on a park bench and thought it was quite unique (plus I had to take a picture of it for my daughter who loves giraffes!)

 

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Excited…Tomorrow is the Start of Clerkship!

Tomorrow marks the first day of the next phase of my medical training…clerkship rotations! I am filled with excitement…if not a little nervous! I am so grateful for the wonderful summer break I have had with family and friends. I felt the bond with my kids growing especially strong over this summer and despite the usual challenges of parenting that sometimes leave me wanting to pull my hair out, it has been such a joy to see them thrive!

Knowing that our lives are about to get very busy with me working long hours at the hospital and a lengthy commute, I sat the kids down to let them know that they will not see mummy as often. They were sad but said, “We’ll miss you but we’ll always love you!” This really warmed my heart, especially with how attached I am to my kids!

I know there will be days when I question whether my absence is detrimental to their well-being. I know there will be days when my heart is aching to be with them. But I am trusting that they will be well and that I will not give in to the overwhelming feelings of mummy guilt. I am so grateful for my wonderful husband who I know will take excellent care of them when I’m not there.  I pray for God’s grace to continually strengthen our family through this new phase of our lives.

To my dearest hubby and children, I love you dearly. It is truly a joy to be going through life with you all by my side!

So, onward we go to clerkship! Thrilled to be starting with Obstetrics!

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Last week of vacation before clerkship starts tomorrow!

The First Year of Medical School…Done!!!

The past few months have been both challenging and amazing! I can’t quite believe that the first year of medical school is already done! It went by so quickly and I am amazed at how much I have grown and learned over the past year. We covered 8 blocks: Public Health, Respiration, Circulation, Renal, GI, Defense, Infection and the Musculoskeletal System.

The last block was particularly heavy in anatomy and one of the most challenging blocks I have done. I have to say that it brought me to a whole new level of appreciation for the human body as we learned over 1000 new terms for different muscles of the body in Latin. Difficult to do but also fascinating and rewarding! I am also gaining valuable ultrasound skills and have signed up to teach this to first-year medical students. I think it’s going to be a fantastic experience.

Throughout this past year, I have grown in my appreciation for my teachers, mentors, classmates, our silent “teachers” in the anatomy lab, and of course, the patients who I have had the privilege of interacting with. Our medical school curriculum is hands-on so we have had several opportunities to gain exposure in the clinical setting.

My favorite block so far was Defense (the Immune system). I loved learning about the various ways the body keeps foreign invaders in check. Truly a marvel of the human body and a beautiful reminder of the majesty of God’s creation.

Other exciting events that happened in the last few months:

  1. The celebration of our 10th wedding anniversary (happy anniversary to my dearest hubby!)
  2. My son’s completion of kindergarten and “graduation” to Grade 1 (that’s my boy!)
  3. My big brother’s graduation from medical school as he embarks on his pediatrics residency (so proud of you!)

How was the first year of medical school? It was about as challenging as I expected it to be (particularly when trying to balance the voluminous amount of material with family life, church activities, extracurriculars etc.) but it was even better than I imagined in terms of how interesting the material was and what a privilege it is to be a part of the medical profession.

Through it all, I couldn’t have done this without the grace of God, and the wonderful support of my amazing husband, kids, friends and family. I am looking forward to the summer break over the next 2 months, spending more time with my family and getting some rest. In late August, I will be starting my last two blocks of the Fundamentals of Medicine and then Transition to Clerkship (rotations) in January 2018. Exciting!

Time will continue to pass regardless of what you are doing….make sure you are doing what you love! It makes life more meaningful and full of purpose!

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Studying on the deck during final exam week
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A visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan for my brother’s graduation from medical school
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Daddy and his little girl, hand-in-hand. A visit to Quebec city to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.
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Our cutie-pie! A visit to the Aquarium in Quebec city.
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A beautiful view of Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City from the rotating restaurant Ciel! 
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Ready for summer fun! So blessed to have these little ones in my life!

Medical School Starts Tomorrow!

It is hard to believe that after 10 years of planning, with plenty of detours and surprises, I am finally starting medical school tomorrow! When I look back on the past few years, there were several moments when I wondered why there had been a delay or why things did not go as planned. In hindsight, I realize that everything had a purpose and that this is exactly the right time to be doing this, even if it took much longer than expected to get here!

I am so grateful for the support I have received from my amazing husband, church, friends and family. If you have a goal in life that seems somewhat overwhelming or even nearly impossible, gather the right people around you to encourage you, lift you up and mentor you. This has been invaluable to me for getting through obstacles and disappointments.

Last Friday, my husband and I spent a day together (normally, we’re surrounded by our rambunctious kids!) We drove downtown and strolled around hand-in-hand reminiscing on our early dating days. It was so special to walk on campus where I completed my first degree eleven years go, knowing that in just a few days I would begin another one at the very same university.

My husband and I wandered into the medical building where most of my classes will be. We eventually found ourselves in the Osler library, home to thousands of books on the history of medicine personally owned by the Canadian physician Sir William Osler, the father of modern medicine. There was something so profound about being in touch with this important piece of history just prior to the start of my own journey into medicine.

As I start a new phase of my life tomorrow, I hope you will continue to follow me on this adventure. My husband and children are very excited and although I know it will be demanding, I am so thrilled to have my ‘team’ behind me for support!

Onward to medical school!

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On campus with my husband
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Last weekend before medical school starts! A fun ferry ride on the way to the beach at Oka park
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Last day before medical school starts: a day at the water-slides in Pointe Calumet

Photo credit for featured image: Karen Coshof (from the book ‘The Osler Library’)

Getting Closer to the Start of Medical School!

As the start of medical school approaches, I can feel the excitement continuing to rise! This is going to be such an amazing journey! I know it will be very challenging and will stretch me in many ways. I am going to give it my very best effort, knowing that my family, friends and God’s strength will help to sustain me through the upcoming long journey!

Since my last medical school update, we have managed to get a lot done:

  • Take Basic Life Support class (CPR and AED): Done! Very useful course that I think everyone should learn!
  • Update immunizations: mostly completed. Pending 2 reports following a chicken-pox titre test and chest X-Ray. Two more tetanus shots will be done in August and February.
  • Financing my medical education: meet with the bank (done, credit-line approved!), apply for government financial aid (done, waiting for my application to be processed) and scholarships (done, and I’m happy to announce that I received a scholarship that will go towards part of my first year of tuition!)
  • Look for a second-hand car to commute 5o minutes downtown: done! We got a fuel-efficient 2012 Toyota Yaris with only 13,000 kms on it for less than half the price of a new car!
  • Register for classes: Registration opened yesterday! It’s so thrilling to see what courses I will be starting off with (trying not to be fazed that the number of courses and credits are almost double what I did per semester during my undergraduate degree. I have been told medical school is like trying to drink water from a fire hydrant!!)

So all in all, things are falling into place and I feel truly grateful to God for this amazing opportunity to study medicine and hopefully make a difference in the lives of my future patients!

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Registering for my medical school courses Fall 2016!!

 

My Medical School Interview is Done!

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Ready for my med school interview

Yesterday, I had an amazing day as I went through my medical school interview experience. After an intense few weeks of preparation, it was finally time to face the interview! The venue was downtown, 50 minutes away from our house. My husband and children (my cheering squad) were eager to accompany me to the interview so they got up bright and early with me to make it downtown for 7am. We arrived well in advance and I got to chat with other interviewees.

As the interview day organizers came to collect us nervous interviewees from the lobby, I kissed and hugged my family good bye and proceeded to the check-in location. I was thankfully assigned to the first group of the morning and after a quick debriefing, we went to start our interviews. It was in Multiple-Mini-Interview (MMI) format with 10 different interview stations. Despite my initial nervousness, it was a fantastic experience. It’s difficult to know how I performed but I really enjoyed it and felt that it stretched me out of my comfort zone.

Even in those especially challenging moments when I felt unsure of how to answer the question, I prayed for strength and was encompassed by such a sense of boldness and confidence. I felt God’s presence with me helping me to be calm and at peace. I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the interviewers, actors and the other interviewees.

It was stimulating hearing about people’s stories and their diverse backgrounds. The whole event was very well organized and there was something so energizing about being around people with similar goals and aspirations. The admissions decisions will be released on May 12th when I will find out if I have been accepted to medical school!

Through all of this, I am just so grateful to have made it this far. I have received overwhelming support from my church, friends and family who have been encouraging me and praying with me for months. No matter what happens on May 12th, it has been an amazing ride and my faith has grown in so many ways through this whole process. I’m excited!

 

Ten Strategies to Avoid Burnout While Preparing for the MCAT

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I received a question from a reader about how to handle burnout when preparing for the MCAT. How does one maintain stamina while studying for this important exam? I would like to share with you my tips on what helped me get through those months of preparation. There were certainly moments when I felt exhausted so I knew I had to find ways to attain balance in my life.

Everyone’s situation is different, be it as a student, being employed, having children or other family members to take care of, among other scenarios. Some of the tips below may or may not be applicable to your situation but hopefully there will still be something you can take away from this post that will help you handle those intense months of studying without burning out.

My situation is that I was working full time during my first two takes of the MCAT (in 2005 and 2008) and then on maternity leave during my third take of the MCAT (2015). All these scenarios required effort to maintain balance. Below you will find my suggested tips for keeping your head above water as you prepare for the MCAT:

  1. Draft a study schedule: On my first two takes of the MCAT, I did not have a clear idea of my study plans. I simply opened books and started reading. The result was that I started to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material and I ended up running out of time towards the end to complete all the material and to practice questions. On my third take, I created a flexible study schedule that gave me an idea of what chapters to study each week. This put me in a good frame of mind knowing that I would eventually cover all the required material and still have time for practice questions.
  2. Strategic studying: It is tempting to put in hour and hours of studying at a time for the MCAT. I have fallen into that trap and it was not the most efficient because our brains only have so much staying power. I found my recall and grasp of material to be much better when I broke up my studying into blocks of approximately 1-2 hours then took a break for about 15 to 30 minutes. A regular change of pace helps to get the brain back in gear for studying.
  3. Rotate subject areas: At some point, you may get tired of reading from the same subject area. When I set up my study schedule, I alternated subject areas on each day, for example, Mon-Chemistry, Tue-Biology, Wed-Physics, Thurs-Psychology, and then threw in a verbal reasoning (CARS) passage 1-2 times a week. This kept things somewhat fresh and helped to keep me motivated. Develop a study format that works for you.
  4. Take care of yourself: Exercising, eating healthily, getting enough sleep and perhaps engaging in one of your favorite hobbies will help you feel more active, physically and mentally strong. Even just a brisk 15 minute walk in the fresh air can do wonders for your frame of mind. Taking the time to pray, meditate and clear your thoughts can also help to renew your focus.
  5. Take an extended break: Depending on your situation, you may or may not have the luxury of taking a break but if you are starting to feel really burnt out, stop all studying for a few days and if you are using a study schedule, adjust it accordingly. Trying to study at the brink of burn-out may make things worse.
  6. Be creative with studying: If you are starting to feel a little overwhelmed with how much material there is to cover and you have limited time to study, look at ways to sneak in some additional study time. I listened to Khan Academy videos while washing dishes, cooking or folding laundry. I had flash cards taped to the elliptical in my basement as I exercised, I had flow-charts taped to my bathroom mirror as I brushed my teeth. I also always had flashcards in my handbag to whip out if I was out somewhere and I had to wait in line etc. Yes, you may look a tad bit nerdy but you are on a mission to conquer the MCAT!
  7. Let some things go: As a mother with young children at home, I learned to let some things go so I could focus on my studying. The house was not as clean and tidy as it could have been, the meals I cooked were a bit boring for a while but I kept in mind that all this was temporary and my husband was on board and understood that there were sacrifices to be made.
  8. Get help if you can: I used to be very poor at delegating and wanted to do everything myself. I learned the hard way that this can lead to burnout in many situations so I enlisted my husband’s help and was very specific about what help I needed. Depending on your situation and your responsibilities, if you can get some help to offset some of the other pressures in your life, this can help you to feel less overwhelmed so you can focus on the MCAT.
  9. Write or talk about it: Blogging has become a therapeutic way for me to deal with the pressure of the whole medical school application process. I have found a wonderful support group in the blogosphere and I remember receiving many words of encouragement. If you prefer a more personal approach, writing in a journal can also be therapeutic. Talking about your stresses with others can also alleviate some of the pressure and allow friends and family to give you the support you need.
  10. Be confident: Recognize the person that you are, an individual full of potential who has made this important decision to pursue a noble calling. The MCAT is certainly an important exam but take some of the pressure off of yourself by realizing that there is more to you than the MCAT. You have unique life experiences to bring to the table and the MCAT is not the end of your story! Be confident in your overall ability and uniqueness!

Don’t give up! You may be feeling fed-up and frustrated with preparing for the MCAT but you will overcome it. Be confident and stay positive! You can do it!

Related post: How to Achieve Success on the MCAT…Lessons Learned from Two Retakes