As an introvert, I have generally been fine with spending so much time at home although I do certainly miss my extended family and friends as well as our usual social activities. Regardless of personality type, being confined to one’s home certainly has its pros and cons. As a mother of two young ones aged 8 and 6 years old, I have been trying to balance homeschooling while attempting to study for my first medical licensing exam. Now that it’s been a little over a month since schools and universities closed, I have found a basic approach that seems to be working well and so I wanted to share this with you (particularly parents with young kids):
Let this be a unique and positive learning experience for your kids
While attempting to home-school my children, I have been reminded that kids learn in different ways and that they can learn from many things, not just structured worksheets at the table. I made the decision that I would like my kids to learn in a natural and non-stressful way so that they can develop a positive attitude towards learning in general.
For my kids, we have settled on a very simple routine of daily reading, writing and Math (about 1-2 hours per week day). Beyond this, the kids are free to learn what they would like and we parents facilitate the learning process. This means our days are quite varied and somewhat unpredictable but I find that this has been a much less painful process than trying to schedule out the whole day with very structured activities. Mum and kids have been much less frustrated and in fact it has been fun! (And can I just say that I have a whole new appreciation for school teachers. They are unsung heroes who deserve so much more recognition for the hard work they put into teaching our kids!)
If you are looking for some ideas for your kids, here are just some of the activities my kids enjoy:
Board games: kids can learn plenty of concepts from board games from strategy to math (my daughter’s mental math has grown exponentially since repeatedly being the banker while playing Game of Life!)
Bike rides or walks: kids get physical exercise while enjoying nature and learning important concepts such as road signs, the rules of the road and how to be spatially aware of vehicles. It’s also invigorating as a family to see other people in the neighborhood, even if from a distance.
Cosmic Kids Yoga: another way to keep physically active and includes a creative backdrop of kids’ favorite themes such as Frozen, Pokemon, Minecraft and many more!
Online lessons: kids can learn many things via FaceTime, Skype, Zoom such as art, programming and musical instruments. Is there a friend or family member who has time on their hands and would be willing to teach your kids while you study or work? Depending on your financial situation, paid lessons could be an option too.
Group homeschooling: kids can join other families who are homeschooling via FaceTime, Zoom etc. so that they can socialize and do their work together. My kids have enjoyed doing this with their friends who were routinely home-schooled before the pandemic and whose mum does an AWESOME job teaching all our kids! This has been especially helpful when I had my own online classes to do for medical school.
Educational apps: the kids love SplashLearn and Education.com which has fun games in Math, reading, typing and more. Boukili is an excellent app for learning to read in French.
Science Experiments: the kids have enjoyed Colour Chemistry from Crayola. (I still remember my very first Chemistry set as a kid!)
In all of this, I know I will never be the perfect parent. All I can do is my best and focus on making sure that my husband and kids know they are loved and appreciated! I have also been trying to teach my kids life skills that are hopefully going to help them later in life. More on that in my next post!
I hope this post has been helpful. This has been a tough year for many and my hope is to bring some encouragement and remind you that you are not alone in this.
After months of reflection, prayer and exposure to different medical specialties, I have finally made a decision on which specialty I would like to pursue! I have to say that I am very excited to be at this point and feel very clear-minded about the path forward!
Choosing a medical specialty is not easy. There are so many of them to choose from! Many are interesting and potentially rewarding! This blog post will not only announce my specialty choice but also give some tips to help you with the decision process.
So without further ado….
I have chosen to go into…..FAMILY MEDICINE!
Why Family Medicine?
Getting to work with patients of all ages from babies to elderly
Variety of work contexts: clinics, hospital, ER, long-term care homes
Good work-life balance
Flexibility of practice: one can build a practice based on preferences and also needs in the community
Opportunities to work in both urban and rural areas
Good job outlook: family doctors are needed everywhere
Building long-term relationships with patients
Being involved in every aspect of my patient’s care (holistic approach)
Having generalist knowledge on a variety of disciplines (I find almost everything in the field of medicine fascinating!)
Opportunities to do minor surgical procedures
Opportunities to be involved in public health
These are just some of the many reasons that Family Medicine has grasped my attention and my passion! I am thrilled to be pursuing it!
Tips for Choosing a Specialty
Keep an open mind: I started off with keeping an open mind about the variety of specialties out there.
Do your research: I read up on the various specialties and talked to staff physicians and residents in the field about their experiences.
Wait to go through your clinical rotations first:Although reading about specialties is helpful, they do not always give the full picture on the lifestyle and work environment of a particular specialty. Therefore, I feel it is important to actually go through the clinical rotations before committing fully to or dismissing a particular specialty. You may be pleasantly (or unpleasantly) surprised!
What can you live with (or not!)?Through the course of this year, I have had the opportunity to be exposed to most specialties and obtained a taste of what I liked and did not like in each specialty. There is no perfect specialty but there are aspects of each specialty that I knew I could either live with or not. Similarly, I reflected on what aspects of medicine were important for me and needed to be in that particular specialty for it to be a good fit.
What are your priorities?It is important to factor in your priorities, for example, how will going into this specialty affect other important aspects of your life, such as your family life? Hobbies? Commitments? For me, I knew my family and church life are extremely important to me so I needed a specialty that would allow me to continue to devote my time to these aspects of my life.
Say “no” to being pressured: For some people, choosing a specialty becomes clear very early on while for others, it takes more time. Avoid the temptation to feel pressured into a decision. Only you can make the decision. Try not to let someone else make it for you.
What are the community needs? Another important aspect to consider in your specialty choice is the needs in the community. What resources for our patients are lacking and where could you step in to fill in the gaps?
I hope you find these tips useful in your decision making process. If you have further questions about clerkship rotations, specialty choice or anything else you would like to discuss, feel free to comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is always a pleasure hearing from you!
Suggested reading materials: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Medical Specialty by Brian Freeman
It has been 3 weeks since I started clerkship and it is going very well so far. I started off with Obstetrics/Gynecology outpatient clinic where I had to give two presentations on cases I encountered during the rotation. I was also exposed to various diverse clinics:
Obstetrics: following pregnant women at various stages of their pregnancies, interpreting prenatal screening tests, measuring fundal height, finding the baby’s heart beat with doppler ultrasound (one of my favorite parts of this rotation!) and taking GBS samples
Gynecology:managing endometriosis, menorrhagia, performing pap tests and colposcopy
Gynecology-Oncology: managing patients undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer
Diabetes: managing pregnant patients with Diabetes Type 1, Type 2 or Gestational diabetes
Fertility clinic: managing patients trying to conceive via IVF or IUI.
Ultrasound: observing the routine ultrasounds for pregnant patients performed at 12 and 20 weeks of pregnancy as well as measuring nuchal translucency.
My reflections on this rotation: I found this to be a generally fast-paced,diverse environment with plenty of opportunities to do some procedures.
What I enjoyed most:I very much enjoyed the patient contact and sharing the joy of pregnant mothers awaiting the arrival of their little ones. I also enjoyed the clinics where I had the most autonomy to interact with patients on my own. My favorite clinic of the rotation was without a doubt Obstetrics!
What I struggled with most: There was a steep learning curve as I generally only spent one day in each clinic and every clinic runs differently. I had to learn to adapt quickly.
My take home message:I learned so much from this rotation and felt that I improved in my history-taking and charting skills. I will wait until my OBGYN inpatient rotation to make a final decision about choosing this specialty but on a scale of low-medium-high, I would put Obstetrics and Gynecology as a “low” because I have much less of an interest in Gynecology than Obstetrics and there are alternative routes to practising Obstetrics (more on that later!).
My coping strategies on rotation:
I have a 2.5 hour daily train-commute which can be exhausting but I am using this time to study, read my Bible, decompress after a long day and also to read other topics/books that are of interest to me.
I make use of technology to stay in touch with my family and keep connected. For example, since I have to leave very early in the morning before anyone is awake, I Face-Time my hubby and kids every morning once I arrive at the hospital so I can see their adorable faces before I start my day. This is so energizing for me!
I have some prayer time during my 10-minute drive from my home to the train station (and on the way back as I reflect on my day). This plus reading my Bible on the train daily has kept me in a very positive state of mind despite feeling physically exhausted.
I aim to complete my reading/studying on the train so that once I am home, my focus is fully on my family.
It is challenging to find time to exercise so I wake up 15 minutes earlier every 2 days to have a short workout and then have my longer 35 to 45 minute workouts on the weekend.
Stay well hydrated and fed throughout the day. I carry granola bars in my white coat pocket or scrubs and carry around a bottle of water when feasible. This does wonders for your energy levels!
I had one particularly bad day last week where I felt extremely tired and did not feel my performance on rotation that day had been good at all. We have to remember that despite the really difficult days, there are better days to look forward to and it is all part of the learning process as we hone our skills.
I am currently on rotation in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and it has been both challenging and fantastic! I can’t wait to share with you my experiences on this rotation over the coming weeks!
A few weeks ago, I started a new series on parenting principles based on several parenting books I read over the summer (plus my own parenting experience so far). The first principle in the series was speaking positively about our children, affirming them while avoiding harmful and destructive criticism. Today, we move on to the second principle.
Parenting Principle Number Two: Discipline is an Expression of love
Do we really need to discipline our kids? This is a tough one! Some days, it’s so much easier to just let the kids behave however they want. But I have to remind myself that this is not true love. While it may be easier in the moment to not discipline my child, this is not in their best interests in the long term.
What are some strategies for disciplining kids? Each parent will have their own strategy and values regarding discipline but what I have found works well for our family is outlined in Brittany Ann’s book “Teach Your Children How to Behave”. The basic concept is teaching your children how to make the right choice rather than simply ordering them to “do” or “not do” something. We as the parents then follow through with consistent consequences if they make the wrong choice. I am seeing the value of teaching my kids this from an early age.
Disciplining children is tough! It can make us feel like mean parents (yes, I have been called “mean mummy!”) and it can be tempting to take the easy route. As difficult and emotionally wrenching as it can be to discipline our kids, it is worth it for the long term character building of our children and demonstrates how deeply we love them!
The second block of medical school is complete! We just spent the last 5 weeks learning about lung structure, function, diseases, diagnoses and treatments, interspersed with a few lectures on clinical method, epidemiology and genetics. My favorite parts of this block were the anatomy and histology labs, and learning how to interpret chest X-rays and CT scans. We also learned the basics of how to perform bedside ultrasound. I love how hands-on the curriculum at my university is!
In mid-October, I had the wonderful opportunity to shadow a pathologist and two pathology residents for half a day and I loved it! The atmosphere was very welcoming and I was allowed to sit in on some cases at the microscope. Fascinating!
During one of my clinical sessions at a private Family practice, I got to perform my very first physical examination on a patient. I was a little nervous at first (especially since I have very cold hands) but the patient was very gracious as I stumbled along trying to figure out how to use my stethoscope and the blood pressure machine.
My final exam on this block was tough but I felt good about it overall. The week before the exam, I started to recognize signs in myself of feeling a little burnt out so I took a break from studying and went for the women’s fellowship at our church during the week. It was so rejuvenating to exercise with the ladies, chat and study the Bible. What I was challenged about most was resuming my daily devotional time with God (particularly first thing in the morning). I have to admit that with the busyness of school and family, I have not been as consistent with my quiet time. I was reminded how important it is to have daily reflective time alone to recharge and gather my thoughts! Whenever you suspect that your life may be going out of balance, acknowledge it and try to address it as best you can. Medical school is demanding and it’s important to take care of your emotional and spiritual needs too.
The other item that challenged me during the bible study was to reflect on what things I can improve on in my character. There is always room for improvement. For me, the 2 areas I would like to work on are patience (particularly with my children) and humility (it is important to remain teachable, humble and remember that every person is valuable).
As I start Block C of medical school (Circulation), I am so grateful for all that I have learned during the past 2 months! It’s been both challenging and fantastic!
I have just experienced my first three weeks of medical school and it has been amazing! The first week was a series of orientation sessions to get us familiar with the medical program while the second week was the official start of classes.
I would love to share my experiences with you!
What I love about the program: Fantastic classmates, passionate teachers, fascinating material, plenty of support, small group sessions, mentors, a focus on wellness, and the opportunity to shadow physicians right from Week 1! So far, I have had some exposure to family medicine, obstetrics and pathology. I loved being in the birthing center where I got to meet a patient who had just given birth by cesarean section. There was something so profound about being with someone at such a life-changing moment. I have also enjoyed my histology labs where we have been identifying different types of cells and tissues. Interestingly, it seems that pathology is moving away from using microscopes and instead using very high resolution images on the computer screen.
Challenges: The biggest challenges so far are being away from my children and the 2-3 hour daily commute. Traffic has been much worse than anticipated so I am making the most of my commute time to listen to lectures and also to decompress at the end of a busy day. I am very grateful to my husband for his tremendous support in helping out around the house and with the kids.
Surprises: The orientation and first few days of class focused on physicianship, the social aspects of medicine, indigenous health and the disparities in healthcare among the aboriginal population. Where as I thought we would be diving straight into hard science and performing dissections in the anatomy lab, it was interesting to learn about the social side of medicine and how so many factors affect health. I have also been pleasantly surprised by the vast array of backgrounds that my classmates have. It is such a diverse group!
Strategies for survival: I have had to adjust my study methods compared to the last time I was in school. The material is too voluminous for one to completely master every detail so I am learning the art of determining what is the most essential and what fits into the big picture of becoming a doctor. So far, I am mostly using the lecture material and my own created flashcards to summarize the material. Upper year students have also created some useful summaries that they have graciously handed down to us newbies.
Tips and advice: An important tip that I have heard from many seasoned medical students and doctors is to not neglect my life outside of medicine. I am trying to create a positive habit early on of having protected time for my husband, kids, devotional time, adequate sleep and exercise. I will also try to keep up with one or two hobbies, some friends and family. There are several activities and organizations on campus I am interested in joining but I will have to be selective and not take on too much. Flexibility is important and I realize that I may not always be on top of things, but I will do the best that I can and enjoy the adventure!
Although I am only at the very beginning of my training and there is much more to come, I am really enjoying medical school so far and feel so grateful to have been given this opportunity!
Excited to share with you my first guest post over at The Zeit which is a blog with great information on healthy living for your mind and body. My guest post is about tips for embarking on a new adventure. Hope you enjoy reading it!