Friday, October 05, 2007

Studying Scared

What does it take to get Vitum off his butt and into study mode?

Good intention? A desire to do well?

Try fear. Plain, simple fear of failure. That's all it takes.

Unlike last year, when around this time I was enjoying how
slack I thought medical school was, this year is different. Not just for me - I've noticed that a lot of people who took it easy early in the semester for the last two terms are turning up at the hospital & university study rooms on the weekends / evenings. And I've got three things that are giving me enough fear to get me studying scared this early into the semester.

1. Life around finals time sucks.

First of all, now that I've been through a year of medical school, I'm more aware of what it involves. I know how hard I had to work when last year's finals were approaching. I spent entire days and entire weeks studying with few breaks. Seeing few friends outside of med - and even friends in med - was not an option, and how the only thing that kept me going was the thought that "if I don't work my butt off, I'm gonna fail." I don't want to be going through that again come finals at the end of this term, so I'm studying now. Hopefully, as a result, around finals I'll feel a bit more prepared and the stress level will be a bit lower.

2. Finals are gonna be brutally hard.

While that should be reason enough to get my nose in the books, there's another reason. If there's any truth to what the third-year students say, my finals this year are going to be tough... much harder than last year.

That could be because for some of our units, the course directors have decided that providing us with lecture notes and lectures that cover all the topics that will be on the final are ineffective strategies for teaching physicians, and so we're expected to do a lot of reading from a variety of sources outside our lecture material. That's intimidating... as is generally the case with medicine, there's not enough time to learn everything, which means I can only hope that which I've learned is enough to get me through.

3. I don't want to fail and have to repeat second year!

In addition to those first two reasons, there's something else. There are a few people in my class this year who are repeating second year. Their reasons for doing this span a wide range - personal reasons, lots of stuff going on in their lives, MD/PhD students who are doing bits of the program at different times as their classmates, and not doing well enough academically last year.

Despite the fact that I don't know the individual reasons that these people are in my class, every time I see them around I think of the last reason. Yeah, it's hard to fail out of med school, and if I do fail a few courses I'll be able to repeat the year, but the third reason I'm getting my study on is because the last thing I want to be doing next year is repeating second year. Med school is a long time and I'm excited for the clinical part of medicine, which doesn't happen until next year. I would hate to be stuck in another year of PBL and our physician and society course.

The funny thing is, I'm sure this year will be a lot like last year in that it seems 90% of the class is scared of failing, but 99% of the class ends up passing. I think it's because we former pre-meds are used to undergrad exams, which we would routinely go into feeling like we knew all the material. Med school exams are scary because there's no way you will know all the material... and getting your 60% for a pass is much harder and requires much more knowledge and understanding than getting a 95% in undergrad.

There's a few people I've talked to that are afraid of third year. Rightly so - from all accounts 80-hour work weeks, being on call all the time, and having the stress of working with attending physicians, seeing patients, and trying to figure out where all the equipment is - let alone knowing how to use it - will be stressful enough. But I'm not even thinking about that yet. I just want to get through second year.


By the way, Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. That's right, it's Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. (early holiday, our soaring currency, our pristine health care you want to move here now!) Seems like everybody is doing family stuff this weekend, but since school is so far from the family - and since the 'rents are coming out here in two weeks - I'll be going to a friend's house for the festive meal. He's a master in the kitchen and I'm looking forward to it.


Beach Bum said...

I hear you on the fear! I've got two exams on Monday, and I'm scared shitless.

Happy Thanksgiving. The Canadians in my class are going out for dinner on Monday after our exams. Thanksgiving under a palm tree. Hmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

"we're expected to do a lot of reading from a variety of sources outside our lecture material"

Awww, you have to do work? Spoon-feeding is your limit? That's too bad...

Vitum Medicinus said...

I know, eh! Glad you agree with me...You'd think that paying $75,000 annual tuition (that's if you include the government's contribution) would mean that I'd be taught some things, or at least given the notes, not told to look them up. Turns out my education is coming from books I could buy as a layperson.

I wonder if I paid $100,000...maybe then they'd teach us things.

P.S. Thanks for your comment, my "anonymous" friend (from near the ferry terminal).

Anonymous said...

It just bothers me when medical schools try to confuddle the student.

It would be so much simpler if medical education was:
1.) intro to the topic
2.) a breakdown of the normal function of the system (with an emphasis on clinical relevance, rather than obscure physiology).
3.) overview of the different pathologies
4.) discussion of the BASICS of diagnosis and treatment

Wow what a non-novel concept! Teach medical students so that they will know what they need to be doctors!

Rather, we have PhDs in physiology ranting on about their pet research topic and telling us to go look up the relevant clinical information in a textbook ourselves. Oh, and the recommended textbooks have over 500 pages of ugly detailed material that we need to memorize in 4 weeks, and we have little to no context on how to approach this information, and which of it is clinically relevant and important.

And when we complain to the faculty... all they say is: "go work harder, we don't spoon-feed you."

And despite years of complaints from clinical preceptors and students... nothing seems to change...

[end cynical rant]

-MecE Monkey in Med

Vitum Medicinus said...

Monkey -

My experience as well. Couldn't have said it better.

Anonymous said...

we had the dean come in during induction week and say "last week I had to tell 9 first years that they aren't going to be doctors anymore"

that was more than enough motivation!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I've found your blog immensely helpful as a first year at your school...I loved your FIFE/swearing post...that's exactly what I was afraid of happening when I tried FIFE in my preceptor's office.