Pathology, oh, pathology…
May 11, 2015 § 4 Comments
One week out from my first final and I can feel it in my entire body. For the past three days, I’ve done nothing but sit in my little study spot and push myself through topics. After so much work, I find myself already completely exhausted. And tonight, is the pathology competition.
I should be doing everything I am to cram for it, and trust me I will, but only with the time I have today. Last week, I had a goal of finishing 90 topics (we have 191 total), which I then had to adjust down to around 60, and I even fell short of that goal. Yesterday, I had to make a decision: give it everything I have for the competition, with what time I had left, or aim at finishing my topics. With the stakes for the competition being so high, I decided to go for the latter.
The competition will consist of 8 cases with 10-15 questions each. One teacher told their group that there will be 6 more normal cases and 2 really strange ones. Only the top three will get a prize: the first gets exempt from the entire exam and the second and third get exempt from either the theoretical or the practical portion. There is also a rumor going around that anyone that makes it into the top 10 will have a “nicer exam” based on their performance.
I really, really wanted to go for the competition, but I didn’t want to put everything I had into it and then fall short, leaving me with only 6 days to prepare for my final exam. In the beginning of the semester, the head of the department mentioned a book of cases available only in Hungarian that they soon would be translating into English. A couple of weeks ago, I heard that the cases for the competition would be taken from this book. I bought it (in Hungarian) and sat down with a plan to go through 20 a day for 20 or so days. The first two: took me 5 hours! I remember that night well because Skjalg and I got into a big discussion about my beliefs about what is possible or not. Even though I knew it was impossible to go through 290 cases in Hungarian in just under 3 weeks, I couldn’t stop myself from feeling like I’d failed.
We ended up finding someone who was willing to translate the cases, but that plan fell through. So, the cases have just been waiting there, taunting me.
I’m feeling so scattered at the moment, so I really don’t know if this post is making any sense. The reason I started writing (rather than sitting down to start cramming) is because I felt the need to mentally prepare myself for today. I am so used to giving 100% of myself to my tasks that I have a really hard time when I can’t. The hardest of all is when I’ve made an active plan not to. My natural instinct is to feel like I’ve failed, so I need to work against that and look at the good. I made the decision to prioritize topics over the competition. Studying for it today will be a benefit to me – no matter the outcome – because I will have to apply my knowledge in a different way than I have been doing. It will allow me evaluate the practical use of my knowledge and give me an idea of where my focuses need to lie in these next days before the exam.
It’s hard to put so much work into an exam and not be assured that it is going to go well. For the past few weeks, I’ve done nothing but study patho. The idea that that still may not be enough makes my stomach turn. Still, this is a mountain and the only way I’ll climb it is my taking it one step at a time.
This is what my weekend (or life) looked like this past weekend. I really enjoyed the clouds – as you can tell!
Whenever new students ask me for tips, the first thing I say is, “Evolve, constantly.” This is actually something that I have struggled with myself quite a bit. I never really know when enough is enough and rather than thinking “they seriously can’t expect us to know all this”, I think “why can’t I get all of this in my head?”. My friend Amir said something really good that I’ve been repeating to myself, “I’m a medical student, not a parrot”. I like that way of thinking and believe it to be true, I just need to figure out how to gain confidence from it.
The reason I brought up the “evolve” idea is that my notes for this exam are a perfect example. I’ve gone from doing 1 topic a day to having to cram in maybe 10 or more. I’ve had to sacrifice doing the topics the way I would if I had all the time in the world for progress. In the end, I’ll never have all the time in the world, so might as well learn that lesson now.
In the beginning, I typed up lecture notes and topics in my iPad.
Then I started writing them all out by hand, making sure to make plenty of charts or diagrams to make the information more fluid (at least for me):
Then I thought I should go back to doing it on my iPad – but this time print out the notes. This ended up being too time consuming and honestly, I can’t afford to pay for that many color copies!
Finally, I found something that worked. There are two sets of “notes” made my previous students. One is by a girl who recorded the lectures and has created topics based on those, while filling in from the book. She’s squeezed most of them onto 2-4 pages, so sometimes I have a hard time following the structure. The second is by a guy who made summaries based directly on the book, with some input from lecture. What I do now is read the topic in Robbins, while following the summary and adding in my own notes, then check the organization of the topic in BRS and then create my own little summary page of the topic. Finally, I look at the first set of notes to see if I’ve missed anything. While I’m preparing the notes for a topic, I’ve also started a habit of googling the disease and leaving up the image search on my screen, so that I look at it while I’ve coming the topic.
Ok, getting too anxious now! Off to cram, go to lecture, go to class, cram, then finally challenge my knowledge. It’ll be great no matter what happens 😉