Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Memorable Year.

1 year ago today, I was thankful and nervous at the same time. Last year's exam was probably the largest hurdle of my degree. I didn't do as well as I had hoped in my exam, but still managed to pass. I was incredibly thankful to be able to pass as many of my friends had failed the exam. Some of which had to repeat the year. I made a promise to myself that the year 2012 will be my comeback year. I was determined to start on the right foot and to never make the same mistakes again.

This year zoomed by. I believe I made leaps and bounds in terms of knowledge and self-confidence whilst on the wards and in clinics. I still got to give lots of credit to my placement in Orthopaedics. I cannot be more thankful to my supervisor. Even my friends have noticed that after my Orthopaedics placement, I was a different medical student. I was no longer afraid to speak up. I was no longer afraid to participate and be proactive. I realized that if you don't ask, you will never know what will happen. The worst answer you can get when asking something is "No". What is there to lose...other than a hurt ego. So one tip for all of you is to be confident. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Again, the worst someone can say is "No". If the answer is "no", just shrug and move on and don't take it personally.

As you move through the degree, Medicine slowly dominates your life and you really got to make an effort to have a social life. As the months pass and you have some free time to reflect, you realize your friends start to drift away and it may get a bit lonely at times. Medicine needs a lot of dedication, but I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to relax and take some time out. Giving yourself a break does not necessarily mean you have to go take a vacation. Taking a break is different for everyone. It may involve going to do something you enjoy or meeting up with friends, or even just spending some time at home to relax and watch TV.  I didn't realize how important it is to take a break until this year when I have finally experienced a whole year of clinical placements, one after another. Work - Life balance. I know many people in my year who are taking a year out to do a BMedSci next year, not because they want to do research, but because they have burnt out.

To top off my memorable year, just earlier today I received confirmation that I have been accepted to present a my research poster at a national conference. Really unexpected as it's quite competitive, so I'm absolutely chuffed. What a way to finish up the year!

In general, I have made many new friends, matured as a person, and gained valuable skills for the future - I think this has probably been one of my most memorable year of my medical degree. Despite the many ups and downs throughout the year, looking back - overall it has been a very good year.

Got to thank those who have made my year so memorable and those who made my experiences so much better. Cheers to 2012, bring on 2013!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Request: Tips for Revising for Exams.

So I had a request to do a post on tips for revising for your year-end medical exam. To be honest, every person will have a different way of revising. The most ideal way to revise for exams is to start from day 1 of the course. After every lecture/day, gather all your notes together and make sure your notes have enough info for you. If not, look at your recommended reading and add info to your notes. Or after end of each day is to consolidate all the things you have learned and to go over it. Some people like to consolidate their knowledge on weekends as most lecture days go from 9-5pm and by the time you finish your day, your brain will be fried. If you stay on top of your notes, when it comes to exam time, you should know your material quite well and just need to commit things to memory and you will not be needing to learn anything "new".

What I just described is the ideal way...but realistically, the chances of that happening is quite slim, unless you're quire organized and on top of everything. For me, that method got tossed out 2 weeks into my course. What actually happens is that you take notes during your lectures/print out your lecture slides. If you're having a good week and have some spare time, your notes will go into a binder so your room stays relatively neat and that you will be able to find your notes. If your university only does 1 year-end exam, like mine, on average, medics begin studying between 4-6 weeks prior to exams. You would think that's ridiculously too far in advance, but the sheer amount of material you learn in one just as ridiculous. I personally need 6 weeks to go through a whole year worth of material, but do keep in mind...I don't really look at my notes again until my 6 week revision period. So here I will list some tips on how to get on top of your revision period:

1) Make a revision schedule. Try and figure out how many days/weeks you will need to go over a topic (eg. 1 week for Paediatrics, 5 days for O&G). How much time to dedicate to each topic will depend on how well you know a topic/how confident you are with the topic. Always leave 1 week prior to exams for leeway/time to go over sample/past papers/revise stuff you don't know very well/last minute cram. I usually start thinking about making my revision schedule well in advance or else if you do one too late, you'll realize you have too little weeks left and too many topics. To avoid that, maybe think about your revision schedule when you come back from your last holiday before exams.

2) Find a study buddy! If you live with other medics, then that's sorted. If you don't, try finding a study buddy who has the same sort of revising method as you. It's a great way to make sure you don't miss out any topics and also a great way to test each  other's knowledge. Make sure this study buddy won't be a distraction though or else you won't accomplish much!

3) Rest! I cannot stress enough how important it is to get enough rest during your revision weeks. No point of pulling all-nighters when your brain can't even function anymore. Nothing will get absorbed. Your body will tell you when it is time to take a break (usually when you find yourself reading the same page over and over again and nothing is going in). Try and get a good nights sleep every day. Pretty basic stuff, but it is so easy to forget to just rest.

4) Use cue cards for memorizing things. Some people don't like cue cards, which is fair enough. In medicine we have to learn a lot of names that aren't even related to the condition such as drug names/some medical syndromes. Once you write it down, you can put it to the side. Also great for the last minute cram a day or two before exams.

5) Start early. At the same time I'm not saying start revising 10 weeks before exams. Obviously this is down to personal preference. I think I started too early for this year's exam, but it's not something I regret. It was extremely tiring and boring though. At the same time, last year I started too late and regretted it and it was extremely stressful. Because I started a bit too early (or maybe even perfect timing), I could sacrifice a day or two to take a break or to spend a few extra days on a topic such as Paediatrics. I originally allocated 10 days for Paediatrics, but actually ended up taking 2 weeks to go through all of Paediatrics, but because I started revising early, I was able to give up a few days and shift my other dates around for my other topics.

6) Use revision books to AID knowledge, not gain knowledge. There are some books called Crash Course or At a Glance, which are really good books which gives you a quick glance at a topic. These are good books to help you look up stuff quickly or to double check info, but these are books you should not base your revision around as it misses out fundamental/basic knowledge that you will get from a proper textbook/lectures.

To be honest, I think the key things for revision is to be organized, good time management, rest lots, and try not to stress out too much. Exams are extremely stressful and your anxiety levels go through the roof. Everyone will be feeling the same so don't think you're the odd one out. On top of revising, you might still have to go into placement as some unis only give you 1 week of revision (where nothing is timetabled), so you'll need to be able to balance going to placement and revising. If you aren't organized, your revision will get quite messy. At the same time, don't start skiving placements so you can revise because at the same time, you can learn/revise while on placement. Sometimes really useful tutorial sessions will be held and you can learn/revise during those sessions. To be honest, this whole revision business sounds a lot harder than it really is. You'll know what to do when it comes to revision.

Hope this helps!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I'm baaaaack!

Well it's certainly been awhile since my last post. Apologies. I've been revising for my exams. Finished exams  so I suddenly have a lot of free time. Quite weird. I've technically been studying for over 6 weeks for this exam which felt a lot longer as it just kept dragging on and on. It didn't help that the other years have already taken their exams/have left for winter holiday already. It's gutting when people are away back at home or on vacation and you're stuck in your room/library revising all day, every day.

Today I got my results from my exam and good news: PASSED! Managed to jump over another hurdle. Next hurdle: Finals. Scary! To be honest these exams meant a lot to me. I wasn't very happy with my performance in last year's exams and promised myself that I will never make the same mistake and study harder and work harder. I pretty much declared this year as a "comeback" year. I promised myself to go into placements and actively learn. So today when I went to get my results, I was very nervous. I was confident I had passed, but there's always that little bit of doubt in the back of your mind. The relief when I saw my results. Phew. I think I can officially say that this has been a successful comeback year. I have regained my motivation for Medicine and during the 2nd half of this year, I have regained a lot of confidence. I got to say - it's been a good year (despite the highs and lows).

Along with my results, I have received my schedule and placements for next year. Starting off in A&E, so it will be a very quick and hectic start! Should be very interesting though. Now that exams are over and that I've gotten my results - I can finally relax. Get back to normality. Do what I enjoy and meet up with friends. It was a tough exam period and I cannot wait to go back home. See my school friends. See my parents. Celebrating Christmas and New Year with the family. It will be nice. It will probably be my last proper winter holiday as next year I will be revising for finals as my final exams are after winter holidays. I will definitely have to make use and enjoy this winter holiday as much as I can this year. It's been a very tough road. Scarier thought: after next year's winter holiday, I will be working as a proper doctor in a hospital somewhere during winter holidays! Wow. It's getting close!

One step closer to being a doctor!

Anyways Merry Christmas to everyone and good luck with interviews!