Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.

It’s been long time

I once read an article where the author admonished bloggers for blogging faux pas. Too many photos. Lack of photos. Too much text. Not enough bullets. The author’s list was pretty extensive. Well, readers, I’ve broken one of that author’s rules and I’m about to break another — 1) posting infrequently or on an unpredictable schedule and 2) apologizing for infrequent posting.

So, dear readers, I apologize. I’ve been gone for a very long time. Eight months, if not more. There was only one other time when I fell silent — from February 2012 until a few posts in March 2013 about a trip to Raleigh, N.C.

Both then and now have very similar themes — I lost a dear loved one and needed a break from activities and responsibilities that did not need my energy or attention. I guess you can call it a time of reflection and evaluation. I needed to focus on living without the worry of additional responsibilities. Blogging was certainly not a necessity. It’s a hobby. It doesn’t pay the bills. It doesn’t help with my education or research. So it took a back seat. I set it aside.

The first extended blog hiatus occurred soon after my grandfather passed away. I grieved for several months and it took a long time before I felt like writing again. Looking back over the blog, I realized how much I enjoyed it and turned back to snapping photos and writing. I enjoy creating and traveling and sharing those experiences with you.

This time, our sweet puppy, Sydney, passed away last May. She was nearly 15 and had been struggling with illness for the past year. Chris and I made the difficult decision of letting her go. She had continued to lose weight at a rapid pace, and she had been on lots of antibiotics for the last month of her life.

Imaging showed she was losing bone mass in a back leg; the same one that had been swollen and painful for months. We never discovered the cause of the infection or the reason for her weight or bone loss. It was time and we didn’t want to expose her to more poking and prodding than she’d already experienced for the past several months.

So, I took a break for blogging again. Only, this time, I debated whether or not to even continue the blog. I would still leave the site up, but I didn’t, and still don’t know, if I would continue writing. Sydney has been a central part of Chris and my life, as you can certainly see from the many trips posted under the Small Travels and Musings section where she is spotlighted in many photos. It will seem odd to travel without our furry “dog”her.

I’ll continue to think about this and may continue to post from once in awhile. Bear with me, dear readers, as I decide what I’m going to do.

Vectors and dipoles. and circuits, oh, my!

While taking physics during my post-baccalaureate training, it wasn’t uncommon to hear other premed students bemoan the physics requirement. “We won’t ever use this stuff!” they said.

How wrong they were. My notes for physio and neuro are covered with vectors pointing every which away, electrical circuits and dipoles.

Don’t think physics is useless, kids! It’s used to a whole new level in med school.

Oh, yeah. I’m on the team.

I recently did a preceptorship in a local ER. This is an opportunity when you shadow a physician or a team of physicians, such as an attending, residents or fourth year medical students, for the day. In some cases, you might help take patient histories and do other tasks, but for the most part you are observing and asking questions.

The attending took me on a tour of the department and explained the intake procedures, including the use of the trauma and stroke alarms. During the day, I stuck around with an intern and a couple of fourth year medical students.

It was an eye-opening experience. Not because I witnessed a trauma or saw a doctor stitch up a patient. I’d volunteered in a small, community hospital off and on for a few years, so it wasn’t new to see an ER in action.

What was different was my new role. As a volunteer, my job, as I saw it, was to help as much as I could, but, above all else, stay out of the way. It became apparent I still have this mindset.

Sometime during the day, one of the fourth year students mentioned that I needed to respond whenever I heard the trauma alarm.

“Oh, yeah,” I thought. “I’m now part of the care team.” It didn’t occur to me that I needed to respond.

It’s a very different world I’ve entered into! This new role is going to take some getting used to.


One course down

I’ve survived my first medical school course! It was really hard to push through the past few weeks, but I did it.

I am amazed at the amount of information I’ve gleaned in the first 3 months. It’s also humbling to see how little this knowledge makes a dent into the medical information needed to pass board exams in the coming years.

It’s impossible, of course, to know everything. That’ll always will be the case. It’s more important to know where to find information and know when and where to refer patients when we’re faced with an obstacle we can’t solve on our own.

The hardest part of this first course was knowing how to balance time. Time to study. Time for family. Time for cooking, cleaning, paying bills and all the other normal activities we need to do. Notice I didn’t even mention making time for myself. That’s something I’m working on. It seemed nearly impossible to do the things I needed to do without thinking of doing things I wanted to do.

I know there are classmates and colleagues that have found ways to fit in their Me Time. I’ve been reading and listening and trying to figure out ways to incorporate their ideas and others into my own routine. Except those a classmate who said she’s able to take one full day off from studying. I think she has a superwoman cape hidden in her closet.

The highlights from the first few months:

  • Finding heartbeats during ob visits. Very thrilling!
  • Taking patient histories, both simulated and real. Under guidance and supervision, of course.
  • Hearing my first heart murmur. Thanks, Dr. S.!

Next week starts a new course. This week was a much needed break for my classmates and I. I hope everyone got the rest they needed and are ready for Monday!

The past few weeks

The past few weeks have been rough, but I’m grateful to have had the opportunity. I, along with 24 other students, participated in a premarticulation program. I consider it a mini-medical school boot camp. We were exposed to and tested on topics in gross anatomy, genetics and molecular medicine, physiology, histology and embryology.

The pace of the information was fast, which was expected. This helped me tweak my study techniques as much as possible before I start the real deal in another week. It is very true what I’ve heard many people say — you won’t be able to study like you did for an undergraduate degree and you won’t know what will work for you until you’re actually trying techniques out.

Here’s a quick summary of my thoughts and what I learned:

  • The goal is to find the most efficient and effective techniques that will help you learn the material quickly. These techniques will be different for each class and for each individual.
    • If you haven’t already, take a learning style quiz to see what techniques may help you. I am a kinesthetic and visual learner so I try to focus on answering questions, drawing diagrams and pictures and reading in an interactive way.
    • Ask fellow classmates or upperclassmen what they do or did to learn the material for a particular subject or class. Someone may have found a technique that works for them, which may help you.
  • Don’t expect to learn everything. Aim for the most important information.
    • I struggle with this one. A classmate offered to help me sift through the material to pick out the most important information, aka the high-yield facts and concepts we need to know. I may have to take her up on that!
    • The descriptor I’ve heard the most often is that the information is like a water hose. You can only take in so much. I think working in groups and asking myself, “What is the most important info?” will keep me on task.
  • Time management will be your friend!
    • It sucks, but it works. I have done this in the past and it’s helpful in squeezing in all the things you need to do.
    • I’m not very good at allowing myself to schedule personal things in there, like hobbies or relaxation. I am working on that.
    • Don’t get behind! When your time is up for a subject, put it aside. It will be too hard to catch up if you get behind. So, do a preview for each class and review after lecture in the allotted time you have.
    • “Weekends are for catching up.” That’s what the academic support director told us. If you didn’t finish reviewing some information during the week, set it aside and note that you’ll review it over the weekend.
  • Build your survival team, and don’t take them for granted. You will rely on your classmates, faculty, staff and family/friends.
    • A second year medical student shared similar advice during a student panel discussion. Take the idea seriously.
    • Studying in groups will help you keep up, will allow you to teach and quiz each other and will allow for some human contact. (Ha!) They know what you are going through and can relate to issues you may have.
    • Don’t take family or non-medical friends for granted. They will be there to give you a break from all things medical and will be there to lend emotional support.
  • Eat, sleep and exercise. You can’t live a healthy life or be productive without these 3 things.
  • It will be difficult, but you can and will do it.
    • Some good analogies the academic support director shared with me are a mother with a colicky baby or a newly-divorced mother with young kids. You may not like what you’re going through, but eventually you wake up one day and you realize, “I don’t like this, but I’m making it and I’m doing a darn good job of it.”
    • Don’t keep your struggles to yourself. Talk it out with fellow students, a mentor, an advisor or the school’s counselor. They know it’s tough and they’re there to help. Be honest with yourself and seek help when you need it.

Good luck and congratulations to all the incoming MS1s! It will be tough, but find time to enjoy yourself.