Third year and fourth year of medical school truly flew by. Here I am, a few days after graduating from medical school, still in disbelief that I am now a medical doctor. (!!!)
It’s been a long time coming.
Medical school was quite literally the best of times and the worst of times. In four short years, I took (and passed!) three board exams, saw my first patients, learned how to suture, tie surgical knots and delivered a baby. I realized I love the operating room. I traveled the world. I cried more than ever before, and I grieved–over the deaths of close family members and of patients I cared for.
Some of the people I met during the first week of school are now my closest friends. I chose a specialty (obstetrics and gynecology) and matched into a fantastic residency program. I proudly wore a thick black robe and sat under a sweltering sun on graduation day (sweating profusely, but still proud).
So now here we are, at the end of one chapter and ready to begin the next. Without a doubt, the upcoming years will be trying and I will be working harder than I ever have in my whole life. But I am also looking forward to training in a specialty I love and growing as a physician and as a woman. It’s officially time to retire the short white coat (which I actually haven’t worn in months lol) and start mentally preparing myself to wear the long one and the responsibility that comes with it.
I remember when I first got my white coat as a first year medical student two years ago–it was pristinely white, not wrinkle or stain in sight. It was the symbolic representation of a clean slate, a fresh start, the blank first page of a journal, the start of a career.
Fast forward to the end of my third year of medical school. This white coat has collected ink stains, coffee stains, and stains of unknown origin. It has served as a fill-in for an umbrella on walks home from the hospital. Its pockets have held snacks to fuel me through 24 hour overnight call shifts. It has been my blanket for naps in the library.
Sure the white coat looks nice (I suppose), but its main benefit (in my opinion at least) is its functionality. I can carry an absurd amount of things in these pockets (there are inside pockets too!). Here’s what I kept in my white coat during my Internal Medicine clerkship and why:
Pens – an absolute must have. Honestly, you would probably be OK if you carry absolutely nothing else in your white coat besides a pen. (Seriously, even a spare stethoscope can be found but extra pens are always hard to come by.) And I always try to keep multiple pens in my coat (and several more in my bag) because somehow pens always go missing….. I also keep a highlighter in case I have journal articles to read or outside records to review.
Stethoscope – because, you know, it’s probs important to listen to your patients’ hearts, lungs, bellies, etc. (Read: it’s definitely important to listen to your patients’ hearts, lungs, bellies, etc. And it’s embarrassing to get caught without your stethoscope.)
Maxwell’s – this is a super helpful little guide for pretty much any clinical setting. It has helped me when I needed to calculate a Glasgow Coma Score, or describe which dermatome a shingles rash was affecting, and on countless occasion.
White Coat clipboard – I love this thing. When on rounds, or in patient rooms, it’s the perfect writing surface to take notes on. The clipboard folds in half, so I keep my patient lists inside and they stay nice and neatly folded, and HIPPA protected! And once it’s folded up, the outside of the clipboard has great reference material. 10/10 recommend.
iPad mini 4 – I find it helpful to carry this with me because I can pull up UptoDate or PubMed to look up any information relevant to my patients, or research questions that come up during rounds. Even though I also keep my phone in my pocket I think it’s more professional-looking to use a tablet and I avoid my residents/attendings assuming that I am texting friends or browsing Insta. I also use my iPad to access the electronic medical record if I don’t have my own computer to use. And of course I can use it to study/do UWorld practice questions if there is any downtime.
Journal – I personally find it easier to take handwritten notes than to type on my iPad, so I carry my Moleskine journal to be jot down helpful tips from residents and attendings or take notes in lectures.
Chapstick/lip balm – last but certainly not least, I keep some type of lip moisturizer on hand. Right now I’m loving the Chapstick Ultimate Hydration, or Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Red Dahlia if I want a subtle pop of color.
Of course from time to time I’ll have a bag of trail mix or a granola bar because ya girl gets hungry lol. But the above items are my usual white coat necessities. Without them, I truly feel naked (and about 5 pounds lighter).
I hope you enjoyed a peek into what is hidden in those mysterious white coat pockets! In the future, I’ll give you the details of what bag I use and what I carry in it, so stay tuned!
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and I’ve been through a lot in the meantime.
For starters, I took (and passed!) Step 1! I went into hiding for 6 weeks to study for this exam, hence the absence from nearly all social media.
Then, after my Step 1 exam, I took a trip to South America–a much needed getaway. (I’ll devote a separate blog post to this trip, which will include the highlights from my stay in Buenos Aires and a side trip to Uruguay.) But for now I’ll just say I ate my fair share of steaks and drank plenty of Malbec.
And so now–finally–I have started my third year of medical school! Clerkships! I’m three weeks into my first rotation, and so far I’m still trying to figure this whole thing out. My first two weeks I was on the inpatient neurology stroke service, which was an amazing experience to jump into, albeit pretty fast-paced. Now I’m starting my two weeks of outpatient neurology, which so far has been much more laid back but still quite interesting.
Every day I just try to become more comfortable talking to patients, hone my physical exam skills, and learn more about clinical practice. Even though it’s a huge adjustment transitioning from classwork to clerkships, so far I’ve enjoyed it so so so much more. After all, this is why I came to medical school–to see patients!
I’ll continue to keep you all updated as I progress through third year, and (as always) I’ll be sure to share all the fun times along the way!
During my fall break last week, I (finally) got my torn meniscus repaired. Having surgery on my knee gave me an interesting opportunity that I haven’t had in a while–a chance to be a surgery patient.
I’ve had surgery before, but this time, as a medical student, it felt a little different. I understood a lot more of what was going on with my procedure and who was involved in my care. And of course I thought about everything that could possibly go wrong during surgery. Even though the meniscus repair was a pretty minor procedure and not very invasive, with any medical procedure there is always potential for something to go wrong. So naturally I found myself feeling a little anxious about all the possibilities for a bad outcome.
Getting surgery was a reminder of how overwhelming, stressful, and anxiety-provoking being a patient can be. As I sat basically naked under a hospital gown and blankets, doctors and nurses came in and out of my room to talk to me, started an IV, asked me questions, marked the site of surgery…. I verified my name and birthdate I don’t know how many times, and explained over and over to various people my idea of what was going on (arthroscopy of the right knee and repair of the lateral meniscus) to make sure everyone was on the same page.
It was a lot.
I felt lucky to have my parents there with me pre-op, which helped me feel a little more relaxed (even though they may have been more nervous than I was). I also felt lucky that I had a general awareness of what role all the various nurses and doctors played in my care and a good understanding of the procedure itself.
But I realize not everyone has these comforts going into surgery. Some people may show up for their surgery completely alone (especially if it’s an emergency situation), and many may not have a solid understanding of the procedure. I can only imagine that in either or both of those cases a patient’s anxiety would markedly increase.
Being a patient while in medical school was particularly interesting because one day, pretty soon, I will be on the other side of things and be a doctor taking care of my own patients. I’m thankful I was able to have some moments of introspection and reflection about what it feels like to be a patient because I think it can be easy for physicians to just view patients as a constellation of disease processes, injuries, or symptoms instead of as a whole person with feelings and fears. In the future I want to always keep in mind how I felt as a patient: vulnerable, nervous, restless, unsure. I don’t want to lose sight of what that felt like, because I’m sure my future patients will have those very same emotions–and many more.
I thank God that my surgery went well. The care and attention I received before and after my surgery was absolutely wonderful. (And I’m sure I received great care during the surgery as well because I’m recovering fabulously.) I couldn’t be more proud to be a student at an institution that really values patient care. (Sounds cliche but I really mean it.)
I know, it’s been a while, but the first few weeks of school were pretty hectic. Between moving into a new apartment unit, and taking an anatomy practical and an exam within the first two and a half weeks of class, I’ve been a busy lady these past couple of weeks.
This year is my second year of medical school, and I’ve set a few goals for myself. I’ll share them with y’all so hopefully you keep me accountable.
Keep studying hard. I (thankfully) managed to make it through my first year of medical school, so I just have to stay focused and make it through one more semester of pre-clinical work! (And then study for boards but I don’t wanna talk about it…)
Cook more. I’m trying to save up some money to take a nice, much-needed vacation after I take Step 1 in January, and I know I can save a ton if I eat out less and cook more. I’ve been stocking up on cookbooks and recipes so I’m pretty excited to try out some new dishes—and depending on how they turn out I’ll share them on the blog!
Exercise more. Exercise is good for the mind, body, and soul and it really helps me feel better when school gets stressful. A knee injury has been holding me back but hopefully after that gets sorted out I’ll be up in the gym just workin’ on my fitness a little more regularly.
Call friends/family more. Sorry guys I know I’m bad at this. But just because I don’t call/text doesn’t mean I don’t think about you! I’ll try to do a better job of showing it though.
Take time for myself. Medical school gets pretty stressful, so it’s important to find time to wind down and relax. For me this will probably mean the occasional Netflix and chill (by myself) or treating myself to a mani/pedi every now and then. Also, I recently discovered a local massage school that only charges $25 for an hour massage, so best believe I’ll be checking that out.
Keep on flourishing. The good thing about only having class Mon-Fri from 8am-12pm and podcasted lectures is that I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule. But that will change once I get on the wards in February. I want to make sure I take advantage of the free time I have now and get out and explore wineries, try new restaurants, dance at salsa nights, go on some weekend trips, maybe go on a hike or two… You know, just flourish.
I’m really looking forward to this upcoming school year. I’ll be sure to share some of the highlights with you on the blog, so keep an eye out!
So based on my Instragram/Facebook/blog posts I’ve had a few people ask me if I’m actually doing research in Guatemala (lol). While this trip does feel like a vacation a lot of the time, I promise you, I am in fact actually helping out with a research study here.
Our project is part of an ongoing study focused on cardiovascular health education, and we are working with people in the small lakeside village of Santiago Atitlán (I’ll do another post on this beautiful town later, I promise). I’m working with one other student from my medical school (hey Laura), and a community health worker (hola Diego), and we are supervised by some physicians here in Guatemala and back in Virginia. Last week was our first week on the project, and we began at CAIMI (Centro de Atención Integral Materno Infantile). We had a pretty successful week there and got way more study participants than we were expecting. Go us.
This week we were planning to work at a small hospital, but that didn’t quite work out as planned. So instead, we are doing home visits, and educating participants in their homes. I’m really enjoying these home visits so far because we get to explore Santiago some more and get a glimpse into what life is like for its residents.
It’s been quite the experience working on a research project in foreign country. It can be especially hard at times because a lot of communication occurs in Tz’utujil (one of Guatemala’s 21 Mayan languages) and all I can understand are the words for “yes” and “no.” Laura and I are pretty good at communicating with our partners here in Guatemala in Spanish but even that can get tricky at times. However, it is pretty rewarding to be working in the community, learning more about Mayan culture, and being involved in teaching people about heart health.
And living in place so beautiful that I can take enough pictures to make you all think I’m not even working is a pretty big plus.