Thursday, December 9, 2010

Conference Call

I always think of myself as a fairly flexible person in terms of how I view people, but one thing that always throws me off is the boxes.  By this, I mean that the people you know from school should be in school clothes, and the people you know from work should be at work in work clothes, and the people you know from home should be in disapproving parental clothes.  So I get really thrown off when people look and do things differently, even for a day.

We had our first surgical conference of the year on Wednesday, which was a fun event where we presented posters on cases we had seen, and also had the chance to sit in on lectures by experts in different surgical fields.  Unfortunately, every time I went to a lecture where someone else in my program was there, I just could not focus.  I genuinely do love it when we put on our good faces, because its nice to see everyone gussied up with actually brushed hair and lip gloss and jewelry and skirts or suits, but it weirds me out.  I went into one general surgery lecture on laparoscopy over the years, being given by the chairmen of surgery at another program I interviewed with.  It was a great lecture, with a really terrific discussion of the trade-offs of laparoscopic procedures, especially with regard to surgical education.  I wanted to focus on Dr. F, and I really tried to.  But sitting 5 rows ahead of me was my chief and 3 other seniors, and I just kept thinking to myself, "Wow, their hair is shiny.  Is my hair that shiny?  Maybe it's shiny because they got dressed up today.  Or maybe it's always shiny, but they just look different in scrubs.  Or maybe it's that new haircut I'm seeing, 3rd seat over.  Or maybe it's the contrast of the hair with the sweater?  That is a sweet sweater.  I wish I had that sweater.  Can I get that sweater?  It looks so professional yet cool.  I want to be professional yet cool.  Maybe I need straight hair to look professional yet cool.  Oooh, inguinal hernia repair."  Repeat ad nauseum.

This seems especially shallow of me, since there was some sort of clusterf*** going down at the mother ship and several residents had to leave early so that several last minute cases could go forward.  The intern who was on the night before broke down in tears over a minor mistake that she made which had big consequences, and another intern had to leave to help take her home, since she was so sleep-deprived that she wasn't safe to drive.  Quite a few residents weren't able to come due to being on-call at other hospitals, and another resident didn't come because of internal issues.  I volunteered to stay till the end to take down all of the program's posters after judging, but mentally escaped into the "pantsuit: Hillary Clinton or lipstick lesbian?" debate.

I finally found escape from my shallowness in the cardiothoracic room, where my poster was being displayed, to hear a cool talk about management of nightmare aorta cases.  I was able to say hello to a few surgeons that I knew, including one I rotated with as a first year student in vascular surgery, and another with whom I had done my poster (yet hadn't met because he was at a different institution).  We didn't win any awards, but I still felt pretty proud of my poster at the end of the day.  I also felt proud of my team.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Boarded Up

Reading back on my last post, it sounds pretty depressing.  In general, I stand by what I said, but I neglected to mention that I was also studying for the boards at the same time.  So it is VERY SLIGHTLY POSSIBLE that I may have been under a teeny amount of stress and reacted with more force than necessary to the events of the previous week.
I took the boards on Thursday, which represent the third and last component of the board exams taken by all medical students.  This exam is typically regarded as the easiest of the three, but as a result gets taken for granted the most.  It's an exam that most interns aim to sit for during the intern year, although you typically have up to the end of the 2nd year to pass it.  It probably wouldn't be so bad to study for if intern year wasn't so hectic and irregular, but I definitely struggled to fit in time for it.  Between my various busy rotations, studying for surgery, seeing family and friends, and working on a case presentation poster, it occasionally got pushed to the wayside.
I also made the cardinal mistake of taking a practice test 2 days before the exam.  Most people studying for the boards buy a subscription to an online question bank, as well as studying from the book.  However, these question banks are privately owned and written, and don't technically represent the true questions on the test.  Therefore, some people choose to supplement with a real practice test, which is old and discarded questions from the real exam, organized into a half-test format for one time use by the real board exam administrators.  I used the same tool last year for the Step 2 with some success, and forgot about it until a few days before Step 3.  Unfortunately, I put too much faith in the test being an accurate representation of the real one - it was filled with spelling errors, non-sensical questions, poor radiology pictures, and no ability to review the questions I got wrong.  So I took the test, and started panicking that the questions were nothing like my question bank subscription, and really freaked out when I got a score which showed I did not pass.  I called my mom and boyfriend in a tizzy, and they both talked me down from the ledge.  But I was still trembling the next morning when I walked into work, and set right to using my spare time to squeeze in a few more practice questions.  Luckily, I mentioned the whole disaster to my co-surgical intern Y, who started to laugh at me.  She told me that the scoring system is different for Step 3 compared with the previous 2 exams, and the score I had received which I thought was failing was actually a passing score by a reasonable margin.  Additionally, she told me that a lot of people had been reviewing the official practice exam badly, saying the real test was much closer to the question bank anyways.  I confirmed what she said, and I started laughing at myself for getting worked up for nothing.
I felt so much better that I was able to do some real review in a relaxed way, and went into the exam early.  I took my time and checked my questions, and felt good knowing that a lot of the things I had studied were on the test.  But the icing on the cake was when a question with a video component popped up, and it included the very recognizable voice and face of one of my old medical school professors.  I was so relaxed, I burst out laughing in the middle of the test site (with many dirty looks from the GRE exam kids), and then had to watch it two more times just to get myself together.
All in all, it wasn't a bad test.  Fingers crossed, I passed and it will be one more thing to joyfully cross off my list.