31 December 2006

Review of 2006 - January to March


January saw the start of my observing with the ambulance service at my local ambulance station. My application for Paramedic sciences was in, and I had an interview at Sheffield Hallam in February and one in Hertfordshire in March. I needed to get my experience levels sorted ready to face the interview panel. I'd originally been rejected from both universities, but through some *ahem* persuasive telephone conversations I'd managed to get an interview after I'd been rejected. Just for the benefit of the doubt, so to speak.

In my masters degree I'd taken all my major exams before Christmas, so I'd had a restful festive period (knowing that I'd passed everything to date) and returned to my masters with renewed hope. Problem was, I wasn't certain that medical school was for me...

The more work experience I did, the more I wanted to join the ambulance service. I still hadn't had a firm offer through from medical school, but the fact that I had paramedic interviews had blinkered me slightly.

By the end of the month I'd passed another 2 master modules and done some more observing on the weekends. I was putting in approximately 75 hours a week of work, studying and observing, yet it was one of the most enjoyable times of my life. I still associate songs with that time of the year and smile.

I also did chest compressions for the first time on a real person, and rather alarmingly the entire process worked successfully. I'd been on a fast car (RRU) with a solo paramedic who'd been called to a cardiac arrest. The problem was the 15 minute delay on the ambulance arriving behind us. I'm never one to shy away from a challenge, and once the adrenaline started flowing it was just the same as training on a dummy - except with more resistance. The gentleman in question had collapsed in a crowded market place, and the amazing general public, thinking that he was a tramp, had been stepping over him for who knows how long. They'd then thoughtfully placed a cushion under his head and covered him up with a blanket, while one announced that she worked in a nursing home. Really renews your faith in nursing homes doesn't it. Even I could tell a lack of circulation by his grey pallour.

Anyway, all's well that ends well...the gentleman was still alive the last time I heard, and it saw the month out on a high.
However, I also did the baby...

February saw more observing and long hours at university, as well as the selection of my dissertation title for my final project. I opted out of laboratory work in favour of a library based research project, and it's a decision I stand by to this day.

All month I'd been preparing for my Sheffield Hallam paramedic interview, frantically shopping and trying to prepare the perfect outfit. I was also dieting like a crazy woman for my Hertfordshire interview as they request that applicants are in weight and height proportion.

Thanks to my personal Trinny and Susannah (2 colleagues in my old halls of residence) for helping me pick out the perfect killer heels, trousers and red shirt combination.

It was a long journey to Sheffield from where I was based, and as the Snake Pass approached there was a thin dusting of snow along the road. I was desperately nervous, and convinced I'd failed at the individual interview stage.

The group interview was quite amusing, and I was glad that I'd been observing. Take note anyone who has a Sheffield Hallam interview - if they haven't changed the format, you will be asked to work in small teams and decide upon the use of an ambulance related piece of equipment. Take note, if there's a person at your interview who's worked for the ambulance service in Patient Transport - work with them! I was kind of thankful that I'd paid attention on the ambulance when the paramedics and technicians had been showing me all of the equipment, and had humoured my questions.

Sadly the interview itself turned into an ethical argument about the use of the LUCAS machine - something I don't know a great deal about, but managed to turn into a debate. They also told me that they had issues with Biological Sciences graduates and their ability to convert to a practical role. He also raised issue with my ability to do delicate work, until I pointed out that I painted, sewed and made jewellery.

March saw me receiving an unconditional offer for the Sheffield Hallam course and having one of the most painful hangovers the following day having gone drinking with Trinny and Susannah at a formal university event the same day...

Yet more observing and a lot of preparation for my Hertfordshire University interview for a training place with London Ambulance Service. My first time to London alone, my first time on the tube, and my first time seeing all of the big red buses. I know, I'm such a tourist. I met up with my best friend and had lunch at McDonald's near King's Cross station, before heading up to Hatfield and getting horrendously lost on the way to my Bed and Breakfast.
The interview again descended into debate, but one of a less dignified manner than my Sheffield Hallam interview. I came away convinced that I had lost my place there, simply because I had argued my corner. It's odd that at Sheffield I was interviewed by a paramedic in normal clothing (shirt and tie), and was completely fine, yet a paramedic in his uniform (with a hell of a lot of metal on his epaulettes) makes me fall apart.

Nevertheless, the interview was over and I was headed back through London and back up North for a chilled out evening in my flat.
March also saw an interview at UCLan which was vastly less successful. I'd taken up jogging around this time of year and was convinced I was fit enough to pass the paramedic fitness test. Unfortunately I'd been on a RRV with a slightly ill paramedic with a chest infection. Needless to say, with germs flying around a fortnight before my interview I was guaranteed to get ill as well. Sure as day and night I ended up with a disgusting chest infection that irritated by asthma to hell. I was still doing the fitness test, but my heart rate went too high and they stopped me. I did the only thing a girl could do; I cried my eyes out. They suggested I reapplied the next year and went to the gym more, but at the time I was running twice a week, using the gym 3 times a week and doing martial arts. I also had received a surprise unconditional offer from Hertfordshire. I think Tom was scared that I would join LAS. I am obviously weight and height in proportion then!

In March I also met up with another blogger; the first I had met as 'Merys'. It was the culmination of a long time chatting on Skype and MSN, and I still owe Lennie dinner at some point. It was a kind of weird experience to climb into the car of a complete stranger, and not be able to close the Skype window when you get bored or irritated of each other's company. I think I also made him show me his warrant card too! I don't think I disgraced myself, but only Lennie can answer that....

My Masters was still progressing along nicely, although the lecturers strike was in the works and threatened my degree somewhat. I think I may have panicked slightly....

I also received my firm offer from my medical school, causing a hell of a lot of worry about career choices. I think I chewed the ear off of every paramedic/technician/nurse/doctor I could find at the time. Thanks to Kal, Tom, John and Magwitch (who sent me a wonderful and detailed email about why I shouldn't join the ambulance service) for listening to my rants.
Part 2 whenever I can write it...

Making a difference

I know it's not brain surgery, or saving lives, but I love making a difference.
Nothing major - looking after a birthday party personally to avoid difficulties. It was bound for disaster due to a clash in our schedules, but I averted disaste skillfully and made for a really enjoyable experience...

They even shook my hand when they left (this is a group of 14 year old boys mind....) and wished me a happy new year.

I left work with a smile on my face!

28 December 2006

26 December 2006

New Blogs

Having been looking around I've found some new blogs. Try these to alleviate your christmas boredom:

http://theunexpectediainmacbain.blogspot.com/
http://www.ambucabs.blog.co.uk/
http://nicenurse.wordpress.com/

and yes, these were shamelessly stolen from Carmelo, although I did read some of them before!

25 December 2006

Merys Christmas for real!

Isn't it funny how plans change? If you read the post below you'll see what my plans had been for last night.

What actually happened was a 999 call, an ambulance, the local A&E department and a seriously broken humerus (funny bone) on a fragile grandma (the one who isn't recovering from cancer!). I was walking her to our house as she just lives around the corner, when she tripped over our front step and landed on her left arm. Bless her, she's 83 years old and rather fragile in body (but strong in spirit). So I spent the next 4 hours in A&E having correctly diagnosed the broken bone by feeling the crepitus in the elbow joint. Turns out I was right (as there was nothing to see in the arm itself).

Never one to miss an opportunity (and while actually wearing my med school hooded top) I asked if I could see the X-Rays (and was taught all about the importance of the break and nerve involvement etc). Sadly that's 3 first aid/injury related events that I've been around in 2 days, so for the benefit of everyone on Christmas day, I'm hiding upstairs in my room typing this on one of my new christmas presents!

Any rumours that I may be deliberately injuring people to gain clinical experience are purely speculation (but stay clear for your own good!).

Anyway, with a quiet family Christmas day today, I'm going to wish you all a joyful and peaceful festive period (whatever you may be celebrating at this time of year) and keep yourselves safe!

24 December 2006

We're Going to Need Considerably Bigger Buns.....


Well, Christmas Eve is here and family visits have been done. It was nice to meet up with my cousins and catch up with them after a few absent years.

My female cousin is marginally younger than myself and has just become a newly qualified primary school music teacher, while my male cousin is a second year geography student in Wales. My male cousin is also heading towards being a teacher too...and interestingly all 3 (out of 3) of us have headed into higher education and to work with the public.

Interestingly, on the other side of my family I'm the only one in education at the moment, and the only one who did A Levels. I almost feel frowned upon for not making babies somewhere with a bloke who has no prospects or money. That sounds harsh I know, but its such a contrast from one side of the family to the other.

Christmas is a peculiar time for us - my grandfather died near christmas just before I started this blog, and it brings memories of family and friends lost. But death is something I expect to get used to somewhere down the line....

I'm now off work until Boxing Day, and I'm only doing a short shift then. My last shift was somewhat interesting - with my first aid skills being called upon (why does everyone presume that because I'm a medical student I know what I'm doing if someone injures themselves? I mean I am a 'qualified first aider', but you shouldn't presume!). I ended up staying an extra 2 hours after the end of my shift last night due to 'staff illness' and 2 staff injured themselves, one after the other. I decided that was a good indicator for me to go home before anything serious happened.
Now my parents are baking together downstairs (and I'm leaving them to it) and my plan for the rest of the day involves sleeping through rubbish films and gorging on chocolates and mince pies. There's no grandma this year as she's wanting to be on her own rather than with anyone. So I guess it's just me, the dog and my parents. At least the dog has amusement value in the morning when he opens his toys and pulls his cracker.
More importantly, I shall be watching Calendar Girls tonight on TV, which (although I've seen before) I'm really looking forward to! Good Yorkshire film!
I think I'm just all christmas-ed out this year, having had parties at uni, work and now home, I think I'm already bored. I want to remember what christmas is really all about, rather than just receiving and giving gifts.
If not before, I'll be blogging before the new year, so I must make some resolutions!
Merry Christmas love Merys!!

23 December 2006

Ho Ho Ho


Sorry about the lack of posting for the last week, but since getting back from university on Friday night I haven't had a day off work yet. Bizarely, I've never been homesick before (and that hasn't changed), although I guess I appreciate home more now.
Problem is, I hate the place I'm at university. It's impersonal and depressing, and in about as much contrast as you could possibly be to where I studied (ahem!) before.
I really haven't settled in well, but I guess you'd probably guessed that by now. A family Christmas even looks like a pleasant concept compared to staying 'Dahn Sarf'. The obligatory family argument doesn't even put me off (provided I spend enough time at work!).
Realistically I don't want to go back to university after Christmas, but I will. If I do end up quitting medical school then I'm adamant it won't be after a measly 12 weeks. I intend to stick this degree out, and as I once said to my family (and anyone who would listen) - I would have studied medicine anywhere in the world (I believe I suggested Outer Mongolia) as long as I ended up studying medicine and qualified as a doctor.
My eyes have opened a little since then. I'm not sure being a doctor is the amazing concept I was convinced of when I was 14 years old and convinced that TV programmes showed the truth about medicine. I mean, if Casualty and ER are to be believed then being a doctor is bad for your health anyway!
Work is looming again tomorrow and I have a uniform to iron, so I best dash.

18 December 2006

Adaptation.

Sometimes I think it would just be easier to stay here and work. Sure, I'd have to find a place of my own, but I can do this job. It's not rocket science but it's always a challenge. I'm not looking for an easy way out, but a less terrifying one would be nice every now and then.

Sometimes I want to quit, but other times I really enjoy it. I didn't realise how much I'd learnt until asked a medically related question, and the information spurted from my mouth without my realising, both to mine and the other person's surprise.

I'm always alarmed at how easy I find it to switch back into 'no-brain' mode. That sounds bizarre since I said this job was challenging doesn't it? It is challenging in a logistical kind of way; organising staff, equipment, schedules, food, drinks and teamworking requires great mental prowess (sometimes), but yet people do it all the time here and make it look easier than I do.

As I see it so far, medical school (and medicine in general) is about juggling. I think I need to learn to catch a little better.

...but maybe that's just life in general.

14 December 2006

Networking pt 2

As I mentioned previously in Networking pt 1, medicine breeds competition and sneakiness with each other.

Well, anything you can do, so can Merys.

By asking the right people the right questions and (dare I say) brown nosing slightly, I managed to get a day's shadowing on the GP out of hours service on a Saturday. It involved me being up at 6.30 in the morning to be there at 8.00, and forfeiting my lie in, but the experience counts! As well as being able to sit with doctors all day and see patients, listen to telephone triage etc, I also got to go on home visits with both a doctor and an ECP.

Going out with the ECP was enlightening, as my advice was constantly being asked. I did keep having to remind that I was only a first year.

The one thing that amused me the most was being expected to do things. I guess I was being naive when I went out, thinking I would just be sitting and watching. Sadly not.

The problem with learning skills is that eventually you're expected to do it for real on a real patient. On the good side I did prove to myself and the doctor/ECP that I could actually take a manual blood pressure (admittedly after a few false starts!)

13 December 2006

Networking pt 1

*Disclaimer: I'm not saying that this a widespread trend, but I have seen it happening here*

I've been noticing recently that the people on this course are very competitive. It was to be expected I suppose - fighting into medical school breeds for competitive people in general. There seems to almost be a culture of out-doing each other and sneaking around to get access to different opportunities against one another.

I know of first year medical students who are members of sporting teams who use their affiliation with others to gain shadowing time in surgery (and let's remember we've only been medical students for around 2 months now!). It surprises me, but it obviously means I'm going to have to up the ante.

I'm not afraid of networking, and (if I say so myself) I'm actually quite good at it. Which leads me onto my recent experience.........

But I guess you'll have to wait for that.

11 December 2006

Away from keyboard

I've decided to take a couple of days away at my old university this week. Only on reading week anyway.

More when I'm back

09 December 2006

Merys Christmas

What does every self-respecting pissed off girl do? She goes shopping. Alone. At Christmas.

Big Mistake!

I'm starting to feel a little bah-bloody-humbug at the moment, and will not be sending very many cards out this year as they are an attempt by the card companies to kill rainforests and rob me of my money.

As it happens I had to buy some individual cards anyway. (Why do people have birthday's at this time of year? Have they no decency???) £10+ in a card shop....why? And why in the name of Christmas did I buy a card from the dog to my parents?? They're going to think I've cracked up. Hell, I even think I've cracked up!

07 December 2006

Laughter

To combat feeling generally pissed off, I went to my martial arts class after uni today and did some floor fighting. It's the first time I've done any ground fighting and I was concerned I'd feel panicked and stressed when fighting a bloke.

Turns out I giggle a lot.

Mind you, it's rather hard not to when a bloke has his crotch about 3 inches from your face and you can't seem to fight your way out of it.

Sometime's it's so difficult being the only female in the class....

06 December 2006

To answer a few questions raised....

"I'm sure you missed stuff in your first year of your first degree, and whilst to you it's all old hat, lots of these people are drinking heavily and experiencing independence for the first time." Matthew

...Actually I didn't. If I had a group session the following day I either wouldn't be out drinking the night before, or drinking very lightly/soft drinks only, and having an earlyish night. But then again why should I bother to care anymore, the rest of my year thinks it's acceptable. Our PBL and team work structure here relies on the TEAM as a whole. If you don't turn up or turn up drunk or hungover you're no use to anyone.

"If you don't fuck up and miss PBL or other group work (I missed about 5 PBLs last year, and 1 this year through hangovers - admittedly this year all my pbls have been in the afternoon) then you're a better man than most of us." Matthew

Woman actually, but I know what you mean. And no, the only PBLs I've missed this year were due to a sick family member in Yorkshire that I had to go and see. Slightly more serious than a self-inflicted hangover and I still felt guilty about missing it.

"I for one would put the burden of the first step on grads, in Freshers week, when they're are 18 year olds who've done nothing like this before, you have a reference point, you will clearly be less nervous, and hence if you are willing to come out and talk to them then, you'll probably find you don't get so segregated later." Matthew

I did go out in fresher's week. I went out a lot. But I appreciate that I only went out because I'm 23 years old and knew no-one. I don't have family here and I don't have friends here. Personally, my friends here range from 18 to 45 and I don't really see a difference between them, but many people do. My personal favourites at the moment are the 'wannabe grads'. The beautiful clique of 2 or 3 grads and a 'tagger on' who likes everyone to think that they're a grad because they took a couple of years out and the grad in question is cool. Very worrying.

"there are some people on my course too whom I look at and think, "And you want to be a doctor someday??"" Calavera

We have an alarming amount of those people on my course. People who turn up to important sessions with actors (where we were told to dress as on placement) in jeans and t-shirts, boobs a-stray and thong flashing. People who regularly skip mandatory stuff because they're too up themselves to attend, and are; 'so, like, Oh My God - I'm at university now. Isn't that just the place to have a good time?'

"the work was a bit of a chore but ultimately rewarding because it's what I wanted to do." Hospital Phoenix

I'm seriously beginning to doubt if it is what I want to do. Hence why I'm not getting any satisfaction from it. I didn't expect an easy ride here, but I feel we're being pushed too hard too fast, and if I'm struggling now, what's it going to be like in 2, 3, 4 years time? Sink or swim I suppose.

"Take a break over Christmas and you'll feel a lot better." Gerry

I'd love to my dear, but I simply can't afford to. I have exams to revise for, OSCE's to sort and a job to hold down. I can't afford to not work and I can't afford to be picky about shifts so I have to take anything and everything on offer.
I also have a grandmother to keep an eye on and regularly visit now she's recuperating at home at last.

---------------------------------

Matthew, this wasn't a rant at you I promise, but your long comment brought a lot of issues forward to be raised. Thank you for that !

05 December 2006

Small steps

Frankly, I'm hoping that my current feelings of complete and utter disdain for this course are simply due to a lack of sleep and too much work.

At the moment, I don't want to come back after Christmas. I know of course that I will. I know that I won't give in (at least I hope that I won't) and I'll keep on plodding along until I fail or something drastic happens.

I'm tired. Very very tired. And I'm getting fed up of the arrogance of some of the people on my course. People who look down their nose at graduates and who take for granted what they have. Graduates can be stuck-up idiots too, but those of us who really had to fight for our places try not to take them for granted. Just because you're 18 years old, at university for the first time and have a huge overdraft - does not mean it's right or fair to skip group work and plenaries for the sake of your hangover (repeatedly).

I'm sick of the cliques, the bitching and the backbiting. I'm fed up of the 'mightier than thou' attitude many medics adopt towards biomedical science students (I was there, and it used to piss me off). And mostly, I'm fed up of petty med school bureaucracy. I'm fed up of bitchy emails to the entire year about the action of the few. I'm fed up of filling in 95 forms just to get time off for a doctor's appointment (and then having to explain why - because I'm a medic and we should be prepared to discuss things!) and I'm fed up of this place in general.

I'm past the point of crying. I'm past the point of giving a shit I thing. I just hope it's an end of term thing, or else I'm screwed. I want to quit.

03 December 2006

Apathy

I guess I'm going to have to stay here now I've paid some of my fees and bought a med school hooded top. Sadly I have the most appalling case of apathy at the moment.

I have an absolutely enormous amount of work to do, but I'm procrastinating and sitting at the computer instead. I simply cannot face the amount of work I have to do!

This is not the best attitude to have with a very busy week ahead and an OSCE* looming...




*OSCE = objective structured clinical examination = clinical skills exam, usually testing how you speak to patients and do basic skills.

02 December 2006

Go look!

I found a new blog (well new to me anyway) called Musings of a disheartened doctor.

Please go and read...

Sad but true....

YOU KNOW YOU'VE BEEN IN UNIVERSITY TOO LONG WHEN...

You actually like doing laundry at home where the washing
machines work.

Two miles is not too far to walk for a party.

You'd rather clean than study especially if an essay is due.

"Oh shit how did it get so late!" comes out of your mouth at
least once a night.

Parents' cooking becomes something you desire, not avoid.

You schedule your classes around sleep habits and soap operas
especially neighbours and Hollyoaks.

You know the pizza boy by name and don't even need to read the
menu.

You go to sleep when it's light and get up when it's dark.

You live for getting mail.

Looking out the window is a form of entertainment.

Prank phone calls become funny again.

You start thinking and sounding like your friends and your
accent becomes a hybrid of West Country, Surrey and general
Northern.

Highlighters are the coolest things on earth.

Rearranging your room is your favourite pastime.

Rubbish cheap £1 shops are so cool.

The weekend lasts from Thursday to Monday.

---------

I think my friends have too much time on their hands to keep emailing me these!