Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Med school nightmares

I’m not someone to have nightmares in my sleep… That was true until this past week, when two afflicted me in quick succession – both featuring me getting kicked out of medical school!!!

The most recent was for a rather boring reason, merely failing an exam (although I was particularly angry for not having any resit opportunity). It was the first instance which was slightly more confusing and all the more relieving when I finally woke up to realise how stupid I had been. So what was the cause of me being turfed out? Perhaps getting into a fight or misbehaving in hospital, maybe recreational drug use? Nothing of the sort, in fact I was expelled due to committing a foul in a game of 5-a-side football with my friends… It wasn’t even a slide-tackle!

Dreams are strange – nearly a week on and I can still remember the events and emotions I experienced in my head that night. For that matter I can recall many other dreams from throughout my life, the majority of which were a tad more pleasurable! If only we could record them on DVDs, now that would be something special.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Anatomy has to be seen to be believed

The first couple of years of medical school have passed by surprisingly quickly and without any major hitches. Exams have been passed and I love pretty much everything about student life other than the shit we’ve had to put up with from the agency we’re renting our house from. The kitchen is sinking into the downstairs bathroom, my room must be contravening human rights it’s so small and the living room is a cockroach’s wet dream. Understandably I’m making the most of the home comforts while I can. There are so many memories that will stick with me long after uni is finished, likewise friends – however on the academic side of things, nothing stands out more than the anatomy sessions.

I’m lucky to go to a med school which still uses human cadaveric dissection to help teach anatomy. The first time we went into the dissection lab was strangely unsettling, knowing each of the metal tables had a dead body on them (covered with blue sheets) was freaky, but also excited my curiosity! It took until second year though, before I was really shocked… We were focusing on the head and had looked at various skulls and prosections of the brain in several planes. The time had come where we had to get down and dirty with our own body. Now for the uninitiated, the process of exposing the human brain is a wee bit traumatising – certainly not a tidy, clinical procedure:

  • Use scalpel to cut through scalp all the way around the head, to the bone
  • Slip fingers under scalp and tear it away from the skull (a harder task than the first volunteer anticipated)
  • Cut all the way through skull, continuing around until calvarium is separated from the rest of the skull using a CIRCULAR SAW

  • Slice through the dural reflections holding the calvarium to the brain
  • Voila, a scene straight out of Silence of the Lambs

All in all quite a brutal session, especially as I was one of the ‘fortunate’ ones to wield the circular saw. The noise was something else… Subsequent sessions involved chiselling through the back of the orbit to remove the eye-socket (complete with eye) and removing most of the skin from the face in order to reveal the underlying muscles and neurovascular structures. Fascinating, awesome and nauseating in equal measures!

The wonders of the human body will never cease to amaze me.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Good times

Fortunately the good people at my base hospital have confirmed my current documents are sufficient for me to begin in September! So I'm spared the hardship of the arse-numbing car trip and the hassle of injections and blood tests :)

And in other more exciting news, I’m going to see the new Batman movie tomorrow night. Having only seen ‘Batman Begins’ earlier this week, my appetite has been whetted and I’m looking forward to seeing Christian Bale in action. In my opinion he is a quality actor, particularly in the commitment he showed for ‘The Machinist’, losing over four stones of body weight for the role – subsequently to put on another seven stones within six months for Batman. As Patrick Bateman he was horrifically thrilling in ‘American Psycho’ and hopefully these minor assault allegations surrounding him at the moment will be forgotten soon enough!

On a sadder note though, it a shame the lovely Katie Holmes won’t be returning to the sequel – she is unfortunately far too busy being the wife of a madman.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Occy Health

Grrr… If there’s one thing I hate, it’s sorting stuff out. It could be tidying my room, preparing revision materials or being in charge of organising a night out. Currently my problem is trying to determine what my health check requirements are for entering clinical years at my base hospital. As with the majority of medical schools, there were strict health requirements to fulfil to take up my place on the course, such as a vaccination history, hepatitis immunisation and blood tests. At the start of first year I had my appointment with Occupational Health, got the all-clear and the relevant documentation.

Nearly 2 years later, emails and notices from the med school have been doing the rounds, saying some students still haven’t had the necessary checks and that up to date health checks must be organised before the start of the academic year. Accompanying one mail is the worrying line that a number of people missed up to 5 weeks of the start of term last year, through not having the proper certificates. As far as I could tell though, nowhere was it made apparent if the original clearance from 2006 was sufficient. I emailed the person who had been sending the notices at the medical school and received a prompt reply, telling me I indeed needed to book another appointment!

ARGH! What an arse! It’s a bloody 4-5 hour drive each way to my university, added to which the extortionate petrol costs would mean the trip wouldn’t be cheap either.

Anyway, I called up Occupational Health. What do they say? In fact I don’t need a separate check after all… Hmmm, well now I’m confused - the medical school saying one thing, Occ. Health the opposite. I call the medical school and fortunately get to speak straight away with the person who replied to my email. I explain what Occ. Health told me, and just like that, the representative from the med school states:

“Oh well, I haven’t been in the job long – just go with Occ. Health say.”

This has pissed me off a bit, that the people sending out these emails warning of up to date health checks and threatening missing a large part of my initial clinical training, don’t seem to know what’s going on themselves!!! Nor did they have the good sense to inform me that they were unsure of the answer to my query, but advised me to go ahead and book a (ridiculously inconvenient) appointment anyway. For now I shall go with what Occ. Health told me, meanwhile I have sent an email directly to my base hospital.

Hassle! Grief! Could do without it!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Sleeping patterns!

Without the structure that my strict school timetable provided for me back in the day, my body clock has well and truly given up the ghost. It can’t be healthy to stay in bed until after midday and still be fully awake (writing blog entries) at 1:45am on a Monday morning, yet here I am… For tonight I have an excuse - I’ve been away for the weekend to stay at a friend’s uni house with some mates. Late nights, copious amounts of alcohol and ill-advised dancing undoubtedly taking their toll, however my poor sleeping habits have been evident over the past 2 years!

University life thus far hasn’t been conducive to early nights and, rarely having more than a couple of 9am starts each week, I’ve been afforded the luxury of regular lie-ins. However all good things must come to an end as the real work begins in a matter of weeks (eek!). This is a frightening prospect to say the least – both being let loose in hospital for the bulk of our time and having to be there for 8/9am most days! In the meantime I think some early rising practice is called for and what better way than offering to drive my mum into work every morning (what a generous son I am :)

Well if I want to be awake in 7 hours I had better be off to my bed, night all!

Friday, 18 July 2008


No not Soft Cell of ‘Tainted Love’ fame, instead I’m talking about a slightly surreal experience I had earlier today. To temporarily stave off the hypnotic powers of the golf coverage (The Open is on at the moment for those not up to speed) I took a drive into town – not with anything specific in mind, but I do like to people-watch and window-shop! There’s just something intriguing, and sometimes amusing, about seeing different individuals wrapped up in their own little worlds. Anyway, after meandering through the shopping centre for a while, I was snapped out of my own daydreaming:

“Hey, hello… Yeah, you!”

It took me a couple of seconds to register that the words were coming from a girl (about 20) a few metres from some sort of stall/temporary shop. She was quite pretty in a distinctive kind of way, and I approached her.

Me: “Hi.”

Her: “Wow, you have really nice skin – what do you use?”

Me: [slightly surprised] “Er, just a bit of standard moisturiser.”

Her: [now reaching for and holding my hands] “You have a beautiful face.”

Me: [thoroughly embarrassed] “I bet you tell all the boys that.”

Her: [leading me to the stall] “No, you know you look good. Come here and have a look at these…”

Me: [still a bit flustered] “Um… No sorry, I really have to go. I don’t have the time.”

Her: “Don’t worry, come back later.”

And with that I smiled and left. The exchange couldn’t have taken more than a minute or two, but it left me feeling flattered, happy, confused and a bit annoyed. Now I’d like to think that she wasn’t lying as she reeled me in, complimenting my complexion, because it’s great having a cute girl say that. However, I’m not stupid and I bet she had repeated the same spiel to a dozen guys before and a dozen guys after. So in the end maybe I’d have preferred the hard-sell approach, where I’m quite adept at telling overzealous salesmen to politely fuck off!

P.S. I went on to buy a rather nice red T-shirt :)

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Me? Worried? Well maybe a little...

Is it me or is the world bloody mad?! In particular the onus put on kids to decide what they want to do with the rest of their lives’ earlier and earlier. When I was 15 years old I nearly shat all over my chances of applying for Medicine straight from school by not realising Chemistry A-level was of paramount importance (a fact that still leaves me slightly confuzzled) even though it was 2 years until I had to go through the UCAS process. However, my school helpfully allowed me to switch and eventually at the tender age of just 17, the wheels were set in motion – I wanted to become a doctor.

I feel quite fortunate that I realised what I wanted to do at a relatively young age as I know plenty of friends that are 2/3rds way through their degrees and still haven’t a clue what they’re going to wander into once they’ve graduated. My point is that it’s difficult to make decisions that could have a bearing on the course of your career and life, without adequate experience. This leads me on to the farce that is Modernising Medical Careers (MMC).

My understanding of the subject is certainly basic and is based on reading messageboards, blogs and articles over the past couple of weeks. It appears that one doesn’t need to be an expert to see that it has delivered a swift kick in the knackers (and knackerettes) to many doctors all over the country. Leaving highly trained individuals without interviews, jobs or any prospects in the NHS beyond dead-end FTSTA posts, is a travesty in itself. Furthermore though, it has created a situation (please educate me if I am wrong) where F2 doctors, barely out of medical school and with limited awareness of many specialties, are having to apply for run-through training posts. These schemes will tie them in for 6 years plus, for branches of medicine/surgery that they have very little working knowledge of! How can this be “modernisation”?! We will surely be left in a position with many perfectly well qualified doctors having to go abroad to further their careers, and a significant proportion of the remainder restricted to specialist training routes that they have little interest in. In a decade or two, if the system is broadly the same, won’t we have a generation of consultants lacking in skill and motivation after being railroaded into specialties they chose due to a shortage of exposure in the years after graduation?

My eyes are beginning to be well and truly opened with regards to the organisation that awaits me…

What, why and where? (In no particular order)

I am currently in London, in the middle of a holiday of John Prescott proportions. Second year was finished by the start of June and I won’t be returning up North to commence third year ‘til September! M(any) readers may be envious of the position I find myself in, and don’t get me wrong, freedom is fantastic. However, after spending last month travelling, having fun and generally haemorrhaging money, I have discovered entertaining myself over the past fortnight slightly more troublesome…

In the end I looked to the internet and decided to search Google - not for anything quite as passé as pornography, but in fact for “medical student blogs”. I admit a degree of embarrassment for this deed; perhaps it was withdrawal symptoms from the medical vacuum I am currently in that drove me. Whatever the cause though, they’re definitely a pleasurable way to waste away a spare half hour (or day when you start reading from the beginning a blog that was started 2 years ago!). This has led me inexorably to where I am now. Namely publishing my first post, of my first blog, EVER! I will endeavour to provide observations, oddities, insights and hopefully entertainment in forthcoming posts. The frequency of such entries will no doubt fluctuate with the ebb and flow of events in my life and whenever I feel the urge to offload (as I do enjoy a good rant/argument/discussion).


A question to the floor: are there any scare stories of bloggers whose identities have been uncovered? The reason I ask is because a theme of the blogs I’ve been reading is the desire to keep anonymity. I understand this totally; however I would like to be aware of any potential “come-back-to-bite-you-in-the-arse” situations that could arise from these loose-mouthed fingers of mine (sorry for the appalling metaphor)!