I thought heading home from the island would be filled with immeasurable stress of not knowing whether I would be returning in the near year. I didn’t want to say ‘See ya never!’ or celebrate anything until I knew if I had passed. To be honest, I was expecting a lacklustre Christmas, complete with having to repeatedly explain my cluelessness of what the immediate future would look like.
However, getting the exam results so quickly threw me into a whirlwind of festive cheer. Heading home was wonderful. I could relax, read, and start to think about 2023 with a more positive lens.
I felt like Will Ferrell in Elf. Everything was amazing. I saw friends, family, made fun holiday-themed cocktails and ate WAY too much (no regrets). I saw a fantastic Christmas string quartet by candlelight with my best friend, watched a million movies, and SLEPT.
Oh, the sleep. It was the most refreshing part of the whole break.
A New Season
And just like that, it’s early January, and I am sitting at the local library, sipping on an almond latte, and planning out what 2023 is going to look like. Goals. Schedules. Lists. Oh my!
I’ll be honest, this year both terrifies and excites me. Equally…I think.
It is going to be a year of rapid change, nomadic living and FINALLY getting to interact with patients as a third-year medical student.
It feels weird to say. Third year? How could that be? It felt as though I had just started school, yet simultaneously like I had been living life on autopilot for years.
Just this past month, I received an email addressed to ‘Dr. Mack’ and had to laugh. Me? Do you mean me? It couldn’t be. It had to be a misprint. I was just a measly student, my potato brain filled with no more than air and useless movie quotes. Yet soon enough I was going to be responsible for real human beings. Screams internally.
Thankfully, I still had some time to push past the impending existential crisis in an attempt of gaining more confidence in my future responsibilities.
So Now What?
My schedule for the foreseeable future was going to be extremely “go with the flow.” No hard deadlines, continually malleable start dates…it’s fine, this is fine. I don’t NEED to have a schedule or routine or plan. I am going to try and embrace the adventure or whatever. (Queue the eye twitch).
First up, my board exam prep course that will take me to Kansas City for 6 weeks. I’ve got to say, Kansas City was never on my ‘Places I’d Love to Visit One Day’ Bingo card, but hey. The course will be full of review and question break downs throughout the week, with a mock board exam almost every weekend.
While I am excited to be fully immersed in exam content and have a better understanding of how to break down board exam questions, I feel as though my whole life has been exam prep for the last four months, so I feel more than ready to write my Step 1 exam and finally be done with it.
Sometimes I feel that after a certain point, your brain doesn’t want to retain or fit any more information, and the longer you study the more you forget. But hopefully this course will fly by and I will be able to write my exam ASAP when it finishes.
Once that course is complete, I will get to zip home, review for a bit longer (essentially until the school deems me ready to write my exam) and then it’s GO time.
A little background for those that may not be as familiar with how the exams for med school work:
The USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Exam) Step 1 is an approximately eight hour exam with about 280 questions covering everything that was learned over the first two years of school. You need to pass (preferably on your first attempt) in order to proceed onto the third and fourth year rotation portions, where you will be rotating through different hospitals for different specialties.
Bottom line: it’s a beast of an exam that is put on the highest of all pedestals for medical students. AKA: extreme stress – commence.
Once ‘The Beast’ is written, there is about a one month waiting period before finding out your results. Not stressful at all, I know.
Crossed T’s and Dotted I’s
During that period, when your brain finally feels like it has stopped deflating from the overuse, you write your final draft of a Literature Review and Analysis (RLRA) paper. The topic we chose, and its subsequent outline were written out and approved throughout the second year of didactics.
Once that has been edited, approved through an appointed mentor, finalized, and submitted to a committee, there is yet another waiting period (starting to sense a theme here yet?). THEN. If all the boxes are checked, you can progress to clinical rotations.
The third year of rotations are considered our “cores.” We will rotate through internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, psychiatry, and OB/Gyn with the timelines ranging from six weeks to three months each – just under a year in total.
This is where the big “adventure” really begins for me. We won’t know what service or even state/province we will be moving to until just before we start. I’m sure I’ll have a better explanation of how each of these rotations work as I get closer to the start dates, but this is my understanding thus far.
I am beyond excited to finally get to put everything I have cultivated over the last few years to real-world use. Of course, I am less excited for the inevitable stress, fear of being the new kid, getting lost in both the hospital and whichever city I happen to be in, and the ever-encroaching imposter syndrome. These are, however, just inescapable experiences as a med student it seems.
In the Meantime
What about in the meantime? Well, in typical J fashion, I am slightly vacationed out and even I am getting sick of watching movies all day. So obviously I took a bunch of retraining for my operating room nursing job and plan to pick up a few shifts a week before heading down to Kansas City.
I’m really looking forward to getting back into the patient care environment, as the last few years have really been lacking in this area. I’m hoping that this sparks a bit more joy and reignites my interest and excitement for medicine. Plus having a little bit of a paycheck before heading into a very travel-expense filled year ain’t too shabby either.
I also have a few shadow shifts scheduled with my fantastic mentor and can’t wait to get an inside look of third year life accompanied by some excellent advice before it gets fully underway.
New Year New Goals?
I’m not much of a New Years resolutioner but being that this is going to be a big year, it only seems fitting to have some like-minded goals to accompany it. I would like to try and network a bit more in hopes of finding some contacts near home for elective rotations in fourth year. Maybe it’s too early to start looking into things like this, but what can I say, I am my LinkedIn-savvy-father’s daughter. I just want to do everything I can and make sure my bases are covered to ensure (as much as possible) that I have the best chance at matching back into Canada for residency.
I am going to continue to try and manage my stress levels, and focus on a good balance of rest and work this year. I’ve been slowly reintegrating fitness back into my mornings and I’d love to maintain that routine. I want to try and read more (non-textbooks), so if anyone has any good book recommendations please let me know!
I’m not sure about the direction I want to take The Scenic Route to MD this year. I started this blog to document my experiences – both good and bad, in hopes of helping even one person who was going through something similar. I know I haven’t been consistent with posting, but as I mentioned in previous posts, my priority is school and making sure I am prepared for each next step. So if that means this turns into more of a monthly newsletter style of entries, so be it.
That being said, if there is anything that you want to know more about, ask about, etc, please send me a message and I will definitely try to make a post about it/include an explanation as best I can in future entries.
I am also always looking for more Scenic Stories entries, so if you or anyone you know has a unique journey into medicine, be it as a current student, resident or even pre-med – don’t hesitate to reach out here.
Finally, thank you to everyone who likes and shares these posts and sends me feedback. It is so appreciated and it’s nice to hear that you’re not speaking into a void of emptiness everyday lol.