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The Finish Line

The Finish Line

Welcome back to the Scenic Route to MD. Last week I filled you all in on all the fun adventures of getting Covid in the Caribbean while studying for med school finals. In case you missed it, you can revisit it HERE.

Now that I had obtained the golden ticket of freedom and had begun my reintegration into society, I had to make a plan. How in the hell was I going to survive this week of make-up exams and assignments while staying on top of all this new material? The finish line was finally in sight, yet seemed so far away.

Here’s a glimpse of how this overlapping schedule of finishing the semester’s requirements and beginning new shelf exam review looked in real time. Complete with panic thoughts of course.

close up shot of weekly planner
Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com

MONDAY:

7:45am: Does anyone even know we are allowed back to school yet? Are we sure this is ok? They can’t get mad at us for going to class can they?

8:30am: Okay this seems fine, no one is giving us evil glares.

12:00pm: Meet with professor at lunch hour to try and schedule the week to both simultaneously finish the old exams and content as fast as possible while making sure not to set ourselves up for spontaneous combustion.

Get some sort of schedule in the works. Great. Stressful af but great.

12:45pm: Wait, this needs to be approved by the Dean, he has the final word. Okay, hopefully he gets back to us ASAP so we can cram accordingly.

1:00pm: Now to sit through the remaining hours of Physiology review class and pretend like I’m listening to even an ounce of what he’s saying while I cram for my first exam tomorrow.

5:00pm: Pick up some chicken tenders and fries from the cafeteria to bring some happiness to my evening that will no doubt include several tears.

7:00pm: Ah yes, right on schedule here come the stress tears.

10:00pm: OK Jess, you should get to bed early to make sure you’re rested for your busy day tomorrow.

11:45pm: *cries in brain betrayal* Let me sleep!

TUESDAY:

6:00am: Okay, get your ass out of bed and have some brain fuel so you can survive this day. It’s going to be a busy week but it’s fine. Anyone can do hard things for a week.

7:15am: Heading to school early this am so we can have a sit down with our professor. He wants to go over any last questions before we get into Final-Exam-A-Palooza.

7:55am: Okay, after that session I somehow feel even more stupid. This is great foreshadowing for the exam later today.

8:00am: More Physiology review in class today, not that we have the bandwidth to pay attention.

8:50am: Break time from class. I usually use these 10 minutes in between classes to get my “silly little walk for my silly little brain” in. It’s become a thing. However my ghostly paleness doesn’t love it. I wear SP30 everyday but the shoulders begin to crisp as the walks increase.

10:00am: More Physiology review in the background while I cram as much Derm and Multi-system pathology and pharmacology into my brain as I possibly can. It’s fine this is fine.

12:00pm: Another lunch hour in the professor’s office so we can get through our required assignments that we missed due to Covid. Thankfully they go relatively smoothly and we finish all of them during the lunch hour. Phewf. One more check off the list.

1:00pm: Downfall of a working lunch, I am STARVING now and get to listen to the angry song of my stomach all class.

1:50pm: Finally a chance to multi-task my silly little walk while I shove a granola bar in my face

4:00pm: Is it me or do these days seem to be outsmarting the space-time continuum. There’s no way that was only 8 hours long. Time for one last panic before our first exam make-up.

4:15pm: Here goes nothing

5:30pm: One done. The finish line is that much closer. No time to celebrate. Time to sprint home in the perfectly timed rainstorm to cram for the next one which is…tomorrow.

6:00pm: Dinner is…plain spaghetti with a side of pringles. Haven’t got a chance to get groceries since the Covid prison so beggars can’t be choosers. One order of carbs to the brain please.

8:00pm: Dare I say we feel…ready for this exam?

11:00pm: No. No we do not dare feel ready. I am stupid and this is going to be awful. This exam is worth 40% of my whole grade, if I don’t do well on this I could fail the course.

12:00pm: *should be sleeping* Oh yeah I guess I should start to study the Physiology stuff that’s been going on around me this week at some point…

WEDNESDAY:

7:00am: A little sleep in treat since we were irresponsible with going to bed on time last night.

8:00am: More physiology review. It’s beginning to worry me how little time I have had to focus on all this other information being taught around me but I have absolutely no room left in my brain for more things at the moment.

10:50am: Can’t forget about those silly little walk breaks. Sometimes if you’re lucky you’ll get some wildlife on the way, aka goats, cows or donkeys running around all over the place. A pleasant distraction.

Keeping us company on our morning walks

12:00pm: Staying in the classroom today to get an extra hour of studying in before the giant final later this evening. It’s not until 5:00 and is 2.5 hours long so this is going to be a marathon of a day.

4:00pm: T-minus one hour until this final exam. Now is what I like to call the “Can’t study anymore because I keep looking at the clock and stressing myself out” time. Right on schedule.

5:00pm: Let’s do this round 2.

7:15pm: Queue bursting out the doors like the final scene in ‘The Breakfast Club.’ Technically we are DONE with all exams for that class. The finish line was THAT much closer. Now to just wait and see if, you know, we passed it all. The walk home sunset seems to add some promising hope though.

Not too shabby

8:30pm: Unfortunately, no rest for the wicked. Tomorrow is the Clinical Skills practical exam after class. This is where we go into an exam room with a standardized patient (usually an actor or student in a lower class), and take them through an interview and sometimes physical exam. I usually quite enjoy these classes because they remind me the most of nursing.

This particular exam is based on our hematology lectures, so I start going through my “script” for tomorrow and what details I need to remember to ask.

11:00pm: ACTUALLY trying to get some sleep tonight so I don’t turn into a full on zombie before the weekend.

THURSDAY:

6:30am: Up and at it. The Clinical Skills exam isn’t until 5:00 tonight, so it’s going to be yet another long day. Theme of the week it seems.

7:15am: Heading to class early again with my freshly brewed Starbucks Iced Latte. Oh wait, I mean with my semi-iced lukewarm instant coffee and Coffee Mate. Same thing right?

8:00am: Today I actually try to pay attention in class to some last minute Physiology review. I felt fairly good about the Clinical Skills content. But oh man did I have my work cut out for me for this upcoming Physio shelf exam.

As the days went on I was happy that I was checking exams and assignments off the list at rapid speed, but as each day passed it almost meant I was one day closer to this first shelf exam. Which I was NOT even close to being ready for.

8:10am: Holy shit. Grades from this week’s exams are posted. I despised getting these during class because you could just see the eyes moving around the class trying to determine if people passed or failed via their facial expression. I tried to discretely look it up on my phone so the whole row behind me couldn’t see my laptop screen. Wearing a mask still helped to hide all facial expressions.

I was nervous but had to know immediately.

8:12am: Fuck. Yes. Passed. One class down. Just had to get through these Clinical Skills exams and I could safely say that learning new Basic Sciences content was DONE. One last sigh of relief before holding my breath for a few more days.

9:50am: Silly little walk time had grown. There was now about three of us that would take this sacred time to do our laps on the school driveway. I swear these were the only things keeping me sane near the end of this busy week. And hey, who doesn’t want to add a little DVT prevention into their day? Yay health.

3:30pm: Slowly coming to the realization that I am screwed for these shelf exams. So horribly and absolutely screwed. By the time these exam make-ups were complete, I had three days. Three days to study for this Physiology shelf exam that was a compilation of every ounce of Physiology we had learned over two years. Yikes.

Stress on stress on stress

4:30pm: Ok push your impending doom to the side, you still have to get through this Clinical Skills interview. Time to change into my “Does this make me look like a Doctor?” outfit and go over this script one last time. Barring a few supporting details I think I had the thing down.

5:00pm: Bless our course director for Clinical Skills. He was so understanding of our situation and the stress we were under. Going into our testing time he made us feel calm, relaxed, and  reassured us that we were prepared. I will always appreciate professors like this.

5:45pm: And just like that, another patient interview and note done. I always feel like I have carpal tunnel after these exams. Having to handwrite 4+ pages of a patient note in 20 minutes is beyond a feat. One more to go!!

6:30pm: Time to cram ONE last chunk of Clinical Skills knowledge into my brain for the theory exam tomorrow. The benefit of this is that so much of the info learned in this class was overlap between the other class so I felt decently confident.

8:30pm: I feel good about this exam. Do I dare try to study a bit of physiology tonight? My brain felt fried but I knew time was running out to get through all of this Physio content.

11:00pm: Okay, if I have to look at a screen for one more minute my head is going to explode. The end. Goodnight.

FRIDAY:

6:30am: Last day. Last exam then we are caught up. Kind of.

7:15am: Another early departure to class to get a head start on Physio.

8:00am: You could sense the mood shift in class. Almost like everyone looked at a calendar at the same time and realized: “Holy shit, this exam is in 3 days.” I got my headphones in and started on my own review for the day.

10:50am: Less walks today, as my stress walk partner and I both were feeling…well, stressed. You know it’s bad when you’re too stressed to even go on your stress walks. We needed every spare minute we had for this shelf exam.

12:00pm: Lunch time again was a working hermit hour. I had to get through these videos and practice questions if I had even a Hail Mary’s chance in passing this first exam. We needed to pass 3/3 to move on to the Comprehensive exam BUT we didn’t find out if we passed until AFTER we had written all 3. Cruel punishment if you ask me. I refused to be taken out on the first one.

4:00pm: The hours were redundant. Listening to the annoying Kaplan Physio lecturer try to teach in these weird accents and trying to be funny made my stress levels increase exponentially. I need more coffee to get through this BS.

5:00pm: Home time. Thank god. Now I had to make my weekend plan. It wasn’t really a plan so much as a get to the library as soon as it opens and stay until it closes itinerary. I HAD to be productive and efficient this weekend.

8:00pm: Have you ever had that feeling where you’re too stressed about how much work you have to do that you just…can’t even do anything? And instead just sit and stare at a wall thinking about how much you should be doing at that moment? No? Just me? I think it’s a super fun anxiety-procrastination response but we don’t have the time to figure that out right now.

10:30pm: Ineffectual studying is getting me no where. Time to throw on a movie and try to calm this silly brain before the marathon of a study weekend.

SATURDAY AND SUNDAY:

7:00am: I don’t know why I’m nervous to start this day. If anything, I’m EXCITED to have my own schedule for the day and not have professors yelling in the background of my headphones. It just feels like there is a lot at stake. Mainly because there is.

8:00am: Meet my study buddy at the library right on schedule. They don’t allow bags in here which is wild but I guess when you have textbooks worth $100000 it makes sense?? No. It doesn’t and it’s annoying to take out books, laptops, tablets, chargers and 400 pens and try not to drop any of it while you find your cubicle.

8:15am: What’s even worse than the no bag policy? No drinks aside from water. No COFFEE. How? In all of my history of library attending…which albeit isn’t the most extensive list, I’ve never been banned from having COFFEE. I’m living here for 14 hours a day what am I supposed to do to be alive?

8:30am: I’ll tell you what you do. Hypothetically of course. You hypothetically wait until the staff goes outside to answer a phone call and then you sneak a contraband energy drink in. Hypothetically of course. Crisis averted. But hypothetically this only works with some staff and some will hunt you down and make you bring it back outside.

Daily views over the weekend

10:30am: You best believe we still planned for our little stress walks during the weekend. It was such a nice way to break up the day and to ensure we were getting a bit of fresh air.

1:00pm: PB sandwich lunchbreak with our friend Rogina the cow. Just long enough to decompress a bit.

6:00pm: The library cubicle life deemed to be quite efficient during this cramming weekend. Combined with contraband caffeine and the Forest App I actually felt quite proud of our hard work. Time to head home for some dinner and home study.

10:30pm: This seemed to be about the time my brain would turn to mush everyday, so I took it as a sign to get into bed and watch some mindless reality TV.

MONDAY:

6:30am: Last day before we have to put it all out on the table for physio. The weight on my shoulders felt enormous. I didn’t feel anywhere near ready but knew I just had to get through one more day.

8:00am: Reviewing content in class until 5:00 the day before a giant shelf exam will always be such a wild concept to me.

12:00pm: My friend and I had decided to use our meticulously planned absences for today. That way we could go home at lunch and panic study in peace. A very important part of the daily schedule if you ask me.

5:00pm: Queue the apartment pacing. I was watching videos and doing rapid review and trying to shove enough info into my brain to at least get a passing mark. Would it be enough? No idea. I tried to be gentle with myself and remind my brain of all this shit we had just gone through the past few weeks and that even to pass MED 5 was a HUGE success. I just wanted to pass these so badly.

11:00pm: At this point my brain was fried. No more learning was going to occur. I had to call it.

TUESDAY:

6:00am: One last early morning start to cram the last minute equations and values in my head before exam time. I had a decent breakfast, and enough coffee to wake me up but not TOO much that I would need to pee every 10 minutes since these exams were about three and a half hours long.

7:30am: I decided to leave a little bit later for the exam at 8:00. I didn’t want to risk being late but I didn’t want to be early enough that everyone would want to discuss last minute facts and questions. My brain was closed for business.

7:45am: Our proctor called us in and it was time to start. Here we go…

The finish line…sort of

As always if you’ve stuck around this long THANK YOU. I always appreciate the feedback you guys have to give. Writing has been such a therapeutic release through this incredibly wild journey, so thanks for taking the time out of your day to stop by The Scenic Route. If there is anything you have questions about or want to see in a post, don’t hesitate to Contact Me.

I hope you have an incredible day, see you next week! 🙂

-J

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