Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My first fail

So there it is right out there in the first failure. Yup, I did it, I failed an exam. Got a big ol' 60. Nice, Kaki, Nice. But lets be fair shall we...everyone failed. Ok, well not everyone but out of 132 of us only 30 passed the exam, the odds weren't good.

This is our last week of general exams, it can't go by fast enough. And this epic failure exam was this Monday. Let's start from the beginning. This exam material was taught by a new professor that taught the same (vascular physiology in case you're interested) material last year. And last year the material had to be re-taught because the students didn't learn it. I know what you're asking...why let her teach it again? No idea, second chances, torture, idea. Either way, turns out we didn't know it. And I felt like I did. As much as I really didn't want to (and trust me I didn't, I need a break really badly right now) I did study this weekend, I worked hard and when I had to explain the concepts to others, I really felt like I grasped the material. I felt pretty good going into the exam. As good as I ever feel, mostly I was just determined to not get the same "B" I always get, that is starting to get really frustrating. As I started reading the exam I do the same thing I always do, read all the questions, answer the one's I'm sure of, mark the one's I have NO idea and know that the answer will never come to me (I probably never knew it, so no use wasting time) these are my "eenie meenie monie moe" questions. Then I spend the majority of my time on the questions that I need to reason through, or really think about. This is usually a good strategy, it works well when I know a lot of the answers. The physiology exam is always 25 questions. I recieved the exam and marked 15 of the questions as "eenie meenie monie moe" not a good sign. I went back later and thought, "ok, maybe I can reason through some of these." Apparently that was not the case. The questions were so far out of left field, so complicated and so much stuff I had never seen before I never had a chance. (Just an example: "What happens with respect to mean arterial pressure, left ventricular contraction force and total peripheral resistance after an alpha 1 agonist is administered and the barorecptor responds, chemoreceptors may or may not come into play") I did the best I could, thought maybe I guessed well and turned in my exam. Everyone else pretty much shared the same feelings about that exam..."What was that?!?"

All in all I am remarkably unphased by my grade on this exam. Perhaps it's because I pretty much have the same grade as everyone else, and a little part of me is just glad I didn't get the same 84% I have had all semester (at least I am capable of something else). To my knowledge this is the first time I have ever failed an exam (maybe a spelling test in 2nd grade?) I thought it would be an earth shattering moment, that I would cry and scream and there would be gnashing of teeth (ok, maybe not that bad). But, as it turns out the earth keeps spinning, life goes on and my overall grade, while it was SIGNIFICANTLY effected, is still a "B". Looks like the "A" I wanted is out of the question, but it's hard to complain about a "B"--a grade I am more than used to.

We are still waiting for some discussion on this exam. The class average fell 20 points after one test, this basically means we are not stupid, the material was just not presented well. We're hoping for a curve or a make-up or something. But so far nothing, we are just stuck with this crappy grade (that I don't think is all my fault) oh well, I have decided to just take it and move on.

On another note, say prayers that I will make it through the week. I need a break very very badly. I have never been quite so ready for Thanksgiving before. I can't even see to Christmas, just ready for a small hiatus that will not be filled with dobutamine, T regulatory cells, and terminal alveoli...uggggghh! It is becoming increasingly hard to get out of bed, almost impossible to study and down right difficult to pay attention in lecture. I have 2 more exams on Friday, both of which constitute a major portion of my grade, so I should get off this thing and hit the books---maybe just maybe I'll make it to Saturday!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Won't be the last time

I did a really stupid thing today, I like to have amputated my finger. I was simply cleaning up after anatomy lab and grabbed the wrong end of my scalpel handle to clean it. I didn't know I had it "blade end up" but I did and I grabbed it and pulled with a paper towel in my hand to clean it off. Needless to say the blade went right through the paper towel, my glove and a significant portion of my finger. It hurt like the dickens and I bled like a stuck pig. And to make matters even more eventful for the afternoon ('cause cleaning up the blood had me pretty much occupied) my instructor insisted that I go to the campus health center to make sure I hadn't cut a tendon and to get stitches if necessary. And of course they were so worried about my blood loss (which really wasn't all that bad) the instructors wouldn't let me drive myself.

I really wanted to just head down to the food animal ward and let Dr. Pig take care of my gash--but I was forced to go to an actual HUMAN physician. Great. Actually, they were pretty nice. And they got me in and out relatively quickly (probably because I was bleeding all over their waiting room). The doctor did think I needed stitches, but I declined. It'll heel fine, I'll take it like a woman.

My classmates were great about it, and luckily found it as funny as I did, well after the blood was cleaned up and the pain subsided. The best part of the whole incident was when the nurse at the school health center insisted that I could potentially have been infected with rabies from a dog cadaver that has been soaking in formalin for the last 6 months. I kept trying to explain to her that really wasn't a possibility, and either way I had been vaccinated. But it didn't really sink in until the actual doctor told her that I was lucky, formalin kills damn near everything so it was actually a pretty clean cut. Excellent. The whole event ended well, no stitches and I'm still rabies free! While this is the first time I have tried to amputate my own digits, I can see from here that this probably won't be the last stupid accident I have during vet school. Here's to holding the scalpel by the blunt end!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

from the backside

As promised, from yesterday...

I spent last Saturday morning in a wet lab in the large animal hospital. (a Very Very early Halloween Saturday morning) Each organization or club in school holds a "wet lab" in which the members are taught how to do various things we'll need to know someday. They are always different, and sometimes they allow non members to attend for a small fee. The internal medicine wet lab this year (a club to which I do not belong) was palpating cattle, exsanguination, ultrasound and simple cattle diagnostics. I remember hearing the announcement for the lab, as a light came down from heaven and a booming voice said "Kaki, this is your should go" Ok, so maybe it wasn't that dramatic but I was really really excited. So excited in fact that I begged husband for the $10 it would put us out. And yes, he asked the same question many of you are asking..."You want to PAY money to put your arm up a cow's ass?" well umm... yes! My reply was simple, "Yes, right now I have to pay money to learn how to do it, so that someday people will pay me to do it for them." This apparently made sense to him, and I could see the dollar signs in his eyes start to zing by like a slot machine, he handed me the $10 and told me he didn't really want to know the details.

So, I'll share them with y'all. I know you're just dying to know. The lab was fantastic, held by one of my favorite doctors in the food animal wing, and a new doctor I met that was so fantastic, he reminded me so much of my granddad I wanted to pack him in my luggage and take him home to Thanksgiving. (ok, not really but he was pretty great) Basically, we gloved up and put our entire arm in the cows rectum. Not just for fun mind you, or to violate some unsuspecting cow, there is actual clinical significance for doing this. This procedure is most often done to check and see if a cow is pregnant. From inside the cow you can feel the uterus, descending aorta, kidneys, and a whole slew of other organs. These were Holstein cattle and were pretty used to this procedure. It was pretty easy for us to feel everything we needed to feel because these were "open" cows, or cows that are not currently pregnant. I know it may sound disgusting, in fact I had a friend ask how long it took me to mentally prepare myself for sticking my arm...there. I found this a really odd question. In my world most of us would jump at the opportunity to palpate cattle, not even think twice about it. When she asked this it made me see how odd this whole thing must seem from the outside looking in. I think she was a little sick to her stomach, I need to remember not everyone appreciates my stories--especially while eating.

Overall, the lab was amazing. I did actually feel a cows uterus, and descending aorta which is an incredible feeling. Not something that is easily (or ever for that matter) done on a dog. And again after only seeing dead animals for weeks upon end, it was really nice to have a live one. I learned how to exsanguinate (my fancy new word for "draw blood" that I am intent on using) from a tail vein, and I was good at it. And I ultrasounded a cow's heart--and I found it before the clinician could.

Even after all the hands on stuff my favorite part came from two simple conversations. First, Dr. Grandpa helped me draw blood from the tail vein, he explained it very carefully and then just let me at it. I hit the vein the first try and I was feeling pretty proud of myself. "Good job," he said "you're a natural" It was probably the highlight of my day. And the second conversation was between my favorite clinician and a group of touring high school students and their parents. They just happened to have the fortune (good or bad was their decision) to be walking through the hospital as we were arm deep in cattle. Some were disgusted others intrigued. Not being shy Dr. Pig walks over and invites them in. He explained what we were doing and why. One of the parents asked "These are students? You let the students do this kind of stuff?" I simply would have replied "yeah, this is vet SCHOOL how else do you think we learn how?" Instead Dr. Pig responded with my favorite response this semester "Yes, they are students but we look at them as veterinarians, they can and are allowed to do whatever the Doctors can in this hospital, sometimes they just need guidance. When they graduate, they just get to put doctor in front of their name." I wanted to hug him right there, but I thought it would be inappropriate with a glove covered in cow shit on my arm.

It's days like this that make 4 hour anatomy exams, histology and all the countless hours of sitting in lecture worth it. Knowing that in just 3 1/2 short years I will be officially done, and doing this kind of stuff every day. And just so you know, yes I washed my hands...twice.

P.S. If you click on the title to this blog, there is a fun article about a "new" way to teach us how to do this.

Friday, November 6, 2009

oh my it's been too long

So as it seems I have been neglecting this little outlet for sometime now, but with the fury of things in the last few weeks it just hasn't really been feasible.

I guess I'll start with exams, we had our third round of exams set out over these last three weeks. At the beginning of the semester I thought that exams would be better timed if they were one or perhaps two a week at most...turns out I was wrong, dead wrong. Though it does give you more time to study, it also gives you more time to put off studying (which thankfully I haven't done too much of) and mostly it gives you more time to worry about how much you don't know.

Here's the thing I hate most about exams...all the other people taking them. Don't get me wrong I love my classmates, but it is very hard to feel confident around them sometimes. There is an insane amount of material we have to cover for each exam (about 100-150 pages of notes per class per exam) and no matter what you do, or how hard you try you just simply cannot know everything, ok well at least I can't. We study a lot in groups and this tends to be pretty effective, though I have only one close friend that I really study well with. The problem with studying in groups is that you quickly realize there were a few things you missed, (ok, sometimes more than a few). I'll be studying with my "study buddy" and some one will interrupt and say "Hey, can you point out the iliolumbar arteries," WHAT?!? What are those? I don't remember those? When did we go over that? And then panic starts to set in that there is a whole bucketload of material I missed. The truth is I am usually pretty well prepared for exams, and I have just resigned myself to the fact that I will never get a perfect score on an exam, I will never know EVERYTHING. And how could I--there is just so much to learn. Take for instance the last histology exam, mostly over the eye, ear and digestive system. Not so bad right, well...throw in the avian crop, ventriculus and proventriculus, the carnivore special stomach, the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum of ruminants, and pigs--they're just a whole different story. Thats where it gets complicated. I've said it before, it's not the actual course work that is so difficult, it is simply the shear volume of material.

But, while I have resigned to knowing that I will probably never get a perfect score on an exam, I haven't just given up and decided to only strive "get by". My grades are ok, I have straight "B's" and no matter how hard I work I cannot seem to do better than that. This has been incredibly frustrating for me. I can study for 10 hours or 40 (this is not really exaggerated numbers, I have probably studied close to 40 hours for an exam before) and my grade will only get better by one or two points--what the hell. I work my tail off and have nothing to show for it. I feel like my grades should be a direct relationship with the amount of time I spend studying--a linear graph if you will. This whole thing had me so upset that I made and appointment with my faculty mentor. My frustration was with whether or not to just "give up" and decide that a "B" is the best that I can do (ouch! that hurts, I have never had to say that before) or to keep killing myself just to get an "A" (after all does it really matter anyway?). He was great and basically told me that I was not the first person to encounter this, and that it is actually very common. And not to resign myself to just getting a "B". He told me that usually something clicks, my study habits, my schedule, the information, whatever it is clicks and the amount of time I put in will start equating with better grades. I loved this advice...though I don't love having to work so freakin hard for these grades. CLICK ALREADY!!!

So, I took the last of this series of exams today. A four hour anatomy exam, and I am pooped. Burnt out and soooo ready for Thanksgiving break. Hopefully, my week worth of studying will translate into my first "A" in anatomy. I am really looking forward to this weekend where no imminent studying will mock me from my office (though I do have several things I need to catch up on). I can sleep in, clean house, and play with my dogs for a change. What are their names again? And, perhaps, I will do a little updating on here. 'Cause there is a whole lot to catch up on. Tomorrow, look for my next post...what the inside of a cow feels like from the backside. (See I told you I had a lot to catch up on!)