Friday, January 29, 2010

Take that anatomy

It is Friday. And as I type I am sitting in front of my very neglected TV, in my comfy pants, relishing in this rare night of relaxation. We had two exams this week. That's a good thing and a bad thing. Bad because its a horrific week of study study study with NO downtime. I study every night anyway so adding a test (or two) into the mix really adds on a lot of time and effort. If you stop studying for all the other courses and only focus on the test material, you fall helplessly behind. So, unfortunately the only thing you can do is add more study time onto your already overstuffed schedule. I tried to utilize ANY downtime I have during the day to study for an exam. This keeps my night-time routine pretty much the same. Plus, at least for anatomy a big part of the studying has to be done at school, so doing it during down times is just convenient. Luckily we had more downtime than usual this week, a few cancelled meetings, and one class rescheduled for next week. I did have to spend a few hours staying late, but overall it's worth the extra time to ensure confidence on test day. I felt pretty confident about both exams, and though I don't know yet, I feel pretty good about my potential grade on each.

The good part about having two exams in one week: after you take an exam--if you've studied, you are completely caught up for that class. No lingering studying, worksheets, dissection...all caught up. It's a rare thing but a good feeling. AND, because I did a decent (not great but decent) job of keeping up with my other coursework, I am pretty caught up overall. I do have a little work to do tomorrow (probably only about 6 hours worth, half the usual weekend study-a-thon) and I am taking tonight off! The key is to maintain your usual schedule and add extra hours where you can, do any worksheets or "busy work" as soon as possible after it is assigned (because you will forget it until 10 minutes before it's due, I promise) and just buckle down and do it!

Today's test was large animal anatomy. An inordinate amount of rumors from the second year class floated around about this course in our preparation for the exam. Apparently the class ahead of us had a really rough time in Large animal anatomy and wanted to pass along their displeasure. And, as rumors will do they amplified, and turned and twisted, and got us really really scared about this exam. That too turned out to be a good thing. We were so worked up about how potentially hard this exam could be, we WAAAY overstudied. I promise I can tell you everything about everything regarding the equine neck and thoracic limb. As always there were a few questions that I was unsure of the answer. It wasn't that I didn't know the answer, or missed studying that topic, just that the question was unclear or the tag on the cadaver was really obscure. Like I said, I feel overall pretty good about the whole thing, I guess we'll see on Monday.

It was a long and tiring week, but I think the work I put in paid off. Keeping up with things nightly and not getting behind is a chore, and often not the way I want to spend every evening, but in the end it's worth it. A huge majority of my class is folding fast under the pressure of this semester. We were told from the beginning that this would be our hardest semester. I am tired, but not overwhelmed and stressed. I am hoping that won't hit me. But, we're only 3 weeks in, 13 more to go. Until next week starts, I'm catching up on trashy reality TV.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Goat wrangling

Yesterday was another one of our "clinical" cases. This is a graded assignment in which the clinicians "pretend" to be clients and we "pretend" (or totally fake our way through) to be doctors and we work through a case as a group. Then we type up our "S.O.A.P" or list of potential problems/diagnoses/plan for treatment and turn it in for a grade. We cycle through four of these assignments in first year, each one a different species. I did a horse and a cat last semester so this time it was my group's turn for the goat. While I do have a relatively impressive "farm animal" background, I know absolutely NOTHING about goat medicine. I do know quite a bit about sheep, things like: they have no will to live, they will eat anything electric within 50 feet of them, they can die from a disease known in lay terms as "overeating disease" (yes they literally eat themselves to death), they should usually have twins, and never never never get in a confined box with a pissed off ram...but that's another story for another day. The goat case was interesting. We are getting better at pretending to be doctors, and our classes are definitely starting to sink in. We know more than we did last semester, and for the most part we can intelligently answer questions when asked (about stuff we know). I was the only person in my group brave enough to retrieve our goat from it's pen with it's "roommates" (if you know the ram story you're probably impressed that I would ever attempt this again). I picked the smallest goat in the pen, just intelligence if you ask me, in case it decided to throw a fit and I would have to wrestle it...the way everyone else was. This poor goat must have known I was prepared for all her antics. She just stood quietly, let me pick her up, never bawled, never really even tried to get away. She was perfectly sweet for over an hour while we all poked and prodded her, I wanted to take her home.

Overall, I really enjoy these little case study days. Its a way to put everything we currently know into some useful format. And a way to work with live animals and clinicians that actually practice. I have a good group too, except for one. This particular individual is not my favorite person, I've never been very fond. (for discretion sake I'll just say "Billy") Billy is a kiss ass, he is always asking questions in class just to show the lecturer that he knew enough about the topic to ask that question, and most of the time his nose is so far embedded in ones crack he could probably tell what they had for lunch. But, I digress... "Billy" was chosen to be the doctor that preformed the exam, to do so he needed a thermometer which he did not have, so I lent him mine. (Which I made a special trip to Target at lunch to get because my old one had been misplaced). Our clinician put us on the spot in the middle of the exam and wanted to grade us on who was prepared. He asked us all to show our stethoscopes, thermometers, pen lights and writing utensils. "Billy" never missed a beat and pulled out MY thermometer, pretending it was his, that he was prepared. Which left me standing there thermometerless looking like an unprepared imbecile. The clinician looked me in the eye (ready to dock my grade) and asked "Where's your thermometer?" "In Billy's hand" I replied. "He forgot his, and I was kind enough to lend him mine so that he wouldn't be unprepared for the exam" UUUGGGHHH!!! I know this is a little thing, it's just a thermometer, but I think it's the small things that people do that really show you who they are. Billy was ready to have me thrown under the bus just to save himself---over a thermometer! I didn't like him before, and I really don't like him now. But, in the Christian spirit, I've got another 3 years with him, so I better just get over it and try to find some endearing quality in him.

Today we started rounds again. This is my favorite thing about Wednesday's and I am committed to going on a more regular basis than I did last semester. As I stood today listening to the clinician go over each case in the food ward, I was astounded at how much I have learned since last semester. I would have been totally lost this time last fall with the cases that were in the hospital. Today, not only was I able to follow what was being presented and how it was treated, I was able to answer questions and form intelligent one's of my own. Good to know all this information is actually sticking somewhere--if I just knew where, I could access it on a more regular basis.

And my favorite thing so far about this week...the calf that was in the hospital today. She was a mastitis calf and severely malnourished, she had to have a ruminal fluid transfer among other procedures. She was about 6 weeks old, but only looked a few days old. She was soooo small but overall doing very well. She wasn't doing well on milk and therefore had to be transitioned to roughage (hence the ruminal fluid transfer). She was bright, alert, healthy probably for the first time in her whole life, and completely un-phased by 15 vet students standing around her pen watching her "chew cud". She just stood, staring at us like, "Hey, what're y'all doin?" I loved her. Generally, we don't name food animals, they are profit not pets. But I'm pretty sure she's just a pasture ornament anyway, and she was so darn cute I couldn't help it, I named her Ophelia.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Back in the saddle again...

First week down. New semester, new coursework, not much else is new, and I love it.

I always disliked the change in semester. New professors to meet, new standards, new buildings and classrooms to find, new people in your class, completely changed schedule. It took almost two weeks to adjust to the new-ness of the semester. The same is not true in vet school. Yes, we have new courses. But, they are taught by the same instructors we had last semester. Our classmates are still the same, I still sit in the same spot, same buildings, not much has changed. And it is so much easier. It's like returning to high school after Christmas break, a lot to talk about, but ultimately the same day in-day out business to take care of. There is a lot of comfort in that, it's not a complete shock to my system. On Tuesday it felt like I had never left, the semester was already "well broke".

The "minimal changes" effect has been quite positive for the way I am approaching this semester. While I do think I did a fairly good job last semester, I know there are huge areas in which I can improve. And, because so little has changed, I get a chance to do better this time around. I know it is only second semester, but I can totally see why everyone says that the first year is the hardest. It just takes getting used to, getting your feet wet, breaking in your saddle. (Mine's riding a little smoother already). I listed several lessons I learned from last semester during finals in December. I am taking those to heart along with a few more I thought up during the break.

Here are a few of my new "techniques for success" in 2nd semester
1. I don't have time to do it all in one day, menial tasks like making lunches, can all be done better over the weekend to save time (and enormous amounts of stress) during the week. I now make all of my lunches for the week on Sunday's. I simply eat the same thing 5 times then switch from week to week. This is a HUGE time saver, though it may not seem like that big of a deal. I simply have to grab baggies out of the fridge each morning rather than stress about how much time I have (and what ingredients) I have to put a meal together. And on the plus side it's great for a diet--if you pre-make healthy stuff, you'll eat it. I am also doing this for breakfast meals--pre-made for each morning. So far this is working out splendidly.

2. Laundry, cleaning and other household chores can mostly wait 'till the weekend
(Dishes is the one exception to the rule.Gross the next day) I simply force myself to finish the laundry, cleaning all the menial tasks on the weekend. This way I don't even have to give it a second thought during the week, it's already done. I do not function well at all with clutter or a dirty house so this is essential for starting my week off on the right foot.

3. Exercise
I have very very little time for this. But, I feel SOOOOO much better after. I simply have to run at least 4 times a week ( by run I mean slow jog). I stick to this not so much for the benefit of less poundage, but because I simply must have a way to release all that stress. When I use it to release stress and get some endorphins pumping, I have so much more motivation to actually do it. I commit 30 minutes to this each evening. I walk in the door, change clothes grab the dogs and hit the pavement, if I allow myself to do anything before then it simply won't get done, so I make it my first coming home priority. (Though I only got in 3 nights this week, it rained Thursday and Friday)

4. How to study.
This is the absolute biggest thing I learned last semester, and the reason I am so grateful we have the same instructors, I don't have to learn how to study all over again. I am so much more organized, and I know which areas to spend my time in. I allow 2 hours every evening (from 8-10) and any breaks I have in my day for studying. I make sure that I completely understand everything that was lectured on that day, and begin to commit it to memory. It makes the next day's lectures so much easier to follow. Again, I really felt like I did a pretty good job keeping up with this last semester, but, I really feel like I know where my weaknesses were and now I can improve on them. And, I spend as long as I need to on Saturday's to finish what I couldn't finish the previous week. I am trying to keep Sunday's completely free--relaxation time. This won't always work, we have Physiology tests on Monday's, so at least 3 Sunday's I will have to study. But hey, 13 out of 16 free Sunday's isn't bad.

5. Really get involved.
Last semester was largely spent figuring out the whole game. What in the hell I was doing, who to be friends with, how to spend my time, what clubs to join etc. Now that I feel like I have a little better grip on this thing called vet school (think holding a dead fish vs. trying to catch one with your bear hands) its time to really put myself out there and get involved. I am committed to spending some of my free time ( we have a 3 hour break on Wednesday's) hanging out in the clinics, getting to know the clinicians, and just being around things that are currently alive (though they don't always stay that way). I am also going to sign up for more things. I already signed up for a food animal production tour, a one week travel class at the end of the semester that I will get credit for. And going the the Houston Livestock show and assisting the vets there. After all, I think that is where the real "learning" will take place! "I never let my schooling interfere with my education"--Mark Twain.

So, that's how I plan to spend my next 15 weeks. We'll see how it goes. One of the biggest hurdles I will face is not getting stressed when I absolutely cannot stick to this schedule I set for myself. I think prioritizing and allowing myself a little leeway will be helpful. I'm back in the saddle again, this time it isn't chafing as bad.

P.S. I would love any organization/stress relieving tips that some of you might use/have used. Input is always nice. Plus I just love comments, I love to know just who reads my rantings.