Ten Things I've Learned about Medicine // 12 months

With the end of my final Uni exam for first year, it feels a little strange to be sitting here at my desk (still with a hundred medicine study notes and the like strewn all over it -- I'll clean it before next year, I swear) with seemingly 'nothing' to do.

Except that's not really true. There are a hundred things for me to do, so long as I find the motivation to go do them. As a starter, I found the motivation to try some more photography again.

Confession: wasn't actually holding the DSLR with one hand. Ain't got strong-enough shoulder flexors and elbow extensors for that.

With the end of the first year of Uni it's inevitable that you start reflecting on what the year has brought. Sitting on the long bus ride home, your mind can't help but wonder about it. 

As per tradition, I'll offer a little bit of reflection of the last six months -- this time marking the conclusion of one entire year (or four teaching periods) of medicine. Just one-sixth of the way through my degree! Wow.


1. Med life is about balance. 
One way or another you have to find a balance. It's not study study study, though sometimes it may seem like so (especially when exams lurk in the too-distant future). One integral part of my life that's actually kept me sane amidst the chaos and transition into University life is discovering that life doesn't have to be defined by one thing.

Leading up to my medicine interview (almost exactly one year ago!) I had learned to succinctly summarise who I was into a short, thirty-second response. I was ready for the infamous "Tell us a bit about yourself." question that was frequently asked at the initiation of the interview (which was, ironically, never asked in my interview). However, if you were to ask me that now, I really wouldn't know what to say. Life has expanded in the last year to encompass so many different things, that a thiry-second tl;dr seems virtually impossible.

In the last six months I've realised that I would sink if I didn't balance my life out. There was a moment when I did find myself lying at the bottom of the river bank and slowly starting to die of hypoxia -- I had simply focused too much on breathing and had forgotten that I also needed to swim. I learned the hard way that life would be a struggle if you didn't manage to find a balance between academics, social life, family, and of course, time for yourself.
Let's not forget sleep, food, good health, and a healthy dose of procrastination either!

As I learned to balance and incorporate multiple different facets into my life, it grew more complex, and it's no longer as simple as it was before. It's a balance of an endless number of characteristics that never seem to reach a definite equilibrium, but hey, I signed up for this, didn't I? 

2. It is acceptable to make mistakes, so long as you're able to learn from them.
This has been particularly true because I've always been someone who was afraid of making mistakes. In fact, 'afraid' is soft-serving it. I was terrified, anxious, and absolutely scared shit-less.

Mistakes had a tendency to haunt me over my shoulder for far-too-long and occasionally whisper in my ear "You're a piece of shit for making that mistake". If you ever saw me suddenly turn red on the bus or anytime of the day with a lack of stimulation, it would probably be because I suddenly remembered a mortifying mistake I made the week prior.

But, 'tis all in the past.

No, I'm not a 'piece of shit'. It took me a long time to realise that I'm just human. Mistakes are what you make of them -- they can be perceived as the worst-thing-to-ever-grace-your-life, or you can look at them, laugh, and conclude that you just 'did something stupid'.

And sometimes we just gotta suck it up and pay for our mistakes. 
From 'Toothpaste For Dinner'
So yes, the last six months have been a picnic-basket full of mistakes sprinkled here and there. Some more consequential than the rest. Though I still think back on them and cover my face in shame, I realise that we can all make these mistakes a little better by learning from them, and apologising when necessary. 

3. You're always learning and growing
Before Uni started I thought I had a good sense of who I was. I thought I knew myself, what I wanted in life, and where I was going.

What a load of rubbish. Typical, from a naive young girl fresh out of one of the most sheltered high-schools in the state. 

Uni reared its high-end right in my face and blew me off my feet. I realised I actually hadn't reached my final evolutionary form. I was a level 17 Charmeleon who thought it was a Charizard.

When I realised that I was actually, in fact, a total noob, I felt like a sprouting seedling. Not even, in fact. I felt like a seed. No, actually, I felt like the ovum and pollen before fertilisation even occurred. 

It's been an entire year and although I know significantly more than I did at the start, I still feel like a premie, largely unready for this world (and unable to breathe properly without the adequate amounts of surfactant in my lungs to prevent alveolar collapse). There's so much out there that is waiting for me to learn and sometimes it can be daunting.
From 'Toothpaste For Dinner'
One thing that I learned to accept is that every day we're still growing, taking the baby steps to become a Doctor, an adult, or if it so be, a level 100 Charizard.

Though, be sure that you don't learn the wrong things. There are some things not worth learning. (Like QMP, and let's be honest here, there are certain lectures which are a waste of time). There's a gold-mine of wisdom from all the people around you, but remember that there's also a lot of shit and useless rubbish as well. But on the most part, you still learn every day, as long as you're willing to be taught.

From 'Married to the Sea'
Still gotta screen for the bullshit, y'know?
From 'Toothpaste For Dinner'

4. "That's how med is" 

I've learned to accept all the difficulties and obstacles of the medical degree. 

Relentless timetables, photos that would induce gag reflexes (necrosis ain't a pretty thing), and even being force-fed images of mangled genitalia and anuses (Too much information? I don't know the distinction anymore and I think we all know who or what to blame for that).

What I'm really trying to say is that at the beginning of the year I used to complain a lot. Some part of me still thought it was injustice that I had to attend so many hours of Uni each week, and I was determined to make myself heard. Perhaps some part of me thought that if I said it an x amount of times (even if it's just to other medical students who are in the same boat) that something would change and my life would magically resolve itself.

Guess what buttercup, that doesn't happen.

But, as I alluded to in the last six-month-reflection, you learn to adapt, and I learned that a medical degree isn't all sunshine and happiness and wheeeeee on my way to saving lives and living the best life ever!! It's also filled with cons, as everything in this world is* and you really just have to accept it as the way things are. Often, things don't come easy, and you'll need to put in the hard yards.

In retrospect, it should all be worth it. Theoretically. Hopefully. Maybe.

*Exceptions apply, such as avocado and peanut butter toast. Hell yes. 

(A side-note should also be mentioned that I also learned that I genuinely want to do medicine and I'm happy with this degree. If I had not been, I would have been outta-sight-and-outta-mind from this degree in a jiffy, because there's no way I'd be able to make it through if I didn't have the passion to keep me going).

5. Save your humour, because it may just save you.
By 'it may just save you' I don't mean it in some literal life-or-death situation. It's really just an exaggeration for me to illustrate my point that humour can be one of the best things in your life, especially when the going gets tough (which it will.)

It may just be the thing that saves you from going insane and keep you smiling from day-to-day.

This isn't really relevant but I found this incredibly funny, so cut me some slack and let me put this here just for laughs.
From 'Toothpaste For Dinner'

Although we learn about very serious aspects of life and death and illness on a daily basis, and studying takes a great portion of time, this doesn't mean life has to be dampened. It can be too easy to focus on all the negativity with stressful situations and forget that sometimes you just need to "take a chill pill, dude, and loosen up a bit".

From 'Toothpaste For Dinner'

6. Ethics makes you question everything in life.
A frequent occurrence in my degree was questioning everything in life after an ethics tute.

Realising that being a Doctor really isn't as straight-forward as it is has added to the question-marks in my life, but they've all been highly relevant. What does it mean to treat the living? Life is important, but does that also mean dying is as well?

Perhaps it's too premature for me to reflect on all of this because surely I have a long way to do, but at least right now I can say that it's not as easy as I thought it would be and perhaps one day I'll make a clear path through this spaghetti-forest.

7. Manjekah, you really don't need to be afraid of needles. 
Why? Because there's much worse.
The trivial things start to matter less when you're faced with the real world.

Early on in the last six months I came close to fainting in the dialysis ward at a hospital that I had a placement at. I realised at that moment that deep-down I was still scared of needles (long-story).

But recently I suddenly found the urge to want to go and donate blood. I know this isn't a big thing for most people (much admiration for the many friends who donate blood so willingly) but it's a massive thing for me. 

For the first eighteen years of my life I had definitively stated "I will never donate blood". Not because I didn't want to save lives but because I was so incredibly terrified of it. "But needles don't even hurt!" "What's so scary about needles?" you say? Yes, to you that is true, but we all have irrational fears for reasons that are buried deep within our psyche.

Why the sudden change, then? Why do I suddenly want to donate? 

Because the last six months have taught me that there are things out there that are far worse than a needle. It's time to grow up and out of that fear.

I know this seems like a really weak point for 'Things I've Learned from Medicine' but it's a massive one for me. This is my blog so don't tell me how to live my life. Yeah, take that.

8. Medicine is where science and art meet.
As cheesy as this sounds, it's true.

I thought medicine was mostly based upon the science aspect, but it's not really.

(A disclaimer should be made that by 'art' I don't mean visual arts.)

There's so much more to being a good Doctor. As a great-Pocahontas once said, "You'll learn things you never knew you never knew." I don't really know how else to phrase it but medicine turned out to be so intricate and difficult in ways that I didn't think it would be.

It's all good and easy to read a textbook five-hundred times and remember all the anatomy, pharmaceutical treatments, diagnostic factors, etc., but that doesn't make you a Doctor now, does it? Well, at least, not a good Doctor (though, this may be subjective).

9. Medicine is not as stressful and negative as it can make itself out to be. 
Though I've been largely giving the impression that medicine has its toll and is probably one of the most stressful things to ever grace this Earth, it's not true. At least, I don't think so.

It can be stressful at times, but for the greater portion, it's a pretty great experience.

There will constantly be moments that brighten up your day and remind you 'this is why I'm studying medicine', only if we remember to realise and appreciate these moments.

The people you work with and the patients you see are real people too. This isn't a bomb-defusing center, so don't freak out. 

Once I was conducting an abdominal examination for a female patient. After instructing her to breathe in and out on my command I had promptly told her “Okay, you can stop breathing now.” and immediately realised what had come out of my mouth.

We all laughed it off as I awkwardly tried to cover it up with "No wait, you can breathe. You should breathe. It would be best if you breathe."

The important thing is that you seek these warm-hearted moments and relish them. Things don't have to be 100% serious and worrisome all the time. But I think it's also appropriate to know when to frown, as well. Just make sure you laugh when you're happy, and cry when you're sad, too. Or do whatever you please. 

From 'Toothpaste For Dinner'
10. Medicine is not just a degree; it changes your way of thinking and starts to weave itself into every bit of your life.
Though it doesn't become the only thing in your life, it would be an absolute lie to pretend that it doesn't have a big influence on daily living.

Things change dramatically (I mean, just look at the increase in medical references in my blog posts over this year) and slowly I've started to realise that I've really moved past the transitional stage. At the beginning of the year, and even around mid-year, I had felt slightly out of place. I was still a newbie in a new world, learning the new ways of the new life.

But somehow I now feel much less like a student studying medicine, but rather a medical student.

Some may argue that that makes no difference, but you're wrong. Don't tell me how to live my life.

Another very distantly and vaguely relevant cartoon that I laughed at.
From 'Toothpaste for Dinner'
Alright, I'm out. Life has been great now that exams are over, but I've spent far too long writing this post.
Hope life is treating y'all super great too.

Stay hydrated, and updates will likely come soon. I'm just getting started.


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Hello! I'm a student from Australia. I like photography, am aspiring to be a Doctor, have fallen in love with many things that life has to offer, and hope to see more of it. I've been blogging for a while and over the years what it means to me has changed. Currently still trying to figure that out, but here I am in a weird hybridisation of photography, film, blogging, and the confusion of a young adult, you'll find me here writing about my experiences and life. Or whatever tickles my fancy. Whether that's entertaining or not is yours to decide. Stay hydrated, kids.