The musings of a final year medical student

Monday, 28 December 2015

A thank you to bloggers!

Hello everyone,

I hope that everyone has had a wonderful December holiday, whether you celebrate Christmas or not. I had and am still having a lovely rest! This year my holidays have been significantly reduced compared to what I had last year. For this year, my first term was 16 weeks long with no breaks/reading week. I have 2 weeks off for Xmas, 2 weeks off for Easter and then 6 weeks off for Summer. I am not complaining as I know that many people have much less time off, however I'm aware that most university students have far more generous holidays! 

I wanted to give a massive thanks to all those who regularly read my blog and who create their own fabulous blogs. When I began The Medic Journal, I wanted a platform to vent my own opinions. I didn't care about how many followers I would accrue. One thing I did not realise was the community spirit that exists within blogging. You really do get to know people, usually through our sassy Twitter feeds. I feel like the small little gang of mates I have made through blogging (and Twitter which has facilitated its proliferation) is so satisfying. It makes me blush and feel all fuzzy inside when I get nice comments about my writing. I find it hard to articulate how grateful I am for that praise, but try to via lots of exclamation marks and emojis. 

And so what is the future of The Medic Journal, and blogging? This page is never going to be big. What I write about is a niche category, and I write about what I want to write about. Despite my blog being very young, I have been following blogs for several years. I have watched it evolve from lots of witty people talking excitedly about their interests, to a very superficial form of blogging. I am not trying to slate those who make their living from blogging. I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who are passionate about what they do and pursue what they love. However, it has got to the point where I am so bloody sick of everyone having a white background and the same fonts, the same blog layouts. The same sponsored posts popping up. And some posts that are sponsored but the blogger fails to disclose this. I would really like it if we could go back to the early stages of blogging, where everything wasn't picture perfect. Hell, I would rather see the odd typo here and there and see real content and real opinions, than gaze at a blog saturated with advertisements and sponsored reviews. 

Okay, rant over!

Currently I am procrastinating. I don't want to do my revision. I just want to sit in bed and enjoy this last week of holiday and then go back to uni fully rested. I also need to start thinking about my systematic review understanding epidemiological evidence of and implications of physical inactivity. But I really can't be arsed. I recently got an electric piano to take to uni which I am very excited about! I am also going to start a French medical language course. 

I am excited for the new year, but right now I would rather sit in my PJs and watch Downton Abbey all over again. 

To all those who read this blog, I send you my love and thanks for doing so and hope you have a wonderful rest. 


Tuesday, 22 December 2015


Yesterday was my birthday as well as my Mum's!

We had a fantastic day relaxing and eating lots of lovely food. We both got our hair done and then I got my nails done a very festive red colour.

In the evening we had some pink coloured Mo√ęt & Chandon Champagne, and then went out for dinner. I had some fresh tagliatelle and bake well tart. But more importantly, the company was what made it so great. I love spending time with my parents and I feel so privileged to have them.

Next year will be my 21st and my Mum's 50th, so I need to start thinking of what to do for that!

I probably won't be blogging until the new year. In which case, have a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Kate xxxx


Sunday, 20 December 2015

Love is all you need

Within such a small space of time I have gone from such a low mood to now extreme optimism and happiness! Since writing my last blogpost I have given much thought towards my life and work and so on, so thought I would share.

One attribute that I really admire in my parents is that they don't place their happiness on their success. I really hope I can learn to be the same and appreciate that I am a good, happy person regardless of job status or academic success.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, lots of degrees and publications won't make you happy. I used to always think I would intercalate, but now I am much more open-minded. If I find a subspecialty that interests me then sure, but I'm not going to do it just for the sake of FPAS points. 

In addition, I need to get a hobby. In my free time I tend to just sit in my bed and watch YouTube videos or documentaries. And whilst that is very relaxing, I don't really get anything out of it. I hope to start going to my gym more often and get back into playing the piano. I would like to join a non-medical society but I am still undecided. 

Overall, I have realised that ticking off a list of achievements will never make me happy. Being with friends I love, the boyfriend I love and my family whom I love is all I could ever ask for. I had a pub meet up last night for my birthday and it was absolutely wonderful. Sometimes you don't realise how precious something is until you no longer have it. I am so bloody lucky and I feel blessed to know that I have people in my life whom I love and who love me back.

Merry Christmas everyone! 


Friday, 18 December 2015

Ready to rest and recuperate!

Today is Friday 18th December and I am finally finished for Christmas! It has been a long 16 weeks of learning with no breaks or reading weeks. I should state now that if this blogpost seems a little erratic and rambling then it is a fair reflection of how my head feels right now!

I feel that second year has hit me like a tonne of bricks. I don't necessarily mean that in a negative way, but in terms of learning there has been a humungous leap. We've gone from simple memorisation of anatomy and pathways to appreciating the intracies of many diseases, the pathophysiology, how to do a differential diagnosis and then understand the diagnostic techniques and treatments. In addition, we have had hospital placements. Our communication training and clinical training is constantly scrutinised and has to be done on real patients in a real clinical setting. So many consultants have taken one look at me, seen the fear on my face and then torn me up, chewed me up and then spat me out. I feel emotionally and physically drained. I've had some doctors shake my hand or physically applaud me for my knowledge, and others who've asked why I'm even bothering with medical school.

I also feel fascinated. I feel hungry to know more. I feel the emotions radiating from patients; fear, pain, despair, joy and happiness. 

Currently I feel rather lost. I have two weeks off for Christmas and then go straight into mock OSCEs, which I know nothing about. My jaw is giving me pain still which really ruins my mood at times. My depression is like a roller coaster. One week I am euphoric, productive and loving. Another week I am crying on the bus, in bed, in a toilet cubicle on a train, in a toilet cubicle in hospital, in a toilet cubicle in the library (there's a pattern running here) wondering what I'm doing with my life. Why have I come to medical school just for doctors to take the piss out of me, truly borderline abusing me? And not even for any particular reason! You're damned if you have a go and damned if you don't. In order to refrain from destructive behaviour like drinking excessively or self harming, I have started binge eating occasionally. In the past I have had real problems with food. I used to deprive myself, then binge and then purge all the time when I was at secondary school. But sadly, right now binge eating seems like the least destructive coping mechanism. I don't want to do it, but sometimes I just want to feel nothing. I want to be consumed in something other than sadness or hopelessness. 

When I think of Christmas, I think of it as a time of so much joy and happiness. It's hard to have that frivolity and ecstasy when you know you have so much to do in so little time, whilst mingling with your relatives discussing all things trivial.  I am also scared of chatting to my parents about my depression, only because I want the little time together to be happy and joyful rather than me moping about crying, wiping my nose on the sleeve of a Christmas jumper wishing I had my life sorted. I wish I could no longer care. I wish I would no longer feel guilty and jaded about every action I do. 

I apologise for this rather sad blogpost. However, this is real. This is what being a medical student is really like (for me). I'm not saying every medical student has mental health problems, but studying medicine is hard. It is all consuming; you have so much passion for it and in return you must constantly aspire for a level of perfection that doesn't exist. It is hard, but I know eventually I'll figure it out. I'll figure out how to balance work and socialising, how to let go. I'll figure out eventually that medicine isn't everything, and appreciating that will make me a better doctor one day. 

Sunday, 13 December 2015


When I see my GP, she wears a long formal black dress, kitten heels and hair in a ponytail, almost no make up. She looks presentable, approachable and very professional. However, I can't help but think that the rapport I have with her would be affected if she didn't dress as smartly. 

The medical school I attend has introduced a uniform for my year to wear whilst working in hospital and during all clinical training sessions. It is currently a grey scrub top, and written on the back in capital letters it says 'MEDICAL STUDENT'. There are no scrub trousers, so we are obliged to wear smart dark trousers and smart shoes. We are literally half in scrubs, half in formal. The reception to this has been very negative, both from the students and the consultants we shadow. No other year has to wear them, we are the so-called guinea pigs. Currently the uniform is being redesigned, so that we will wear full charcoal grey scrubs and comfy smart black or white trainers.

What do people expect doctors, medical students and other health professionals to wear? As much as I love dressing up, I don't think fashion has any importance in the attire. I would say that different members of staff need to be clearly identifiable, smart and above all practical. I think all NHS trusts have the 'bare below the elbows' policy, in order to reduce infection risk. Doctors don't need to look 'better' than other staff members, but I have seen lots of patients getting confused with who is treating them, largely based on what they are wearing. I have had many patients introduce me to their family as a nurse, because currently my uniform is incredibly similar to the other nurses' uniform. And whilst that's not a problem in my eyes, it isn't good for the patient. The reason why it isn't good is that the patient needs to know from the beginning that I am a student, I am not yet a qualified healthcare professional. And despite me introducing myself as a medical student every single time I meet a patient, clearly the uniform isn't helping me to illustrate that.

Back in the day, doctors were famous for their white lab coats. These were scrapped largely due to infection control. So, from a hygiene point of view, doctors need to have hair tied back, no nail polish, rings removed, practical shoes that cover the top surface of the feet (preventing needle-stick injury) and bare below the elbow. However, you will notice that there is so much variation in what doctors wear nowadays: FY1s wear purple scrubs and trainers in all kinds of colours, A&E doctors wear scrubs too, surgeons wear scrubs during theatre and full suits during clinics, consultants wear plain shirts and trousers and brogues and GPs wear pencil dresses, and the shirts tend to be more creased (at least in my experience). 

Hygiene and practicality aside, I know that it shouldn't matter what a doctor wears to work. But we do make judgements on people because of how they look. Someone who 'looks the part' can give a patient much more confidence in their physician. Doctors who wear jeans just look like they shouldn't really be there, like they've been rushed in from home. 

I think the new full scrubs in charcoal grey could work as then we won't look too similar to any other healthcare professional. It's comfy, practical and saves time in the morning. I think patients will still confuse me perhaps for a nurse, partly because I'm a girl. Or maybe a surgeon  or anaesthetist because normally those are the staff you usually associate with scrubs.

What do you think a doctor should wear to work?

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Still here

The lovely Katie asked me the other day how I was, given that I hadn't blogged in a while. Rest assured I'm still here, just snowed under with work!

Recently I have discussed that I want to put more emphasis on being happy rather than academic achievement. Well I've sort of failed doing that! We had our respiratory test yesterday and it didn't go well. It's not that I did badly, but that I had hoped for much better. I had written up every lecture and done well during my case presentation, and I found the block relatively easy. But that wasn't exactly reflected in how I did. I'm trying to use this setback as fuel to try harder and do better, but it's not quite working.

I know I could try harder. I could have less lie-ins and work till 10pm every night doing research and rereading textbooks. But I don't want to. So I'm stuck in this limbo of wanting to do well without sacrificing my sanity. 

What I find difficult is knowing that I am trying so hard to do better this year. I ask everyone how to revise, how do they learn content, what textbooks to use etc.. I try to meet up with friends for group study sessions, I ask for help when I don't understand something. I'm trying so hard to sort everything out and somehow I still end up two steps behind everyone else. 

I tried to not put too much emphasis on academic achievement, but I became very passionate with my studies. I really enjoyed the lectures and would write notes constantly, and actually concentrate! It's hard not to care about how well you do in something that you really care about. Is there a middle ground, a real balance? How can you invest so much of yourself into your studies and not be disappointed if you don't do brilliantly?

And then there's everything else. Gym, societies that I should join but haven't, talks I have to present, spending time with family, friends and boyfriend, my research project, finding time to play piano, spending enough time with my housemates, going clubbing for friend's birthdays, keeping in touch with my sister whilst she's travelling, preparing for OSCEs and formative exams.

Everyone else appears to be getting all their shit done and doing well. I'm trying, and I want it. I care so much about this course and my future career. But when is the effort and the stress going to yield anything?


Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Finding inspiration

Last week was awful. For some reason my depression got probably the worst it has been in a while. I was still going to lectures and getting my work done, but internally I felt void and worthless. I was being passive aggressive to my loved ones. My sister was leaving for a 5 month work placement abroad and I didn't even get round to ringing her before she left. 

What I don't understand about the mind is how you can feel so stuck in a funk for forever and then all of a sudden you have an epiphany; you just get up and become productive. What makes people have these sudden realisations and bursts of optimism? For me, I was having a very low Saturday, stayed at home all day, and then woke up on Sunday with so much vigour. I was tired, but out of nowhere I had drive and I had motivation. 

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