Medical mnemania



There are hundreds of medical mnemonics out there to help poor hapless students remember their facts. I just found this photo illustrating one to help you remember the types of thyroid cancer: Please Feed My Alligator (papillary, follicular, medullary, anaplastic). Anaplastic tumours are the worst (and also closest to the alligator’s mouth). The picture also happens to illustrate brilliantly how I feel about my exam tomorrow.

While we’re at it, I found another excellent mnemonic the other day about catching cats as a way of remembering the Glasgow Coma Scale (‘decorticate’ sounds like ‘caught a cat’, which you’d do with flexed arms… oh never mind). It made my day anyway.

o-BRIDES-THROWING-CATS-570This could be a fun topic to go on with, but I suppose I should revise. Do you like mnemonics as a way of learning? Have any favourites of your own?



Some basic taxonomy


Exams are back. Or, we’re back at exams. There are a few distinct species of medical student who emerge at this time of year. Here’s your handy guide to recognising them:

The super-competitive one.

Says: “I was in the library ’til 1am last night, then my housemates and I went through all the Parkinson’s plus syndromes before practicing the hip, knee and elbow examinations. Do you know the chemotherapy regimens for myeloma? They’re easy, I did them this morning.”

Found: on the ward or in the common room, discussing rare syndromes with other members of same species. Usually wears shirt, ID badge, stethoscope and smug smile.

The self-depreciating panicker.

Says: “Oh my god, I’m definitely going to fail. I spent all of yesterday looking at cardiology and I can’t remember ANYTHING!”

Found: in the library, semi-visible behind huge pile of books, notes, highlighters and can of energy drink. Wears stressed expression.

The overly nonchalant one.

Says: “Oh yah, whatever, I never do that much revision. I was playing rugby/trampolining/running a half marathon yesterday. I got 82% last year though.”

Found: having a coffee and chatting loudly at table next to self-depreciating panicker.

Note: no matter which species you identify with, or even if – god forbid – you think you’re normal, it is never ok to adopt either an a) non-competitive or b) contented demeanour. Think revision sucks but you’ll probably be ok? Nope, no way. It’s just not said.

Me? Well, I’ve clearly developed a fetish for post-it notes and have pink and green spots swimming in front of my eyes. Now, what’s that syndrome called again?


Taking back the night

Whenever I’m working, I daydream about being able to sit up for half the night. All those musky, quiet, late night hours where you sit listening to music, perhaps at a desk, doodling, or with a laptop, writing, or browsing webpages, and the time stretches around you completely. No obligation, nowhere to be but here. Perhaps some coffee to keep you awake and no sense of guilt that coffee is exactly the wrong thing right now.

Before I started medical school I daydreamed about studying again, being able to stay up all night studying and that sense of freedom, being able to read and learn, delve into, become engaged by anything I wanted, late at night because I didn’t have to get up at seven for work. Taking back my own late nights. I missed that. I had rosy memories of how it’d been before.

Of course when it came to it I remembered that studying is never rosy in that way. You always feel resentful because you’re studying something you have to study, and of course you’re not free. The night is not your own, the night becomes the battleground where you’re fighting a deadline, or pushing your way into the dark, towards the late hours against resistance, and coffee is there not as a friendly companion but as a necessity to keep your eyes open.

I’m working now for the summer so I have to be up early in the morning. And yet here it is again, it’s half twelve and I’m daydreaming about being able to stay awake all night. Writing a blog perhaps. Listening to this.

Aaaaand… go!

Wow, so the year went by quickly. I feels hardly a moment since I turned up to the first class of the year, all weirded out at being back in a lecture theatre and wondering who to sit next to. And now here we are the night before exams. Nine of the little beauties, no less, starting with the delights of cancer tomorrow morning, and pretty much one after the other in a relentless stream of medic-related joy. How they love to hammer it home to us that being a doctor should be HARD, damnit, HARD!

I can’t really remember my last lot of end-of-year exams (neuroscience finals, presumably). I’m sure I felt more prepared than this though. Still, I console myself with the thought that this is the last day I will ever have to look forward to sitting all the exams for two years’ worth of medicine, in one week. Even if I fail some I surely won’t fail them all, and then there’ll be slighty fewer than nine resits to worry about.

Bring it on.

Knitting? Check. Wikipedia? Check.