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?



Some innate learning

Adventures have been few and far between recently. There are neuroscience and immunology exams coming up in a week and life is condensing again into a pile of books and a wistful glimpse of sky. Here are some learnings from the last five months.

1. Medicine does become less weird. I haven’t lost the ability to find a body sexy – luckily – and I’m not being crippled every five minutes by existential questions, which is always helpful.

2. Needle phobia seems to be curable, and certainly not the obstacle I might have thought. I’m looking forward to the next time I stick a needle in someone, which is a bit weird.

3. Procrastination is not curable. If anything, increasing years have provided me with new and ever-more creative ways of not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I have baked more cakes, watched more online TV and spent more time daydreaming than you would think reasonably possible.

4. So much for being driven to achieve great things. After all the warnings about hard work, the main thing holding me back is how much I miss my friends and old life. I miss them so much. So much. I don’t really know what to do about it.

5. It is apparently possible to pass a medical exam with a scarily minimal actual comprehension of the subject matter.

6. The lump in my neck/pain in my stomach/breathlessness/tiredness/strange cough is 1% real, 4% misery induced and 95% to do with whichever textbook I’ve just been reading.

7. Even if you’ve only been a medical student for a day, total strangers will take their clothes off in front of you. And answer the most personal questions imaginable, and cry, and pour out their hearts.

And is it worth it? Don’t ask me that.

A little while ago I sat as the sun came up and took this photo. How can one life be so good, and then also so hard?