Friday, June 24, 2011


Lately, a lot of people have been asking me which medical schools I plan to apply to next year.  I work with a lot of nurses, dentists, dental assistants and doctors so they are pretty familiar with the options in California.

That question generates a lot of anxiety for me, which is partly why I have been putting off doing research.  A lot of pre-meds I've met in the past have always had a dream school that they can declare with certainty, "I want to go THERE!"  I haven't really read up on schools, or cared enough from things I've heard, to have a strong desire to go to a particular institution.  I can say where I would like to live while I attend school, which is important, but I shouldn't pick schools purely based on location.

I'm planning to apply to about 12-15 schools because it seems like a reasonable number and was a number that was generally recommended by pre-med counselors.  I was also informed, a loooong time ago, that I should apply to "safety schools," "reasonable schools" and "reach schools."  That also seems reasonable to me...I should apply to schools that I feel slightly more confident about getting into, schools where my chances may or may not go well, and schools that seem - on paper - far beyond my reach but maybe, just maybe I can hope. 

It's a daunting task.  How high do I reach without asking for the impossible? What would be "safe" for me without "settling"? Is this "reasonable school" actually a "reach school" for my abilities?  And sometimes, on a really bad day, I wonder, "Do I even want to do this?!"

I think there will always be uncertainty and self-doubt, and the only way to get around it (according to the Nike slogan) is to JUST DO IT.  And who knows, maybe I'll look back at myself one day and think my internal debate was downright silly.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Replacement Found!

We finally found our replacement.  I feel like a tremendous weight has been lifted off my shoulders!  Now I can  return to my long to-do list without feeling this nagging anxiety that my agency will not have anyone to pick up where I left off.

It has been an interesting experience, to say the least.  At 24, I already felt a huge gap between me and the fresh graduates who turned down the offer with the phrase, "It's not a good fit for me."  Like me, many of them were able to spend their time volunteering and signing up for internships while living off their parents and thus, do not have a good grasp of Life yet.  The economic downturn that started before my graduation and this past year of making ends meet with my meager AmeriCorps paycheck has taught me never to turn down opportunity, especially if it coincides with the possibility of professional development.  Many of my co-workers, who are my age and understand the difficulties of making a living, echoed the same sentiments.  But I learned to acknowledge that some people have very specific goals for their health career that do not coincide with the job description and I realize that fresh graduates tend to have a lot of optimism that may or may not pay off later.  Maybe it's just my cynicism talking and I'm still feeling bitter about the anxiety my supervisor and I endured during the past two weeks.

I AM glad that my AmeriCorps position is going towards an individual who has worked hard to fund her own needs, from bills to her own education.  I'm also glad that because of her own background, she understands first hand the difficult lives of the people my agency serves.  Maybe it was meant to be.  Maybe she just needed someone to give her a chance so she can do something great that will amaze everyone.  I hope so.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Root beer floats!

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic After that long rant (for those who did read, thanks!) I treated myself to a nice brisk walk around the local regional park.

I'm reminding myself to enjoy the good, simple things in life.  Like good hikes followed by dinner and a root beer float until I'm so stuffed I can't move.  Surprisingly, a coffee ice cream root beer float is REALLY good.

I miss the grass being this shade of lush green though.  Somehow it felt really luxurious to run down a path while being surrounded by a sea of vivid emerald green.  I think the dry, 80+ weather has scorched most of the grass around the paths and hills into a tan again.

A Long Rant: Commitment - And Lack Thereof

Lately work has become frustrating in a very, very silly way and I've been spending - and probably wasting - time trying to identify the source of all this ridiculousness.  At the end of the day, I end up leaving with a gigantic "WTF?" hanging over my head.  

Two weeks, my boss selected my AmeriCorps V.I.S.T.A replacement (let's give her a generic name "Jane") over my primary recommendation and last week, she backed out and I felt like it just confirmed my misgivings about picking her in the first place.  

There were many reasons why I liked her and had misgivings about her.  She was nice, more outgoing, which is a bonus for volunteer recruitment, and she had prior experience working in health.  All good things.  But I wasn't too impressed with her writing.  I was looking for someone with a stronger background in writing to tackle the 70-80% task of writing grant proposals and reports.  Also, her primary reason for wanting to go into health was a concussion she suffered from a car accident in high school.  I think interacting with a health professional as a patient is certainly a gateway into piquing someone's interest in health but after several years of volunteering in the health field, there HAS to be more than just that.  

The other individual, my primary recommendation ("Joe"), had much stronger writing and he seemed like a really insightful person who thought a lot about his own personal choices and his own personal interests based on an accumulation of past and recent experiences in the health field.  I was really impressed with his writing too: it showed the thought he put into things.  The only thing going against him was that he wasn't a "bubbly" person.  So I was not too happy we turned "Joe" down on the offer.  I felt like he was much more talented, informed and serious about what he wanted to do.  

By the time she backed out, "Joe" had already selected another V.I.S.T.A position.  I am annoyed that "Jane" did not provide a more adequate reason for her withdrawal.  She either found her dream job or made it past a school waitlist, BUT, the fact of the matter is, she's also wasted everyone's time for what she called a "great opportunity."  The ball was already rolling on a lot of bureaucratic red tape and by the time she notified us, it was too late.  I also think that once a commitment is made, a person should always see it through.  Maybe that is too black and white, but that is how I feel it should be.  

Now I'm vacillating between "crap, what did I do wrong" and "what is WRONG with these kids?!"  These people are my age and younger and, based on the resumes that they submitted for our review, were not in areas that provide a great deal of professional development.  Maybe that is me being arrogant.  Maybe the fresh young grads are naive and still have that optimism of finding the perfect well-paid job, whereas I've lost most of that optimism during my prior failed job hunts and due to reading a lot of news articles about how tough the job market is for young grads.  

As we went down our list of third and fourth candidates they now sang a different tune..."not a good fit." This is frustrating because these people have expressed an interest in health and despite our focus in health, have not gone out of their way to ask specific questions to determine how it is/isn't a good fit and therefore, makes me think that they were never truly interested in the first place.  

And lastly, I really really really think we could have avoided this whole fiasco if they had gone with my primary recommendation....The nature of an AmeriCorps VISTA position is for someone to start something, and the next person to see it through...and there is no one now to see things through to completion.  Maybe what irritates me the most is that I can't help but worry about what will happen with all my unfinished work between July 9th (when my contract ends) and when the next person is hired in November-ish.  

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Being Proper and Whatnot

I will always appreciate that the health professionals I have met have been willing to go out of their way to talk to me and show me something amazing to remind me why I am working so hard.  Although I can't say for sure, I don't think they always had the same access to shadow doctors and observe surgeries as students do now, and even then not many students are able or fortunate enough to find those resources. 

So it's important to me to show gratitude to the O.R. staff, RN and MD alike, because in the future I'll be working with people like them a lot and it's good to enforce good habits that can make an otherwise stressful work environment more bearable for a future doc-in-training. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Paper Avalanche!!!

My Mingle cave looks horrible.  This is what happens to people when they're solely in charge of responsible for the ridiculously slow transition to an electronic health record system.  The little bread-box looking thing on the top-right, sitting on top of a brown box, is actually a sheet-fed document scanner.  It's still off in this picture, so it must have been before I started scanning (honestly cannot remember).  

It was nice having a volunteer help me for a change.  I think I've flipped through thousands of pages, counting pages and removing duplicates.  One of the many unfortunate side effects of paper charting is that the way for other facilities to send you patient info is via fax, which someone inevitably misplaces and will require another fax, but just in case we ask the patient to bring in paperwork too, and so we end up with three copies of everything. 

It takes my ancient computing device about 3-5 minutes to scan, save and rename an individual patient record depending on the number of pages in that file.  If I scan files non-stop and have a volunteer help prep each chart for scanning, I can scan about 100-120 charts in an 8 hour work day.  So far I think I've gotten through 450 out of our total 5100 patient charts.  Wahoo! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why Yesterday Was Awesome

Soooo I have to admit, I have been pretty lazy when it comes to posting regularly, and then I literally became too busy/too exhausted after "work" to really want to do much more than catch up on my favorite blogs at night.  But Dr. J has been at me to write down my experiences and thoughts because I'll probably need to remember what I did, why and how when it comes to medical school interviews.  

So, this is why my day yesterday was AWESOME. 

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia
I finally worked up the courage to ask Dr J if I could shadow her during one of her shifts at the hospital.  After a number of phone calls, everything was set up.  

I got to see some pretty ridonkulously crayzee awesome stuff...I watched an OBGYN doctor remove a lesion from a female patient and then remove an ectopic pregnancy from another patient.  Then I watched a super cool but uber high-tech cardiac electrophysiology surgery to treat a patient with atrial fibrillation.  

The highlight of my day was watching a friendly and talkative cardiovascular surgeon perform a coronary artery bypass graft from behind the anesthesiologist's curtain.  Getting to watch a highly-invasive open-heart surgery is such an incredible and rare sight to see up-close, even for those within the medical profession.  Many surgeons do not want an unnecessary distraction.  And even if observers are allowed to come in and watch, they are often pushed up against the farthest reaches of the room and largely ignored.  But this experience was different:  the surgeon was nice enough to invite me to the fore-front, behind the safety of the anesthesiologist's curtain, to watch him suture each graft to the heart.  And because 5'1 people can't see much, they even gave me a freakin' stool.  A STOOL TO STAND ON!! SWOON.  The surgeon, the assisting surgeon, and the anesthesiologist were ridiculously friendly.  They went out of their way to give me an up-close view and took time and effort to tell me about their life's work, even though I didn't want to interrupt and ask questions.  It was very intimidating to walk into a huge O.R. filled with four busy doctors, three nurses and a huge cardiopulmonary bypass machine with a LOT of blood.  Looking back, I wish I could have gone back in during the second surgery to stare at the bypass machine more.  Watching the heart slowly start beating again is a priceless and beautiful experience that made me giddy and lightheaded with excitement.  

I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to see so many different types of procedures and to be treated with respect and consideration as if they were mentoring me.  All of the nurses and surgeons I talked to were very friendly, accommodating to my unspoken curiosity and willing to teach me something.  I suspect I picked the right day to drop by the O.R: lots of relatively simple out-patient cases.

The recent Mommy Wars debates have made me think how fortunate I am to never have met a doctor like Dr. Sibert, even though I would never have asked her, "Is Anesthesiology a good field for women?"  A relatively young cardiac electrophysiology surgeon I talked to yesterday told me that for many young students, picking a career or a medical specialty is very much a leap of faith or a crap shoot that is based on one's impression of people he or she interacted with over a short interval of time.  Unfortunately, this means that someone might have rejected the perfect medical specialty because he/she thought the resident or attending physician was a jerk.  Luckily, I met many very fun and friendly anesthesiologists before reading Dr. Sibert's article...The moral for me is to keep my mind open at all times towards opportunity, regardless of who I come to respect or dislike in the future.  

I hope that as I move on and up, I get to meet good doctors who care about their patients and their students, and that they keep in mind that small acts of kindness to wide-eyed pre-meds and med students can go a long way in ways they cannot even imagine.