Friday, September 30, 2011


Made it through week one.  I have a lot of mixed feelings about this job.  I really, really like working with the patients.  They are friendly, and I feel like my Cantonese interpreting has improved since I last worked as one - that, or I am able to speak with much more confidence.  The only hiccup has been that there is one Mandarin-speaking patient who I cannot communicate with well because I suck at that dialect.

I think the PA isn't that great towards the patients.  I understand it is hard to work through a translator and sometimes old people like to ramble, so it can get boring especially if you don't understand what the patient is saying.  But I think her behavior and body language was really unprofessional - tapping her pen loudly and sighing, or fidgeting like some kid.  It's not like she was in the 29th hour of a 30-hour shift.  I wanted to say, "Hey lady, you're not the one scrambling to look up unfamiliar terms in your bilingual dictionary every time someone says a new term."

I don't like working at the main clinic, but it's only two days out of the week.  The boss is an OK guy as a person, but business/management-wise he doesn't seem very reliable.  I have no idea how I'll clock in/out (or if I even have to), or whether I need to submit a tax form and which one, and although I asked, I still have not received an answer.  He also screwed up our work schedules and failed to notify us when he made changes so we had to scramble to get things ready for today.  In short, he seems so nonchalant about everything that I don't really trust him as an employer.

But I love the patients I work with and I really enjoy interacting with them so I would feel really sad if I stormed out on the patients when they seemed so happy to finally have an interpreter to talk through.  I think he would have to really screw up, like pay me for only a third of the time I worked and refuse to fix the problem, before I would really be justified in leaving.  I think a lot of the things I gripe about are also caused by my distrustful mind, so maybe I just need to grow up some more.  It's hard to find a job that a person can truly love without complaining about something at some point, and things could be worse.

I will tough it out.  At the end of the day, I enjoy being with the patients and that should matter the most.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stuck in a Rut

Despite the excitement of starting a new job I've been moody and completely unmotivated lately.  Maybe it is because I'm trying to read through a chapter on genetics, which I never liked in undergrad (I loved protein kinetics though, so awwwwesome).  Or because Day 2 of work just kinda dragged on because I had to take apart ancient raggedy and thick charts with one hand and reorganize them into newer folders.  Slooow going with only one hand.  Or because I almost slipped today and while normally I would have gone about my business, the sudden movement was painful and I'm feeling pretty sore despite being pain-free all last week.   It reminded me all that even if the sling comes off next week, I still have a lot of healing to do.

I think a lot of my grumpiness comes from feeling restless.  My mom is the nagging, overbearing type and while it's an endearing trait when I was only home on weekends and holidays, it's not so endearing when I experience it all day.  I also haven't seen any friends for almost a month so I've been pretty mopey today because of that.  I'm restless from being unable to do things that I used to do without thinking, like pouring milk for my cereal, or having trouble unplugging things.  I was always the kid that wanted to walk home alone and do stuff by myself "like all the big kids."  (My parents never let me walk home alone.  We used to live on a busy intersection with car accidents every year and one day I came home from school to a huge, bloody accident.)  It's frustrating, but I signed up for this.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a good work day.  I'll be at the senior home meeting the patients I'll be translating for 3/5 days a week.  I can familiarize myself with their chronic pain issues, make sure I know all the terms and I'll be able to do something that none of the other staff can do, which might be refreshing.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lesson Learned

Today, on my first day of work/training, I learned how important it is NOT to undervalue myself and my capabilities.  I wish I took more initiative to negotiate higher pay, even if it would have been unsuccessful, because now I am kicking myself over it.  I will try to do my best, and since he eventually wants someone to work full-time, there is the possibility of asking for a raise once we discuss increasing my hours from 25/week to 32-40/week (32 being the minimum for full-time status in this state).  I may not have worked consistently at one job for several years, but my cumulative experience working in different medical facilities in different positions with different demographics, protocols and computer systems has given me a wide variety of skills and knowledge that I need to start appreciating before I can convince others to value my abilities.

This came to mind while I was training.  As I was going through the motions of putting charts together and re-learning insurance eligibility protocols for PPOs (Preferred Provider Organizations) and state Medicare/Medicaid, I realized that I knew most of the information already.  When the boss lectured the other part-time girl and I on the general facts of how insurance companies operate, I also felt like I knew most of the information already.  That isn't to say I have nothing to learn, just that I already have the foundation and can build on it much faster than my 18 year old college freshman coworker can.

I think it also helped that my old job had a lot more paperwork to handle and volunteers to oversee, which leads to duplicates, misplaced forms, and a crap load of work.

Other than that, the office seems pretty laid back.  I'll be working with more physical therapists and physician assistants than doctors, which is alright to me.  I may be able to learn new things about patient care from the PAs at this rate, because I've seen many private practice doctors get bogged down by paperwork and business management.

Getting dressed today went by MUCH quicker.  My arm didn't feel so fragile that it might break off any minute when I took the sling off to get changed, which I think is a good sign that I'm recovering at a good pace.  I'll be crossing my fingers that I can remove the sling entirely next Wednesday, but I know it will take time before my left arm can do simple things like carry my boxed set of Examkrackers MCAT study guides or reach back to scratch my butt reach up to grab something off a shelf.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Money (semi-rant)

I worry about money quite a bit for someone who doesn't have to pay my own rent/mortgage (yet) or raise a family.  Growing up, I was taught to work hard and save money for the things I wanted, but over time those "things" have changed.  Between juggling two part-time jobs when money was good if not great for a year and then scraping by in AmeriCorps on a stipend for another year, I learned to ration money.  I learned to set aside little bits here and there for necessities, for fun and for the ridiculously expensive medical school application process (why does it cost more to apply to schools here than it costs to pay one year of tuition for schools in other countries?!).  I grew out of wanting designer clothes and the coolest gadgets because in the end, I had more important things to save money for.  

I was so relieved when I found a job because it meant I could stop worrying as much.  I could give my parents money instead of living like a bum, I could start saving money to pay for interview flights, apartment deposits, a lifetime supply of Sourpatch Kids candy, and maybe, JUST MAYBE I can save up enough to travel abroad.  I'm overdue for a visit to my grandma in Hong Kong and from there, it's just a quick hop over to Korea or Japan.  

And so, (begin rant) it kind of sucks to have a conversation with a friend my age that always starts like this:
Friend: So do you think I should drop money to get [insert shoes/video game/game console/plasma tv/computer, etcetc] 
or this:
Friend: Man, the [insert expensive item] I ordered still isn't here!
Friend: Yes! UPS finally delivered!  I can't wait to install it in my living room in the house I just bought and furnished.
(end rant)

As you can probably tell, I'm a little jealous/bitter and more than a little annoyed that this person rubs things in my face like that.     

Friday, September 23, 2011

New Job

I met with the lead (and only) MD in the facility and was a pretty nice, very mellow-sounding guy, which probably helps with his older patient base.  I was quizzed a little on my Chinese by someone who was more fluent than I am, but not as extensively or rigorously as when I was applying to intern as a translator at my clinic, so it went okay.  I think after that they were ready to offer me the position and I will be going in for a few hours to train on Monday.

Today, I went to meet with one of the directors at the school to withdraw from the after school program position.  He was pretty understanding which was a relief.  I feel a bit hypocritical because a few months ago I was in a similar situation on the employer's side, but at least I didn't fill out any new hire paperwork yet.  The previous situation required a mountain of paperwork which we had to do twice for the replacement-new-hire but 3x as fast due to regional orientation schedules.  I was also partially influenced by something I did in the past: I interviewed for a job I was interested in, but I had just started a 10-week temp position working for  someone at a community center that I (thought) I knew well.  I think it showed in my interview that I wasn't 100% committed, and so I spent the next 10 weeks growing increasingly bitter because the cool boss was far, far away from being cool.

I just hope this job will be an enjoyable experience, not just something to add to my AMCAS.

On a lighter note, I spent most of my afternoon reviewing and advising a grant application for the new AmeriCorps girl.  It was frustrating mainly because I can't type half as fast with one hand.  I also had to type out explanations for many of the revisions.  She probably thinks I'm a super nit-picky person now!

Tomorrow will be a less eventful day: just MCAT studying and maybe pizza night with the mother.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More Kittens

Since Solitary Diner wanted a drawing of her kitties, I went and made one tonight :o)

The mouse toy is really similar to how Simon over at Simon's Cat draws his mousey toys, but it was purely accidental.  Mouse toys all look the same!

It's not the pear-cat drawing, although it's easy enough for me to swap out the gray coat for a tabby and calico coat.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Yesterday's interview went well...I think?  It was more like a discussion about the project I would be working on than a traditional Question-and-Answer interview session.  The guy interviewing me didn't even ask me for a list of references.

They are looking for a bilingual medical assistant to help expand a new program at a senior home, someone who can work with elderly Chinese patients and provide translation services for the patients so the health providers can help individuals with physical therapy, pain management and other ailments characteristic in older people.  The impression I got was that he (the guy interviewing me) was not even reviewing anyone else or had not found anyone appropriate, which is odd because we're in San Francisco, where there are LOTS of people who speak Cantonese MUCH better than I can.  Then again, maybe it was overlooked by all the anxious pre-health kids because it is not a traditional doctor's office: there is only one MD (a physiatrist) overseeing several Physician Assistants, a couple chiropractors and physical therapists.

I really want this position.  It's perfect for what I want and need: the potential to be fulfilling, paid, within the health field, and I get to practice my medical Chinese.  Aaand the pay is decent.  Better than folding sweaters for $10/hour (although I do miss the discounts from working in retail).

If I get the job, I'll be starting off part-time and gradually progressing to full time.  I don't really want to work full-time, but I'll just have to suck it up.  After reading the non-traditional pre-med profiles on, suddenly, working 30 or maybe even 40 hours a week while studying for MCATs sounds easy compared to people who do all that WHILE raising children.

I have another interview tomorrow with the Big Kahuna, the physiatrist, tomorrow.  I guess I'll learn more about my status tomorrow.

On another note, my right-handed typing is improving.  I think by the end of my sling-time, I'll be able to type faster than some people.  Woohoo!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Interview Prep

My former co-workers sent me a get-well card.  That was nice of them.

I've been reviewing medical Cantonese in preparation for tomorrow's job interview.  I don't know how thoroughly I'll be quizzed on speaking.  I was careful to leave out any detail on my fluency level (moderate), but I doubt it will be as difficult as the practical exam I had to retake twice for my interpreter internship in college.  I can ask basic questions like "Are you married or insured?" and "who is your emergency contact?" easily, but I have to make sure that what I say isn't considered crude.

Besides, the real challenge will be putting a dress shirt on tomorrow without hurting myself =/

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Instead of studying I ended up watching Thor and playing around on my Wacom Bamboo drawing tablet.  I finally figured out how to make the lines cleaner...which is just to use separate layers in Adobe Photoshop for the outline and for colors.  The result of that was an improvement from previous doodles.

Friday, September 16, 2011


I finally forced myself to study for the MCATs.  I have classes in October, so right now I am reviewing my Examkrackers books.  I really like this book.  It has good (colored!!) illustrations and me what concepts I should understand and what is not quite important enough to memorize.

I also have Audio Osmosis, which accompanies each book chapter.  I've heard the guys that voice the lecture are funny in a nerdy way.

My shoulder has been feeling less stiff and sore today...which is partly the reason why I made myself study.  The only exception is on occasion, I will move or turn and the motion will pull on something in my shoulder, which makes me twitch.  It doesn't really hurt, but it isn't pleasant either.

Cha-Ching Cha-Ching

Lately I have been quite worried about money, a must-have when it comes to applying to medical school.  Generally speaking, applying to more schools will increases chances are of getting accepted into one or more programs.  I'm starting to think that the money I have carefully saved up for the application process won't be enough to get me through the application process for the number of schools I plan to apply to, let alone fund airplane tickets for any potential interviews.  That, coupled with the hospital co-pay and a new set of car tires, means that I need a part-time job so I can save money, pay bills, and have enough time for MCAT studying.  Also, as a boomerang baby* I usually hand the rest of my paycheck (after bills) to the parental units to help out.

I always feel pressured to find a volunteer or part-time job that is health-related for my medical school applications.  When I moved back home, a friend suggested applying to be a volunteer research assistant but I hated the fact that I had to apply to these "positions" as a data-entry monkey with a resume and references.  I honestly (and hopefully without coming across as conceited) think my time, labor and skills are worth more than that.  And they don't help me pay for my med school applications or bills.  When it comes down to my applications or interviews, I would rather have to explain that I worked at XYZ because I needed to support my own career goals than to volunteer for a position that may or may not be fulfilling to me.

I have agreed to return to the middle school after school program where I used to work before my AmeriCorps assignment.  The pay is pretty good, considering its 15 hours per week and I get to bully play with kids.  I was ambivalent about the after school job - while I liked working with the 6th graders** and my fellow staff members, the 8th graders then were punks.  But when I went back to visit this year, the kids I worked with and liked still remembered me and that made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

I was also offered an interview next Monday for a P/T bilingual receptionist position at a physical therapy clinic.  I'm looking forward to the interview, and would like to scope out the hours and my chances of getting the job.  I was surprised that I was even contacted, because the craigslist post was a few weeks old.  If I get it, it would solve my need to work for money and I would be working within the health field, but I think I would only be able to work at one job, otherwise I would be sacrificing time and energy for MCAT-studying.  I would feel bad to withdraw from the tutoring job after already I already made a commitment, but I'll worry about that if or when I have to.

*Someone who went away for college, then moved back home with parents because the job market sucks.
**My favorite was a kid named "El" who reminded me of a cute chipmunk, but she grew and now she's taller than me, so now she reminds me of a Meerkat.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

First Foray Outside

I ventured outside today to take out my stitches, pick up a library book, and of all things, go to Trader Joe's.

My stitches came out much easier than I thought. I thought it would hurt but it was quick and totally painless. I met the clinic's physicians assistant today to go over my recovery.  My orthopedic surgeon seems to have a system where she takes care of all new patients up through surgery and her PA takes over the recovery process so the doc can keep seeing new patients. Very efficient, in my opinion. The PA seemed impressed that I stopped taking Percocet on Friday, but I have been taking OTC painkillers.  I think part of the leftover pain is coming from muscle stiffness due to wearing a sling all day every day, and possibly due to poor posture.

Sleeping is unexpectedly not a problem.  When I first started having shoulder problems in high school, I had a few scares where I woke up with a dislocated shoulder and after that, I somehow conditioned myself to sleep like a log.  It sucks to think about how bad my shoulder was, but on the bright side, sleeping with a sling on wasn't as difficult or uncomfortable as the doc thought.

Trader Joe's was way more crowded than I thought at 2pm and I was on the lookout for oblivious people who are too busy to watch where they are shoving their carts and kids who aren't being supervised.  I felt like doing this:

Idea taken from a Simpson's episode
But the trip for dried cranberries and bran flakes was definitely worth it and it gave me an idea for doodling material.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Random Conversations

Friend:  So how are you doing after surgery?
Me:  I'm good, just staying home, taking my pain meds.
Friend:  Can you move around and stuff?
Me:  Yeah but I won't leave the house too's still pretty hard to get dressed and stuff.  I should just go commando.
Friend:  You should just wear a sheet like the Romans.
Me: That would be awesome!!!

Toga Mingle

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Post-Op Day 2

Recovery is going well, I think.  
Yesterday my throat was really sore from the tracheal tube.  Now, I feel really bad for all the kids I've watched who needed a nasotracheal tube for induction (so the dentist can work on the teeth).  For a kid, it probably feels 10x worse.  

Yesterday, the recovery nurse gave me instructions for exercises that my doctor supposedly wanted me to start today, but when I looked over my pre-op instructions, the sheet my doctor gave me told me I wasn't supposed to do anything (except squeeze my little stress ball) until the doctor cleared me.  Good thing I called her office to clarify!  I was honestly scared to do anything with my arm, although today, I realized that if I angle my laptop just right, I can kind of type with my left hand - well, 3/5 of the fingers on my left hand.  It really does speed things up.  

Overall though, I'm still feelin' pretty fatigued.  Despite that, I still managed to type up board meeting minutes, which I volunteered to do for the ol' office over Skype a few weeks ago.  I'm not sure if my fatigue is from the surgery or from my Percocet prescription - probably the drugs, since I get suuuuper drowsy after an hour or two.  I took one pill before going to bed and woke up four hours later, just in time to take the next one.  Today, I tried pushing it to the five-hour mark - just in time too, if I waited any longer I might have actually felt pain instead of discomfort.  

Tomorrow, I get to take the giant dressing-pad they taped onto my shoulder. Woohoo! I've been wanting to see what the stitches look like.  I'll need to call the doctor's office again because I don't remember how and if I'm supposed to clean the wounds, but on a spur, I bought a box of Finding Nemo band-aids to cover them up.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I'm home and it looks like surgery went well.  I arrived about 15 minutes late and felt really bad, because I know it can really mess up the flow of things, but that didn't seem to be the case today.  My pre-op nurse was really nice.  Her son and I went to the same high school but a year apart, so we talked about schools and college.  My procedure (Bankhart Repair) went well - she only needed to place two anchors, but she also said there was quite a bit of damage so she did some work on the ligaments as well, although I'm not sure which ones.

The whole procedure was about two hours.  It's interesting being on the patient bed this time around and watching people grab my arms/legs and lift up my gown to attach things while talking to me like were just hanging out in the lounge.  I don't remember falling asleep either.  The last thought I remember having was, "Is he giving me Sevo yet? This doesn't smell like Sev-ZZZZZZZZ"  My wake up wasn't too exciting either, only that each time they called my name, I kept thinking I should get up.

I'm home now, feeling perpetually groggy and trying to time my naps around the painkillers.  I have a little stress ball for my fingers so they don't get too swollen.

Tomorrow, I will be doing itty bitty exercises as per doc's orders:  letting the arm dangle outside of the sling and then doing finger exercises on the table.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


I met with my orthopedic surgeon on Wednesday to go over the procedure again.  I felt like I should have asked more questions, but I couldn't think of anything else to ask.  I even went home and looked up the procedure on YouTube to see what she'll be doing - that has to be a morbid pre-med trait.  I don't think any of my non-pre-health friends would YouTube their own surgery out of curiosity.

Even though I feel like I should prodded my doctor for more info, I like her and trust her to have explained the important details to me.  Her secretary, on the other hand, is like a chipmunk that talks a mile-a-minute.  Thank goodness she was only summarizing the consent forms.

I'll be going into the hospital on Wednesday at 6 am (ugggggggggggggh).  I will probably ask the anesthesiologist to hold off on giving me a nerve block for my arm.  Hopefully my post-anesthesia wake-up doesn't involve a lot of groggy thrashing.  Anesthesiologists are funny sometimes: a few of the ones I worked with had the "magic touch" and all of their kids would wake up perfectly calm, while the rest typically ran for the hills when the kid started waking up screaming.

I'm a little nervous.  It's weird that I am, since this is something I have been wanting for a while.  Then again, I have other issues if I actually feel excited.  If surgery goes well, I am looking forward to getting back some range of motion, but it will take time for me to actually feel mentally comfortable moving my left arm normally again.  Certain things have become habit now, like only sleeping on my back or right side, or not reaching back with my left arm.  With some good physical therapy and a good recovery, those things will be minor things to overcome.


Waking up before dawn is the worst feeling ever.  I'd rather stay up all night than crawl out from a warm cocoon of blankets feeling under slept and looking like a creature that resembles Gollum - only instead of being bald, I have terrible bed head.  I'm aware that I will have plenty pre-dawn wake-ups as a future doc... and I'll probably wake up exactly the same way: making creature-ish sounds like Gollum, clutching my cup of coffee and muttering, "Preeeeciousssss."


I woke up at 5 am to take two buses up to Santa Rosa to train the new AmeriCorps girl - Bus #1 was subsequently late, but I ended up on Bus #2 just on time and got to watch the sun rise as it drove out of the San Fran fog.  Originally, I had planned to be there for a week to help her get settled in, but due to schedule conflicts up everyone's wazoos, we had to settle for a one-day massive data overload.  I feel bad in that she probably feels overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information I threw at her - things that took me weeks or months to learn (or months before I got around to learning it).  I felt so bad that I told her and my former boss to contact me anytime they needed info, at least until the new girl has time to process and absorb.  It will be a good chance for me to keep in touch too.  I hope she has a good year.  

We went to a restaurant called Mamma Pig's for pulled pork and bbq. YUM.  I was starving when I arrived, but it was so filling I only ate half.  Also, I discovered Leninade:

I have NO idea what flavor it was supposed to be, and I don't care =P
The words under the star says: "Join the party!"
Yes, comrade!