This is a little late in coming but welcome to the fourth installment of Confessions- my reflections of past terms, one at a time. If you want to read any of the prior confessions series you can find them here, here and here.
Term 4: the breakdown-
PATHOLOGY with my Path Group NOS
the dreaded MICROBIOLOGY
plus to keep you on your toes- CLINICAL SKILLS
So this the term you have been waiting for. You have only heard scary rumors and sad stories of students that had to decel. And now it is here and you have already been on the island for six weeks completing third term and you just want to start already. You may have pre-read some of Robbins and every single upper classman has told you some conflicting thing about this term but you don't really know what to think. Do you go to class? Do you use Goljan's Rapid Review or just rely on Robbins. Baby Robbins and Big Robbins? Annotate into First Aid? To be or not to be?
Anyhow, for me I was apprehensive but prepared. The best part of fourth term is being able to pick your lab group. And I think this can make all the difference. I had my lab group solidified before 2nd term was over and having a group of classmates that I knew and trusted made lab fun instead of torturous. We were Path Group #1 aka Path Group NOS (yes, we named our group and we even wore matching scrub tops to lab occasionally... there is this whole must be dressed professionally thing that we were trying to do without actually dressing up or wearing white coats.)
Anyhow, my lab group started with two friends* that I had studied well with during first and second terms. We each then asked other study partners or lab partners from previous terms and in the end we had a pretty diverse group of students. Some young, some older. Some AOA, some not. Some girls, some boys. Some Russians, some Indians. Some from Canada and some from the USA. We met for pizza at Prickly before 4th term started in order for everyone to get to know everyone else. And we continued to hang out at Prickly during the term, once after the first exam and another time towards the end of the term for Dundy (think "The Office" TV show) style awards. We had fun and by enjoying lab and each other we kept sane and made it through.
*Note, I had other friends who were NOT in my lab group and this became important for several reasons. 1- If I ever needed to gripe about my lab group, which wasn't often but on the rare occasion when I did, I could to so with friends not in my group. 2- I studied with someone who was in another lab group so we could share what our tutors had highlighted, trade slides, etc. My opinion is that it is okay not to have your roommate, best friend or primary study partner in your lab group, and in some ways maybe even better.
So Pathophysiology... Lots of time spent in lab, but that can be okay, IF you have a good group. Or it can be time to sit and read Goljan or Robbins, it is really up to you. Same thing applies to concept maps. Most students hate them and think they are a waste of time. And I can see how that might be the case, but if you choose to make a concept map on something you need to learn, or have trouble remembering it can be helpful. I used my concept maps during pathophys and even studying for Step 1. But you can also scribble something out in 5 minutes and hand it in too, again it is up to you.
Besides lab, I did go to class but then I was always a "go to class" kind of gal. It really depended upon who was lecturing but most of the time I felt like I had to be there. If you sonic you miss the slides and since it is path slides are helpful. Sure, not all the VPs were amazing but for the most part I like to think that going to class only helped me.
Path was difficult, not because it is hard, but just because of the enormousity of it all. But it is doable and I found it fun. You are learning the stuff you came to medical school to learn, or at least that is how I felt. I didn't read Robbins cover to cover but I used it to prepare my slides and look up stuff that wasn't well covered in the notes. I tried to review all the green boxes and know the images. I also had Baby Robbins which lived in my bag through 4th and 5th term (plus it is pocket sized so I can use is during my clinical years too.) I didn't use Goljan or First Aid until 5th term but sometimes they would have been helpful. Best free resource, webpath! I made myself do the questions on Friday nights when I was too burnt out to study anymore. Also I did Robbins review questions with a study partner and found it kept me from falling behind. We had a standing date each weekend to do questions from the previous system. For me, staying caught up on the material was key. And by going to class and having regimented study dates I never really had a chance to fall behind. And speaking of falling behind, that brings us to micro.
Microbiology. I only think this class gets a bad rap because it is taught in the same term as Path. The key to this class is to not fall behind or let path overshadow it. Again I went to class (85% of the time) and being in class made me strive to keep up with the material. I would spend a full day every other weekend organizing my notes, making tables, etc. For practice questions I used High Yield the days right before the test. It wasn't the easiest of classes, but it was fairly straightforward IF you put in the time. (And SO important for later, aka pharm and Step 1.)
Clinical Skills. This was the class I expected I would love. But it turned into a pain and time suck which I blame on the lack of organization that is the Clinical Skills Dept. They have so many smart, capable physicians, but yet no leadership or organization. The class does teach you needed skills, how to interview a patient, do a physical exam, etc. it just isn't very efficient. As far as exams I found that doing practice questions from old exams was helpful. And pocket Bates is useful without being overkill. Also for the practical exams it did help to have a couple of friend and actually practice all of the skills with beforehand. (It amazes me how so many of my classmates just tried to memorize their way through.)
So that is fourth term in a nutshell. I think it really was my favorite term (but that doesn't mean it was easy or that everyone I knew made it through.) But with some preparation, a lot of hard work, a good lab group and a dash of good luck you will survive it too.
I promise to post on 5th term before another month goes by. Stay tuned.