A Chance to Breathe

It’s over.

Over, over, over.

Friday was the big day. The day itself went fairly smoothly. I used all of the allotted time, I used my breaks to completely de-stress and start fresh for the next blocks of questions. At the end, though, I had no clue how to feel about the exam as a whole. There were a good amount of questions that were easy (what’s the diagnosis based on this picture) and then there were a good amount that seemed to come out of left field and I had no clue. I took several practice exams in the weeks leading up to the exam, and my ‘scores’ on those tests were around my goal score…. but I felt like those NBME exams were SO MUCH EASIER than the real thing. All I can think now is that I just really, really want to pass, and even if worse comes to worst my score is lower than I hope then I’ll just deal with it and work on crafting my CV and residency application to show off my better strengths… I just never want to have to take Step 1 again.

I don’t mind having to take a comprehensive exam after finishing half of my medical school education. What I haven’t liked, however, is the undo stress that has been building up all year on me and my classmates and friends. Even though there are other Step exams before we can become licensed, this one carries the most weight and is what everyone stresses out so much over. When you take a bunch of Type A perfectionists, make everything a competition, pair it with insane educational debt, and then hinge our future careers on a single 8-hour exam… it’s a pressure-cooker. It is unpleasant.

Thank God it is over.

People were talking afterward about crying in their cars. I don’t know if it was metaphorically, because it was such a difficult exam, or if it was a stress-release mechanism. But once it was over, I didn’t cry. I didn’t feel like I had been hit by a bus (but I probably looked like it). All I could say on the way home was, “…. I hope I passed. ….”

Studying for Step 1 has been controlled by Murphy and his Law, if you know what I mean. Everything that could have happened did happen. On Monday, as I’m starting to get panicked about my upcoming exam and I am reviewing the highest-yield topics just one more time to have it solidly memorized, I get a call from daycare at 8:30am… the Ladybug was breaking out into a rash over her entire body. Which meant she couldn’t stay at daycare until it went away–meaning that I had to find a babysitter for the last few days before my exam, or submit myself to not studying for the entire four days before Boards. I was panicked, but it all worked out. David took off work, my mom took off a day of work, my mother-in-law came to visit, and my brother babysat the day of my exam. This was the second time Ladybug got sick in the 7 weeks I took to study for the exam. I took a bit longer than was recommended (most people say 5-6 weeks maximum), but I knew I would lose a few days here and there for unforeseen reasons. I was also sick with a bad case of sinusitis. And then there was the accident right around the time school let out. So it was actually rather funny to call my weeks of study time “dedicated” study time.

But, it’s over. I found out if I passed/what my score is sometime next month. Murphy and his Law couldn’t stop June 5th from coming (and I refused to change my test date), and now that day has come and gone and I get a few days of “summer vacation” until I have to report for third year orientation.

Did you see that? Third year orientation. Is this real life? How is it that I am now ready to be set loose on the wards?

In speaking of which… I got my first rotation schedule the week before the exam. I can’t remember if I wrote that in the last post or not, but it’s true–I have a tentative schedule for my first rotation of third year. My first rotation is Internal Medicine, which is split into a month of wards and a month of two specialties. I start out with the specialties–two weeks of Cardiology at the VA and two weeks of Infectious Disease at the VA. Then a month of ward work at University. I am so excited! Real patients to learn from, and real H&Ps and SOAP notes to write. As much as I always wanted to study the medical textbooks before I came to medical school, the real reason I came to medical school was to be trained to take care of real patients. It’s about time!

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