Life

Farewell Utah

Hello everyone!

Today is going to be a little different. This won’t have anything to do with school, but rather my goodbye to the state of Utah yes I am cheesy like that. Everyone always asks me if we will be coming back, and unless I end up here for med school or residency, the answer is no. Since we’re 99% sure we won’t be coming back, I felt like I should write my farewell somewhere I could find later on. If I write it down on a piece of paper, I’m going to lose it, so here it is for your viewing pleasure. 😀

Dear Utah,

Wow. The past 13 years have flown by. I remember when I started 10th grade that I had all these plans to move out as soon as possible. I remember in 11th grade after meeting one of my best friends, shout out to Kat, that we would all get a big house in Washington and our group of friends would live there. We would live close to Canada so we could go to school there. We have life figured out, didn’t we? Then our group of friends became just Kat and me. We’re still very close, but we never got that big house.

12th grade was a rough year. It was a very low point in my life, but I stuck it out. My psychology professor encouraged me to go to college for Psychology, a subject I had fallen in love with that year. I was gonna go to school for that and acting, because I still held on to my dream of being an actress I don’t think I was very good. Graduation came and went… I started college that Fall, and I picked Psychology as my major. I got engaged in December and I started planning a wedding. I didn’t pay much attention to my classes that semester, but I passed all of them with okay grades. We got married the weekend before finals; I don’t recommend that to anyone!

You weren’t easy on us after we got married though. We lived with my parents with the hope that we would only be there for a year. My husband had a hard time finding a good paying job for a long time, and that year turned out to be seven. Say what you want about my parents, but they are the real MVPs for putting up with us so I could finish school. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to go to school in the first place. My dad paid for my first year of school, and after I was married I was able to qualify for financial aid that allowed me to keep going.

Four years in  and we were expecting out first child! I had a year and half left of school and I was so nervous. I knew I was going to keep going and I wanted to graduate on time. Since I have the most amazing family, they helped me every step of the way. Our first child ended up being two! You know the story if you’ve read my blog; my twins were high risk and I was stuck in the hospital for 7 weeks and 1 day. Our twins were in the NICU for 3 weeks and 2 days. I continued to take classes during this time, and as difficult as that was, it helped keep me distracted. I met so many amazing doctors and nurses there; my love for medicine grew during this time and I realized there is nothing else I would like to do. Thank you for bringing these wonderful doctors to this state, especially Dr. I who delivered the twins and let me shadow her.

That year wasn’t easy, but I graduated. I was so proud of myself! Our graduation was at the same place my high school graduation had been at. I wasn’t done with my pre-med classes though; I had two more semesters to do. Thankfully, I had an amazing pre-med advisor; he encouraged me to keep going and helped me have faith in myself. During my last semester I applied to grad school, and that wasn’t easy either. My advisor resigned and it was difficult to get a hold of him. It was like pulling teeth trying to get him to send my letters of recommendation. I was angry. He had everything I needed to submit and he kept forgetting. I took matters into my own hands and sent two letters from doctors I hunt down by myself.

Then it happened. June 2017 I got into all four programs I applied to. It felt surreal… we were moving! What were we going to do so far away from family? I’ve never lived in any other state, let alone live away from my mother. Could I actually handle being an adult? None of that mattered, I was determined to make it work. I made my choice and picked where I would be going for my Master’s.

Now it’s August and I leave you tomorrow to go to my first choice grad school. My dreams are coming true! I never thought this day would come! As excited as I am for this new stage in life, I can’t help but feel a little sad. A big part of my life has been here. As much as I hated you for various reasons, my family and most of my friends are here. It’s bittersweet. You are the place that shaped the person that I am today. I made my family here. I donated so much time to the community here. I’m truly sad to be leaving. My husband and twins are staying behind for a bit until my husband can find a good job out there, but after they join me we don’t know when we’ll be back. I know, it sounds kinda whiny, but I still haven’t gone back to Peru and it’s been 13 years. Who knows where life will take us?

So thank you, Utah. You allowed me to grow up here and have a relatively good life. You allowed my family to have a good life, something we couldn’t do back in Peru. You allowed me to make my own family. You taught me to be more outgoing instead of the shy, quiet girl I was when we moved here. If it wasn’t for moving here, I wouldn’t be fluent in English. I met so many wonderful people that I would not have met if I wasn’t here. I even rescued two beautiful kitties from two of your shelters, one of them being a place I volunteered at for four years. Thank you for giving me opportunities I wouldn’t have anywhere else. I’m sad to be leaving you, even after all those years I spent complaining about you. “Thanks for the memories, even though they weren’t so great” from that Fall Out Boy song comes to mind, ha ha.

Here’s to new adventures and to making dreams come true.

Thank you for everything,

Andrea.

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Pre-med

HPREP 2017

Hi everyone!

Last week I participated in the 2017 Ransdell Family Health Professions Readiness & Enrichment Program at Campbell University. It was one of the most amazing weeks of my life! It’s not only good for pre-med students, they also host pre-pharmacy, pre-nursing, pre-PT, and pre-PA students! Basically, if you’re interested in healthcare, this is for you!

It lasted about 5 days and the great thing about it is that I only had to pay for airfare and snacks, everything else was covered by the program. There were a lot of students from the east coast, and a few of us from the more western states, so you get to meet a lot of new people; if you think about it, you just met the future of healthcare! 🙂

So let’s talk a little bit about what we did; I will try my best to describe it but it’s really one of those things you have to experience to fully grasp what the program was about. We got split up into groups, which were always changing but we had our main mentoring group. Ours was called Gaylord’s Minions, but it turned into Where’s Abraham? He was one of the group members and it seems that we were always asking about where he was. It was a pretty funny week! And for those of you wondering, Gaylord is the name of the school’s mascot. I guess he was named after a baseball player that went to Campbell. You can find out more about that here. Anyway, back to the mentoring group. I was lucky enough to be paired up with a DO student at the school; she was so helpful and answered all my questions about their DO program. I feel like I understand the difference between DOs and MDs a lot better now thanks to her. I’m probably biased, but she was the best mentor and we had the best group!

We had a few guest speakers, which were amazing. They talked about things like diversity and becoming more inclusive, serving others more and making our life be about that, etc. It was a lot of information, and I wish I had taken notes; I was so amazed by being a part of the program that I forgot my notebook! So if you participate in the program in the next few years, definitely take some notes!

We also had workshops where we learned about things like networking, goal setting, and the different programs Campbell had to offer. We got to talk to a lot of the faculty and staff from the school and had a chance to ask them questions. We also toured the main campus, getting to see their Pharmacy buildings and compounding lab. This was mostly the format for the first two days.

The third and fourth days were by far my favorite! We got to tour the medical school and learn about the technology they used to teach their students. We had a “lecture” about OMM, osteopathic manipulative medicine, and we got to try a few things with a partner. Not gonna lie, I’ve been using what I learned on everyone on my family. My husband is pretty tired of it by now! I just fell in love with OMM though; I think I would want to do a residency on it if I get accepted into a DO program. We had the two DO students practicing OMM on some of the faculty the first two nights, and I stayed up until midnight watching them. I absolutely love what they do, and when they’re done and the patient gets up feeling better? Priceless.

We also got to touch a plastinated cadaver and we participated in an emergency and birthing simulation lab; these were very cool because the robots they used could blink, breathe, have someone talk through them, have vitals… It was just a very cool experience. The emergency sim could vomit and you could draw blood from him, but we didn’t get a chance to see. It could get messy, so I don’t blame them for not doing it! Another thing we got to do was test prep! We split up into different groups based on the test we would need, MCAT, GRE, or PCAT, and we had a Kaplan instructor give us an interactive lesson. It was a bit intense, but I’m happy to say that my O-Chem and Psych/Soc knowledge is still pretty fresh. I need to practice/study the other subjects, but I feel a little better about it. We also had, amid a tornado watch, a scavenger hunt in the PT/PA/nursing building. It was four flights of stairs and the most fun I’ve had in a while. It was called Camelpalooza; their mascot is a camel so that’s probably where the name came from. We had clues, run up and down the stairs to get to the correct place, do an activity as a group, and get the next clue before we continued our run.

Finally, our last day was a half day. We got to participate in a service project where we filled paper bags full of food for children in the community. It was the fastest project I’ve ever done; the teamwork from all the groups was truly astounding. It was supposed to last two hours and we got done a little before the hour mark.

Honestly, it’s difficult to describe what an amazing week I had. The feel of the school was that of a big family, the Campbell Family as they like to call it. It felt like home and everyone was incredibly nice. Not to turn it into a sad post, but I found out my grandmother passed away while at the program. Everyone was so sweet offered comforting words and hugs. I’m so thankful to have these new, amazing people in my life. I even had one of the mentors, who was in the pharmacy program, give me some incredible advice, which I will share with you.

She told me that although this was a difficult thing to go through, we have to look at the positive. Not to take away from the experience, but to sort of add to it. She said that I could use this to empathize with my future patients who will go through this. I was very upset and tired at the time, so I don’t remember her exact words, but what I got from it was all that matters. How could I use this experience to make my future patients have an easier time? I can’t take their pain away, and I can empathize, but what else can I do?

My grandmother had dementia. It has been a long time since I had talked to her, and a longer time since she had known who I was. She lived in Peru, so I was never able to go visit her, but I saw pictures of her throughout the years. Although she was well taken care of, I KNOW that not everyone is. As a CNA, I have seen how people treat their patients sometimes. It can get downright inhumane, and there ARE cases of abuse. So, what can I do to make my patients lives better?

In honor of my grandmother, I’m going to find ways to make the quality of life of patients with dementia better. I’m not sure how, but I will figure it out. I want my career to be about bettering the lives of my patients, so what better way than to start here? I will keep you updated with what I’ll be doing with this, and if you have any tips or advice please let me know!

All in all, this experience has taught me that we should always be looking for ways to help others. One of the things a guest speaker talked about was asking, “How can I help you?” This has resonated with me, and now I get up every day and try to find ways to help those around me. I’m by no means perfect, but at least I’m trying. Next week I’ll give you some more insight as to how it has specifically changed the way I do things at the hospital I volunteer at. Stay tuned. 🙂

Overall, I highly recommend this program! Look it over and if it interests you, sign up next year. If you’re like me and live far away, don’t be scared! I know I was terrified to go to the other side of the country, but it worth it! Take a leap, you won’t regret it! You will be EXHAUSTED by the end of the week, but you will have gained so much knowledge about healthcare and about yourself. You won’t regret it! And who knows, maybe they’ll accept me into their MSBS program and I’ll get to be your mentor! If you want more info about this program, click here.

Cheers!

Andrea.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few pictures of my experience. 🙂 First- HPREP 2017 participants and mentors. Second- Yours truly super excited to be at the medical school. Third- Gaylord’s Minions/Where’s Abraham group with Gaylord himself.

Physician Shadowing

Physician Shadowing III

Hi everyone!

So here’s my post about my latest shadowing experience. We’ll call this doctor Dr. I for privacy purposes. 🙂

This happened over a two day period. Dr. I was in her last week of residency when I shadowed her, so I got to see her last day and how she said goodbye to all her patients. It was a bittersweet moment for everyone, including myself since she had been such a big part of my hospital experience. Every doctor I’ve met has been fantastic and I wish to be like them in some way, but if I can be as caring and helpful to my patients like like Dr. I is I will be happy with the level of care I provide. Dr. I, if you ever read this, which I doubt, thank you for everything. 🙂

Okay, so on to the actual experience! I did about 11 hours worth of shadowing. Since she is a resident I can’t count it as accrual shadowing experience, so it will go on my application as patient exposure.

One of the patients we had had shingles. She knew what she had since it was her second time having it. We were in and put within minutes, which doesn’t harken very often when I shadow.

The second patient was a child who had persistent cough, about a month if I remember correctly. Dr. I let the parents know coughing isn’t necessarily a bad thing, that it’s just a reflex. She thought it was likely due to allergies. After a while of trying to convince the mum odd this, we moved on. We then talked about how she was almost certain that the parent wouldn’t listen to her instructions because she felt the parent didn’t trust her diagnosis. She then told me only about 60% of patients actually do what doctors tell them, so all you can do is reassure them and hope they’ll listen.

We also had a patient who had chronic pain and had come in because she had fallen and hit her head. Dr. I isn’t a fan of narcotics (neither am I) so it was a big hard to deal with. On the one hand you want the patient to be comfortable, but these drugs are dangerous. Your tolerance for them increase, but the toxicity curve doesn’t move. The more you take them, the more meds it takes to help your pain… and the closer you get to that curve. I found a diagram for it here Dose-Response Curve. In the end Dr. I let the patient know she was taking too many and that she wanted her to wean off of them a little bit.

I also saw a few cases of cellulitis! I’d never seen it before so it was really cool. Cellulitis is an infection of the soft tissue, that presents as a red area that is hot and swollen; more info here. Dr. I prescribed medication for it and also outlined the red area so the patient could see if it spread further or if it was receding (and the medicine was helping). After we saw the first patient with it Dr. I and I went back to her office so she could show me another case of cellulitis… in her cat! It was awesome! It’s always interesting to see what disease we share with other species!

At one point we had a patient who came in because she was experiencing some abdominal pain. While she examined the patient she poked the areas that hurt and then asked her to do sort of a sit up before poking those places again. The patient tensed up and Dr. I concluded her exam. I later asked her what she was feeling for and she said she was looking for masses, tenderness (lower or upper), guarding (which is the tensing up), and peritonitis. The guarding is important; when the patient tenses up, the muscles are protecting the organs. If the problem was internal, the patient wouldn’t feel pain when doing the sit up. However, since the pain was superficial, Dr. I discovered her pain was muscular. I think that was one of my favorite things to learn about that day. The patient also had a hernia, so I asked Dr. I what you do about those. She told me that the bigger the hernia, the less they worry about! She said it’s big enough for the bowel and blood vessels to go through it, so it gets some blood flow.

I asked Dr. I why she went into family  practice. She said she went into med school wanting to be a neonatologist, but she later realized it was too specialized. She then thought about peds, then OB/GYN. However, she realized that after you cut the cord, that baby isn’t your patient anymore. She also said she wouldn’t like to do it every day; she loves it, but she wouldn’t love it if that’s all she did. She then chose family practice so she could do all of those things. She likes the variety. She is also doing a fellowship in OB so she can keep doing C-sections, which satisfy her liking for surgery without needing to be in an OR longer than an hour.

I also asked her if she could fire patients as a resident and she said you could. They are usually due to the clinic policy, like for no-shows, but that she doesn’t do it very often.

I also wanted to know what her stand on patients who didn’t vaccinate was. This was the most insightful conversation we had, so I’m glad I asked. She said that if you ban them from your practice you don’t get the chance to talk to them and ease their fears. If they are comfortable with you and respect your opinion as a doctor, they might change their minds later on. She so said you don’t want all the crazies in one room (aka all the anti-vaxers in one physician’s office). That comment made me laugh. 🙂 The other side of that argument is, if they don’t trust you on something that science indicates is effective, why would they listen to you when you say something else? If later on they need antibiotics, will they listen to you and take them? Or would they be against that too? At that point you have to ask the patient if you two are a good fit and perhaps have the patient find another doctor.

I also got a chance to shadow another resident while Dr. I waited for more patients to come in. It was a 6 month old baby and she came in for a well check. Dr. C let me look through one of the instruments (I’m afraid I don’t know the name of) and look at the red-eye reflex. It was so cool! You basically look for that red-eye that shows up in pictures. If it appears red-ish it means the eyes are healthy. If they’re not, they’ll present as white, which could indicate a tumor.

The second day was similar. There was a patient with no insurance who needed a colonoscopy; he would have bowel moments but blood would be the only thing that would be passed. He had had this problem for six years. It was upsetting because the procedure was so expensive without insurance that Dr. I was almost positive he wouldn’t get it done, which is the reason he didn’t do it three years ago. Dr. I set him up with the financial assistance department and said all we could do is hope for the best. He did have hemorrhoids so she treated him for those and gave him a stool softener so they wouldn’t get worse.

At one point we had a patient who had to decide if physical therapy or surgery was the right course of action. He decided that he would like to try physical therapy first since he didn’t like surgery, and Dr. I agreed with him. She said that sometimes spinal surgeries don’t completely fix the problem and they can lead to even more surgeries. That was another interesting thing I learned about that I probably never would have thought to ask!

We also had a child come in due to cellulitis on his toe. It had been going on for a while and the mum was putting neosporin on it constantly. Turns out that the neosporin was what was causing it since the child had developed an allergy to it. Dr. I’s attending explained to the patient’s mum that neosporin had an ingredient that when used too often leads to allergic reactions; she needed to stop using it in order for his toe to get better!

The last thing I asked Dr. I was what she wished she knew before starting residency. She told me that medicine felt a lot with business (insurance, marketing yourself to the patient so they would continue to see you, etc.) and that she wished she had taken a course on business management during college. She also said if you wanted to travel (with my kids) that I have to do it before med school; you don’t have time after that. You can wait until you graduate but you can’t take off to much time since your patients need you and they don’t want a doctor who will be gone 6 months. It was good advice, but I did tell her I was already 24 and I probably wouldn’t do it since I felt I had already lost enough time not knowing what I wanted to do.

In the end she set me up with another doctor so I can shadow him this summer. I gave her a thank you card but also told her how thankful I was for everything she’d done for me (since it wouldn’t fit in the card). She hugged me like 5 times and told me that although she’d be on the other side of the country to call her with any questions about med school and my application. She was very sweet about it and even told me she thought admission committees would love me and that I’d be accepted.

It was a great experience. I’m very lucky I was able to meet such a caring and ambitious doctor. If I can be half the doctor she is I would be happy.

Thanks for reading and I hope you found this post insightful and interesting. 🙂 I’ll be getting in touch with the doctor Dr. I set me up to shadow some more, so I’ll let you all know how that goes.

Wish me luck!

Andrea.

Pre-med

The Beginning of Summer

Hi everyone,

So final grades are in… straight A’s! My very first 4.0 in college! I was very excited when I found out. It was definitely a hard semester and I’m SO glad it’s over. As excited as I am about this 4.0, I’m also very nervous that I won’t be able to pull off another one I’m taking hard classes during the upcoming school-year, and I really don’t want med school admission committees to think I’m a bad student…

Now that I have literally nothing to do all summer, I’m looking for ways to keep myself entertained and still making progress in my pre-med journey. I was able to get a hold of my volunteer coordinator for hospice so I’ll be getting a new patient to go visit soon! I’m very excited because it’s been a year since I’ve had a patient. I also need to find another animal shelter to volunteer at; I miss being around furry little critters! I have two cats but I still miss being around kitties that need my help to find a home.

I’m also set to shadow the doctor that delivered my twins and became my friend along the way; I just have to get some blood work done that proves I had varicella so I can start. She’s finishing her residency soon, so I will only be able to shadow her for a short amount of time. Anything I can learn from her is appreciated though, so I’m excited.

That actually reminds me… I was able to attend a surgical conference in a city close to where I live this month. I went last year for the first time and I fell in love with it, probably because it had a neurology/neurosurgery theme. This year it was all about family practice and it was equally interesting. I learned a lot, but my favorite lecture covered Malaria. I honestly did not know anything beyond being transmitted by mosquitoes; I wish I could tell you about it with more detail, but it was a lunch lecture so I was not able to take notes and I don’t want to misquote anything. The one thing I know is that I came out of the lecture wishing I could do something to help get rid of it… but I think that happened with every disease they talked about ha ha.

Back to what I’ll be doing this summer… I wasn’t able to get a hold of my match specialist for Big Brothers Big Sisters before the program for the school I volunteered at ended for the year, so I’ll have to wait till September before I can rejoin the program. That’s okay though, because it’ll give me time to settle into the huge amount at least that’s what it feels like of extracurricular activities I take a part of!

As far as studying for the MCAT goes, I bought this book to start studying. I wanted a book that will go over the concepts as a review but also give me some practice tests and lots of examples. This one was the only one that had all of that at my local B&N, so I’m hoping it will be a good review. I eventually plan on buying this book once I’m done with the first one. I really need want a really high score, so I’m hoping the second review will help. I’ll let you guys know what I think of them as I work through them and if they were helpful/worth it. On top of all that, I really want to take a practice course in about six months. They’re really expensive though, so I’m not sure if I will be able to do it. I’m really nervous about this test… I had no idea that the highest score was a 528! 528?! Does anyone know what a “competitive” score is?! I know that you wanted to aim for at least a 30 in the last version, but I have no idea what it could be for this one. I think the fact that it’s a higher number makes me more nervous; I dunno if there’s a psychological reason behind it, but a 40 seemed easier to accomplished than a 528. Does anyone else feel this way, or am I crazy?

But anyway, the last thing on my to-do list for the summer… if you read a few of my entries from last year I talked about becoming a CNA. I finished the course and everything, but I wasn’t able to get certified due to my pregnancy. I have until October to become certified if I want to work in a hospital setting, so I’m going to start studying and take my certification exam as soon as possible. It’s been a while since class and clinicals,so I hope that most of it will be review and not re-learning everything… Ideally I would like to work at the hospital where I delivered because I loved their level of care and want to be in the type of environment where the patients are treated with utmost respect. I think I would enjoy working in postpartum, but I wouldn’t mind the NICU. I’d be happy anywhere though, so I really hope I’m good enough to work there!

That’s pretty much all I’m planning to do this summer, besides taking a vacation to my favorite state, Washington! I absolutely love the beach and the trees are beautiful. The rain is also very calming, so it’s just the perfect place for me. Oh, and they have stratovolcanoes! I’m kind of obsessed with volcanoes since I learned about them in geology last semester, so living next to them would be a dream as long as they don’t erupt. I tried getting a hold of their med school last year when I went to visit but I wasn’t able to, so I’m hoping to do that this year and see if it’s possible to take a tour or at least talk to someone in the administration to see what I need to do to be a strong candidate for their school. I’m extremely excited for this trip and I can’t wait to see all my friends! Washington feels more like home than the state I currently live in, so I always feel like I’m coming home when I travel there.

It’s going to be a great summer!

Wish me luck!

Andrea.

Pre-med

Spring Semester

Hi everyone!

Sorry I’ve been MIA for such a long time. I had to deal with the end of the semester, planning the classes for this semester, and dealing with the high probability of something happening to my sons before they’re born.

I guess I should start with how last semester went. Besides being extremely exhausted and not been able to volunteer (I quit the shelter due to my pregnancy, I haven’t had another hospice patient, and I’m still waiting for another little to mentor), classes went great. I ended up with an B+ on my Stats class and an A in the rest of my classes. I was so thankful to be able to finish the semester; I was worried I was going to have to take Incompletes if my sons had to be delivered at 24 weeks (two weeks before the end of the semester). It might not seem like a big deal, but to me it was a huge accomplishment to finish and to do well.

Spring semester started today. I’m taking all online classes since I’m not allowed to leave the hospital. Although I understand why I’m not allowed to leave, it’s really annoying. I’m stuck taking lower level classes and re-taking a class I didn’t do well on during my first year in college. I can’t move forward with my pre-med classes since the ones I need aren’t being offered online. Even if they were, I’m not sure I would want to take them; I do better when I’m learning from a professor than from a book. I am, however, taking an individualized instruction class with my Neuroscience professor from last semester. I’ve picked a topic and I’ll be researching it and writing a paper on it. If I can gather enough info on the topic I’m hoping to be able to conduct a research project on it. I’m really excited about it, so I hope I do well.

I’ve been currently staying at the hospital since December 26th. Everything has gone well so far, but it is not easy being stuck in a hospital when you feel perfectly fine. The staff is fantastic; all the nurses and CNAs are very nice and attentive and the doctors (I’ve lost count of how many different ones I’ve seen) are very reassuring when it comes to the results of the NSTs (fetal non-stress test) I get twice a day. It’s really interesting to see how the whole healthcare team comes together. You can tell the difference between first year residents from the fourth year residents, and you can definitely tell the difference between the residents and the experienced physicians. The perinatologists and the laborists are very matter-of-fact and more relaxed; they go through their routine questions and throw in some jokes while they talk to you. The fourth year residents are very nice, knowledgeable, and I feel more comfortable with them. I think it’s because they are exactly where I wish to be in the future. The first year residents are also very nice, but they always seem nervous, especially when they ask me if I have questions. I haven’t asked them any so far, but I’m worried that they might pass out if I do.

I think the funniest thing about it is that I’m not their typical patient. Besides having mono/mono twins, I’ve asked them if I can volunteer, shadow, and exercise while I’m here. Everyone seems so surprised when I ask… and they all laugh about it. Usually, patients that stay in the hospital for long periods of time are unable to do much but stay in bed, so the fact that a pregnant woman wants to exercise and do something productive like shadowing is hilarious to them. They’ve all been great though; they’ve found a way to get me gym benefits and they’re all excited to have me shadow them. I have to go talk to the person in charge of students shadowing, but I’m hoping to be able to do that this week. I know that it doesn’t count if we shadow residents, but I think I could use that experience for my personal statement. It will be interesting to see how residents act with their patients vs. how experienced physicians act.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. I’m not particularly excited to be taking classes that aren’t pre-med related, but it’s better than taking a semester off. I know that it’s going to be a hard few months after the boys are born, but I think I would go crazy if I stopped studying. Being in the hospital as a patient is not fun either, but it gives me insight on how patients feel when they’re here. I think it will help with my bedside manner, and for that I am thankful. You can learn about being in the healthcare industry just by being the patient, which is something I hadn’t considered before.

I know this is exactly where I’m supposed to be. This is not a set back; it’s merely a detour. A crazy, wonderful detour that I know will make me stronger as a person and as an applicant.

Wish me luck!

Andrea.

Life, Pre-med, Volunteering

Change is Hard

Hi everyone!

I wanted to do something different today. I want to tell you guys a little bit about what’s going on for my life. I figured it’s still pre-med related, so I hope you all won’t mind. 🙂

I think I mentioned that I was starting a CNA program. I’m halfway done with it and it’s only been a week! 🙂 My instructor told me I was going through the course really fast, but I feel like I’m behind. I’m excited though; I think it’ll be a great opportunity for me to get some hands on experience with patients. There are a few things I’ve learned about that I’m not sure I’m comfortable with, but I’m sure once I get to do them they won’t be so bad. I’m hoping to start working on a hospital after I get certified, but I’m a little worried about working and going to school. I normally wouldn’t mind, since I’ve done it before, but I’m re-taking O-Chem I and I really don’t want to mess it up again. I guess I’ll have to put that fear aside and just push through it; I know if I concentrate enough and try I can make it work. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

There’s also something that’s been on my mind for a few weeks. I mentioned in my Volunteer post that I’ve been with an animal shelter for four years and that I truly enjoyed what I was doing. It’s recently become very obvious that I cannot keep volunteering with them. They are a wonderful organization and they take care of their animals, but I don’t think they take me very seriously when I say I need help. My volunteer hours have also not been confirmed with my school, which is upsetting. I ultimately want to do what’s better for the cats, but I’m afraid there’s nothing else I can do. It’s a truly heartbreaking decision, but I feel it’s the right one for me at this point. I know I’m not giving you guys the full details of why I’m leaving, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to tell everyone what’s going on with the shelter. I’ve found another animal shelter I want to volunteer at; they have a kitten nursery and I think that would be a lot of fun. I will probably only do it once or twice a month, which will leave me with plenty of time to study while still satisfying my need to help animals.

I also mentioned I was doing volunteer work with a hospice. I enjoy doing it, but I’m going to find a different hospice patient. My current one was okay, but two weeks ago she started hitting me while I was reading to her, and it was kind of scary. I feel kind of guilty for having to tell my volunteer coordinator that I didn’t feel comfortable being around her anymore. The scary part wasn’t the hitting, but the yelling. She has a mental disorder, which made it hard to calm her down. She kept repeating the same words over and over and it scared me because I didn’t know what to do or how to help her. I hope it doesn’t make me a bad person for wanting to volunteer with another patient, and I know I’ll have more patients like this in the future, but at this point in my life I’m not feeling too comfortable with it.

A lot of doors are opening, but a lot of doors are closing. It’s a hard transition for me, but I’m hoping it will work out for the better. Change can be difficult, but that’s what life is all about. All we can really do is hold on, work hard, and keep trying.

Wish me luck!

Andrea.

Physician Shadowing, Pre-med

Physician Shadowing II

Hi everyone!

I meant to write this almost two weeks ago, but life got a little crazy. Hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July if you live in the States!

I went back to shadow Dr. O two Mondays ago. It was very slow day, but it was still interesting. They were mostly wellness checks, but there were a few ear infections too. The hardest thing was getting the kids to hold still long enough for the doctor to check their ears; I think there was only one kid that stayed completely calm. Dr. O told the mums that ear infections in children under two don’t usually go away on their own, so they would need antibiotics.

He also had a patient that had severe ADHD. He was only three years old, which was really interesting and surprising to me. I’m a psych major, so I know quite a bit about mental illness, but I had no idea children could get it as young as two or three. Dr. O let me know that he was the most severe case he had ever seen before we went into the room, but when we walked in, the little kid was just standing around quietly. He felt so sick that he was really mellowed out, walking up to his mum and sitting on her lap. Dr. O said he had never seen him that calm before; he was kind of in shock. He also ended up having an ear infections.

This is what I asked him this time.

– What’s your least favorite thing to do?
“I really dislike the psych patients. It’s just really sad.”

– What about paperwork?
“It’s not as bad compared to Family Practice, since they have more patients and labs. As long as I don’t get behind, it’s pretty easy to keep up with it. If I get behind, I tend to let it pile it on until it gets out of control. When that happens, I have to come in during the weekend and have a paperwork marathon; I just sit down and do five hours of paperwork. I can stay caught up for a while after that, but I get behind again after a few weeks.”

So that was it! It was a pretty slow day so we spent a majority of the time sitting down. If you have any suggestions for questions I should ask, let me know! I’m running out of questions to ask and I could use some ideas! 🙂 I’ll be going back next Friday for another few hours of shadowing!

Wish me luck!

Andrea.

Volunteering

Volunteering

Hi everyone!

Today I want to talk about volunteering; if you don’t already know, you have to do it! You can’t prove you want to be a doctor if you don’t devote your very limited time to patients without expecting anything in return. I don’t think you should do it just because your application requires it though; it’s a great experience and you can learn so much from others! It’s very humbling and completely addicting; I want to volunteer for the rest of my life. 🙂

According to the medical school in my state, you need a minimum of 36 hours in the past four years, and an average of 48 hours during each of the 4 years prior to attending medical school. If you think it sounds like a lot, relax! It’s not a lot and it’s definitely not hard. At the beginning of 2013, I had at least 250 hours; I’m probably over 400 hours by now, but I haven’t checked the school records lately. I’ll let you know when I find out!

So let me tell you what I do for volunteering!

I started volunteering at an animal shelter back in 2010, helping them clean after the cats at a pet store while they wait to get adopted. In 2012, when a new store opened, I became in charge of the cats at that store. I was cleaning up after them every day and I was in charge of the adoptions. Besides cleaning up, loving on them, and playing with them, I get to switch out the cats once they’ve been at the store for too long. It’s fun going in to see the kitties at the shelter; we have a big cat room where all our kitties run around. If you ever feel down, all you have to do is walk into that room! You’re immediately surrounded by a ton of cats ready to love on you!

As of January of this year, my responsibilities only include taking care of the cats at the store twice a week. I don’t work, and the store is half an hour away from my house, so I couldn’t afford the gas anymore. Taking O-Chem and having to study 24/7 didn’t help either, but I didn’t quit doing it. We found some other volunteers to take care of the cats during the week and I take care of them on Fridays and Saturdays. I still get to do adoptions, answer questions about the cats, and switch them out when they’ve been there too long or get sick. The adoptions are my favorite thing to do though; it’s a very happy day when an animal finds a forever home! And yes, I AM an animal lover. 🙂

Even though I’m volunteering with animals, you CAN learn a lot about people. I think I mentioned it on my first post, but you have to learn how to read people when you’re doing adoptions; you need to make sure you don’t put the animals in a dangerous situation. You also have to learn to deal with rude customers and make sure you don’t lose your temper. This can be really hard to do, but I think it’s something that doctors need to master. Not surprisingly, I learned that the hard way.

I was doing an adoption of a cute little kitten to a young woman. She was very sweet and had lost her pet recently, so she was looking for something else to love. She had brought her mother-in-law, who was crying hysterically. She was in such pain that she would yell at her husband and daughter-in-law because it took too long to sign the paperwork; it doesn’t take more than five minutes. I told the future cat owner that she needed something to keep the kitten in while in the car, so she said she was going to buy a kennel. I let her know that we could try to get her a box from the back of the store so she didn’t have to spend money on it. She needed to buy a carrier anyway, so she went to look for one when her mother-in-law started telling her it was a waste money. I didn’t want the mother-in-law yelling at her, so I went to ask one of the store managers to grab a box from the back. He thought I was talking about one of the boxes you can buy for $10, and when he mentioned it, the mother-in-law went ballistic. She started complaining about being over-charged for the kitten; she was $75, which is a donation to our shelter that covers the cost of the vaccines, microchip, and spaying of the kitten. After about five minutes of heated discussion, the manager said he wasn’t charging her for the cat; I was, since I’m the rep for the shelter.

I’ve never had someone yell at me and treat me so badly that I was afraid of my physical well=being. She started yelling about how horrible we were for charging her daughter-in-law so much and that they could go somewhere else to adopt a cat for free; they didn’t need to give me their business. This continued for a good ten minutes while everyone in the store stopped and stared. When I finally got a word in, I tried to explain to her that I was trying to get her a free box from the back; I then turned to the manager and asked him if he could grab one. Her husband and daughter-in-law were mortified, apologizing over and over and saying she had no right to yell at me. The daughter-in-law was almost in tears, but I knew she would give the cat a great home, so I assured her that I wouldn’t deny the adoption. A few minutes later, they left the store. The lady never apologized, but she was pretty happy by the time they left the store with a brand-new kitten.

The whole time I was being yelled at, I was panicking on the inside. I suffer from panic attacks, and having someone treat me the way she did was definitely a trigger. However, there was only one thing going through my mind; I don’t know if that’s the way she normally is. She wasn’t acting that way because she was a horrible person; she was acting that way because she was hurt by the loss of their pet. I knew it wouldn’t help to yell at her, so instead I tried to comfort her and let her know I understood why she was angry; I reassured her that I wasn’t trying to over-charge her. I explained where the money adopted fee went and that I didn’t think they should be charged for a box, which is why I was getting one that had been used to hold canned dog food. It was a very hard situation, but I felt that I handled it very professionally, never raising my voice at her.

I don’t know what it’s going to be like dealing with patients or their families, but I imagine that at some point someone will feel the need to yell at me out of desperation. The most important thing is to not take it personally and to keep calm; yelling at them or trying to prove them wrong won’t solve anything and will make it worse. If it does happen, I hope I can recall this incident and remind myself to keep calm; yelling never solves anything.

That’s probably the most intense thing I’ve learned from volunteering at the shelter. I don’t think I would’ve had a chance to learn this anywhere else, so I’m thankful for the experience.

I also volunteer at Big Brothers Big Sisters, but I’m using those for a different area of my application, so I’ll write about that experience in a different post. 🙂 I also volunteer at a hospice, but I’ve been using that for my patient exposure. You might read about that in a future “Volunteering” post though, since I’m starting a CNA program on Monday and I hope to use my future job experience as my patient exposure instead. I’ll let you know in a few months. 🙂

Let me know if there’s anything else you want to know about my volunteering! Keep in mind that variety is important, so it’s a good idea to have different experiences with different organizations. Make sure you have one you’ve volunteered with consistently for at least a year; my advisor says medical schools like people who are committed.

I’m thinking about posting about what I do every time I volunteer, but there’s not much variety in them, so it might get a little boring. You learn something knew every day though, so it might be cool to write down one thing I’ve learned from every experience. Guess we’ll see. 🙂

Wish me luck!

Andrea.

Physician Shadowing

Physician Shadowing

Hi everyone!

Sorry for the late post; I’ve been busy shadowing and taking care of my sick husband and kitten. 😦

Anyway, let me tell you about my shadowing! I shadowed a Pediatrician on Monday and Tuesday for a total of 8 hours. I will be going back on Monday for another four hours and I’m very excited!

Monday was pretty slow and “not very exciting” according to Dr. O (which is what we’ll call him). They were mostly wellness checks, and the kids weren’t very loud. Even the babies he saw were pretty mellow. The first patients were a set of twins that were two weeks old. One of the twins had pyloric stenosis (a narrowing of the pylorus, which is the opening from the stomach into the small intestine), so he had surgery to correct it. The mum had told me that it was scary before they found out what he had because he was spitting up all his milk and he dropped about 5 pounds in about a day. It had been a few days since the surgery, so the baby was eating well and he had gained weight.

Another thing we saw a lot of were “crooked heads” like Dr. O called them. A baby would favor laying their head on one side vs. the other, so the part that is always touching the surface gets flat and their forehead pokes out a little bit. It can usually correct itself by stretching the baby’s neck and/or propping them up with a cloth so they lay their head on the side they don’t favor. They keep an eye on it and if they get older and the problem doesn’t correct itself, the baby needs to get a helmet.

I asked him two questions while I was there on Monday.

– Do you see parents that don’t want to vaccinate their kids? And if so, how do you handle it?
“Most parents want to vaccinate their kids. Sometimes they get worried that giving them three shots at a time is too much, so they space them out. I don’t mind slowing them down as long as they get their vaccines by the time they’re two. The kids don’t like it as much because they have to come in three different times to get their shots rather than all at once, but it gives the parents peace of mind.”

– Why did you choose pediatrics?
“The rotation was great; you tend to like the rotations where you’re treated like a person. The doctors were very nice and they were willing to help, unlike the surgery rotations where they treated you like you’re an idiot. You’ll find out very early on if you want to work with kids or not, and I decided early on that I liked working with kids. Children also don’t cause their own problems; I remember going to a clinic once and seeing people in a wheelchair, with their oxygen tank next to them, and they were smoking. Kids don’t do things like that, so that’s also why I chose pediatrics.”

Tuesday was a lot more exciting. It was very busy; almost no time to check the score/goals of the World Cup (Dr. O is a huge soccer football fan.) They were mostly wellness checks, but he also got to perform a circumcision and check out a psychiatric patient. The circumcision surprised me, because I didn’t know you could do it at a clinic. It was very interesting to watch, and the baby didn’t seem to mind it. He only got mad when his pacifier fell out, but he stopped crying immediately after the MA put it back on his mouth (the cherry syrup they gave him to keep him calm also helped). Dr. O explained the whole procedure as he was performing it, for my sake as well as the baby’s father who decided to watch it with us. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my notepad with me, so I didn’t take notes.

We also saw a two-week old baby that had a curly toe; this means the toe was curling underneath the toe next to it. Since it was one of the outside toes, Dr. O told the parents that he wasn’t very concerned; they usually fix themselves. However, if it doesn’t, she will probably need surgery when she’s five years old. He also said he usually notices them when T-ball try-outs start and kids try to run in a straight line and they end up falling over.

We also saw another baby for a wellness check, I think she was about a year old, and he showed me a hemangioma (birthmark composed of blood vessels) she had in her back. Dr. O said they usually disappear on their own and that they’re not something he worries about unless they’re in a sensitive area, like the eyes or inside of the nose.

He also had a patient that broke her wrist, but he put the cast all the way up to her elbow to stop her from twisting her arm too much. He had told her that if she did well with it and took care of it, he would cut it down below her elbow. So I watched him cut down the cast; I found it really cool that the saw didn’t cut skin; he touched it to show the girl so she wouldn’t be scared. He said the trick is to not let it get too hot; you go in and out rather than just cut straight through, otherwise the saw gets hot and the patient becomes uncomfortable. The patient was very happy that her elbow was finally free. 🙂

Another thing we saw was a little girl with nurse maid’s elbow, which is a dislocation of the radius. She had been playing with her brothers and they had been swinging her around before throwing her on the couch. Dr. O simply popped it back into place and gave the little girl a few minutes to see if she would use her arm again. After we went back in, she was happily looking through books and using her previously injured arm to hold up a lollipop Dr. O had given her before leaving. He said it was one of his favorite things to see, because he could fix it almost immediately.

I only had one question for him this time.

– Why is it called a nurse maid’s elbow?
“It had something to do with what the nurse maid’s would do, but I can’t remember what it was.”
I told him I would Google it and let him know the next time I saw him, so here’s the answer according to the first page Google came up with: “It was named for nursemaids who would care for children and they would often yank their arm if they tried to run into the street or run away.”

So there you go! I’m looking forward to keep shadowing him; I like working with kids. I don’t really mind the screaming either; I think I could do this full-time. 🙂

Oh, if you guys have any questions you’d like me to ask Dr. O, let me know!

Wish me luck!

Andrea.