Sunday, 22 April 2012

I want to fail

Before I go much further, I should update this, that I failed one of the final exams this year. Taking the title of this blog literally – trying, but not succeeding, to be a medical student…

It was a big deal at the time (I wrote a blogpost about it in my head, entitled [insert list of expletives here] because that was how it felt) and a big stress involving an appeals process relating to a “procedural error” during the exam, which was not in any way caused by me but impacted considerably on me (and only me). The appeal took two months, but was eventually as successful as it was ever going to be (not necessarily as successful as I’d have liked) and I’m allowed to take the re-take as though it’s my first attempt. This has no effect on the actual resit itself, but means that if I fail it, the medical school won’t be able to kick me out as they otherwise might have been able to. It guarantees me a third go, were I to need one. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that, it’s already dragged on long enough.

So the advantage of this appeal result for now is simply in stress management – I should be less stressed going into it knowing that it’s not my last attempt, not a sudden death situation. And should therefore be more likely to do ok, at least that’s the theory.
(The other advantage is that it could, just possibly, be perceived as the medical school admitting responsibility for the “error” – which has not happened so far, and has not explicitly been said (quite the opposite, I was told it was one examiner’s fault and therefore not the medical school’s responsibility) but perhaps this appeal indicates that it was their responsibility. An apology would have been nice too, but I won’t ask for miracles.)

The re-take will be a three and a half hour long practical exam (as was the first one) at some point in June; I don’t anticipate finding out when any time soon – that would be far too useful.

So I have four final exams in the next four weeks, culminating in the massive scary practical one that expects me to know everything and prove I’m good enough to be a doctor. Which I’m not (obviously). Not yet anyway.
And then around four to six weeks after that, I’ve got the re-take of the one I’ve failed. Which is equally as big, but probably requires a bit less knowledge, and is re-learning what I learnt last time, rather than just learning, which is what I’m currently doing. And since I failed it by 3% last time, my chances can’t be too bad. And then about three weeks after the last exam (or medical placement or other medical school commitment, whichever comes later) I start work. I do six days of shadowing the junior doctor I’m going to take over from, and then on the 1st of August, same day as all the other junior doctors in the country, I start working properly.

Back to now: I very much wanted to pass all the exams in January. But this time around, I’m not sure if I care. Or even, I can see the benefits of not passing.
It would at least mean I get a break. If I fail something in May, if it’s a minor thing I might be able to re-take it in June with the other one. If it’s the major one I have to re-take in November, or re-take the year. If I fail more than one, I definitely re-take the year. Re-taking the year would not be fun – I haven’t particularly enjoyed it first time around, but I do have some friends in the year below (including a very good friend who is lovely), and I’d get through it, and maybe it would be good to understand what I’m seeing in practice, rather the see it and then understand later when it comes to revision/learning. Though that didn't apply to everything.

But the most important bit: if I failed in May and had to re-take the year, I would have no commitments between May and re-starting the year at the end of August. Three months with nothing. No commitments, nothing, just time to re-learn how to be a human being rather than a vile, miserable stressbag that is set to implode at any second. I like the idea of being a human being.

I know I said that I get three weeks off between end of exams and commitments, and starting work. Plenty of people could say that I’m lucky to get three weeks, that’s as much holiday as they get all year (and it’s not the only holiday I’ll get – I imagine I’ll have at least two weeks holiday from the job before the end of this calendar year). But those three weeks won’t fully be holiday. I’ll still be stressed for at least one week of it, or however long it takes for the medical school to give me my results. And I’ll be moving house, moving cities and finding somewhere to move to if I haven’t already found it by then. I’ll be moving away from the other half, which will be sad as it’s been quite nice living together again these last 6 months. Nice for me, not for him – I wouldn’t want to live with me at the moment.

So let’s say I get two weeks between getting my results saying I’ve passed and am allowed to be a proper doctor, and starting work. And though I intend to holiday then, though not quite sure of the details since other half’s job does not allow holiday in July or August (bit of a bummer when the only time properly off I’ve had this year has been one week in January and the three weeks in July. But a job is a job, so cannot complain), those two weeks will have some elements of stress to them.

For those that think that students doss around and being a student is a perpetual holiday, 2012 has mapped out thus: January – massive revision, final exams, one week off. February and March – full-time placements (full-time being around 8.30 til anytime between 3 and 8, minimum 4.5 days a week), three pieces of horrible written coursework case reports, compiling the horrendous and enormous student formulary, which is just a giant list of 180 drugs and everything you might want to know about them, and completing all the clinical skills for the year. Which I made difficult for myself by losing my skills book in December, and having to start all over again in February. April – one week of placement, one week full-time revision (“vacation” is a lie), two weeks organised revision with lectures etc, then final exams. May – final exams, one week off, which isn’t really when you have a re-take in June looming, then placements and/or intensive revision for the re-take. June – more intensive revision, re-take final exam, then more placements as required. I hope that makes clear that my requirement for some actual time off is not me being pathetic. The only time off I’ll have had all year, the only time off since August last year, was one week in January. Not enough to maintain sanity.

Anyway, my main point is that two weeks is unlikely to be enough to re-learn how to be a human being. Or to fully catch up on sleep and learn how to sleep properly again (I can't remember when I last had a good night's sleep). Especially not two weeks involving moving house and beginning to become slightly petrified about actually having people’s lives as my responsibility.

So failing and having three months off becomes more and more appealing. Which might explain my total and complete lack of motivation for revision and working and any kind of real exam preparation.

The other possibility is failing the big one and re-taking it in November, which would give me five months between the last June exam and the re-take in November, a little time to re-gain my sense of human. And the best bit – no commitments between November and the following July. Seven+ months in which to go nuts and have a great time, go travelling, well and truly re-learn how to be a human being and maybe even how to be a good one. Put it into practice.

The only reason not to go ahead with this genius plan is that I’d lose my academic foundation programme. Which is potentially my passport to whatever post-graduate training I want, and an overall good career. Seems a shame to forgo that. There’s also the issue that I’d have to do all of the exams all over again, but I think doing them a year later (or even five months later with the November option) and with some pre-existing knowledge, I’d stand a much better chance.

Maybe the academic place is a good thing, as it’s the only thing really keeping me going. Though it’s not doing a very good job of that at all, since I’ve been averaging less than two hours work a day this week. Admittedly there have been some revision lectures, and I spent yesterday at a revision course (watch this space for a review) but even so, an hour or two a day is pathetic. And nowhere near enough to pass the big ones.

But despite the incentive of the academic place, I can’t really bring myself to care. I imagine if I do fail, I’ll look back at this post with great regret and think about what an idiot I was. Whilst enjoying my three month long holiday, becoming a better person, and having a great time…

Maybe this is all just because I can’t in any way envisage myself passing (the last time I passed all my exams including practical ones was four years ago, and I’ve got a lot less good since then), so rather than dwelling on that negative, I’m looking for the silver linings in the, what currently feels inevitable, failure. It’s a shame the silver linings seem so tempting.
And that the academic programme isn’t as much of a carrot as I had hoped. Anyone have any tips on where to find motivation when all you need is some time off? I’ve already tried down the back of the sofa, and it wasn’t there.

(Feels a bit silly asking for tips, when no one's ever commented on anything in the year and a half history of this blog... maybe I need to find some readers, an audience. If you've read this, share it?)

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