Thursday, March 22, 2012

One test stands between me and a week of (relative) relaxation

I reconnected with a friend I hadn't spoken to in ages and he said that he'd recently thought about a project he critiqued for me and asked me how it was going. And it isn't going. It is on pause. I miss having a creative outlet sometimes but the trade off has been worth it. I knew going into school that it was going to take priority over hobbies, but that the is nature of higher education not just this field of study.

Hopefully my children are paying attention and they notice how much work higher education can be some days so they can figure out that it is easier to do it when you go straight through... high school -> college -> professional school or whatever they end up doing. I can't even complain about my situation because this is what I am doing full time. I have friends who are working 40 hours a week, dealing with a lot more going on in their lives, and going to school. It would get psychologically exhausting but they keep doing it, they keep working every semester for years.

At least for us we have a finite time frame. We have the three major units of the didactic year (Molecules and Cells, Normal Body, and Body and Disease) which breaks the year up into more manageable chunks, as well as our January Intersession that gives us a taste of rotation. I'm glad that our program starts us out as early as it does with surg path and continues it through the rest of the first year.  It would be strange to have to wait through the entire didactic year to get to start grossing. I have to wonder how other programs handle it, I never thought to ask any of the PAs I worked with before. Any of my readers want to chime in? You can stay anonymous if you want ;-)

I had surg path yesterday afternoon, it always puts me in a good mood! Our group works well together and we managed to finish all of our specimens early, which is helpful in a week where we have two tests. I feel bad for the medical students this week! We only have toxicology (2 lectures) and environmental pathology (3 lectures) while they have those lectures plus 300 antibiotics to memorize and the chemotherapy lectures. Since we didn't have to worry about the antibiotics, etc we've been able to study ahead all week. At least everyone has all of today to study (there was only one class scheduled this morning but it is was a non-mandatory Q&A session) as well as tomorrow morning (the test starts at 11).

I did have a frustrating moment this morning. I've been focusing on my Robbins this week and finally got around to streaming the lectures last night (they were funny! But I am biased and always think the pathology lecturers are the best... although the chemo guy was pretty good too). I normally take my IRA right after I watch my lectures since everything is still fresh in my mind but wanted to do it this morning to kick start my early morning studying. So I took the kids to school, came home, looked over the annotated powerpoints and went to take my IRA about a half hour before it closed at 9 and found out my internet was down :( I've never missed an IRA before, especially not a pathology one! Sad. I thought about driving to campus and taking it in my car but I wasn't sure if I could get wifi in the parking garage and the drive to campus time + the get to somewhere I know I would have wifi time would have pushed me just over the time the IRA was cut off.


  1. I agree entirely with your thoughts on higher education being much harder when you take a break part way through. I took four years off between my Master's and med school, and I find that I'm longing for the days when I just had to work 9 to 5 and had the rest of my life to myself. It's hard to be in one's thirties and STILL in school when everyone around you seems to be done with school and moving on with their lives.

    Hope you have a great week off and get a good mental break from school.

    1. What was the age range like in your med school class, if you don't mind me asking?

      OMG, just having to put in 40 hours a week would be AMAZING! Do you remember having weekends where you didn't really have anything to do? Those were nice.

  2. I actually think "harder" is relative. In my 20's I had little money, even less self-confidence, and pretty much hated everything I had to do to support myself, outside of research. In my 40's, money isn't the concern it was in my 20's, I have the best kid ever to remind of what's REALLY important, and I'm feeling pretty good about myself too!!

    Personally, I haven't had a moment where I wished to be in my 20's or 30's again and that's WITH bad knees, LOL!!! That said, I DO tell my daughter to get her education over with ASAP, but not for any negative reason associated with doing it later in life. I just happen to believe that we all come into ourselves at different stages in life and that we're VERY fortunate to live in a country where we can pretty much do what we want at ANY age, within reason. Plus I know so many people who are miserable for what they have settled for career wise in life and I'd NEVER want to be them no matter how "successful" they appear to be.

    Okay, I guess I'll dismount my soap box now! Enjoy your break, you DESERVE it!

    1. I think too that as older students we've had a lot more time to get to know ourselves and to make the decision to go back to school because we want to and not just because it is expected of us.

      It is good that your daughter has you as an example. Even if she doesn't go straight through, you're proving that it is possible to go back.


  3. "It's hard to be in one's thirties and STILL in school when everyone around you seems to be done with school and moving on with their lives."

    I agree with Apop that the above statement is relative. It's actually rather easy to still be in school during your 30s if you have no pressing priorities or responsibilities (raising and/or wanting a family is a KILLER to personal progress, no matter which way you look at it). Sure it's nice, and you can definitely accomplish what you set out to do, but having a family puts a definite amount of pressure on you...there's no way around that. It can also delay everything...perhaps indefinitely in some cases.

    Thankfully, I'm single, and I can care less about putting any progeny on this planet. At the rate human society is going, I'm actually doing the entire world a favor by not reproducing. God forbid I'd want my child exposed to all this garbage! So with that said, I'm definitely looking forward to pursuing med school after I get my P.A. master's degree.

    Even if I'm 33 or 34 when I start med school, WHO CARES?! Do you think I really care if everyone around me seems to be done with school and moving on with their lives? No. Do I care if every single student in my med school classes is in their early 20s while I may be in my mid-30s? Not at all! If anything, I'd be seen as the "older and wiser" student....a role model of sorts. At least that's how I look at it....and besides, I don't look like I'm almost 30. The older I'm getting, the younger I'm looking (which is really weird because I looked like I was in my 60s in high school!). Funny how the genes work sometimes...

    1. Do you know what your PA program classmates are going to be like age-wise?

      It is good that you don't have conflicts in terms of educational goals/life goals, it'll let you stay more focused. I already had the kids by the time I received my bachelors so I knew that they were going to be part of any additional educational experiences.

      Congrats on the good genes.

    2. Very good question. I honestly don't know. The ages were not given out to anybody when the director sent out the class list. Only the full names, e-mail addresses, and our hometowns were listed. What I do know is that one classmate I'm regularly in touch with is 26 (a little younger than me). As for the rest of the class, I have no idea.

      But speaking of my class, what's really interesting is that there are 10 females and 2 males making up the class. I'm noticing such a huge influx of women into this field (and I've heard sometime ago that that's the case these days). My class roster is proof enough of that, haha. My classmate actually gave me some good insight into why that may be the case. She told me that women like the P.A. profession because of the flexibility it affords, and it gives them time to have kids and raise a family. I would agree with that assessment, totally. Makes a lot of sense to me.

      As for me personally, there's no way I can stop at the P.A. level. I see (and call) myself an Assistant Pathologist rather than a Pathologist's Assistant. That's just how I feel about the profession. It didn't take me long to realize that the pathologist and myself are equals on a personal (and intellectual) level. The only difference separating myself from them is additional years of education, training, and licensing.

      Looking back on my post-bachelor's degree P.A. years, I really felt personally under-appreciated...mostly due to my lack of certification in the field. That fact really affected my attitude on the job as well. With a Master's degree and certification, sure it will bring closure to the credentialing aspect of the P.A. profession, but I'll still be doing the "same old stuff on the same old level." That's not good enough for me at all. I need to play a more direct and responsible role in patient health, and becoming a full-fledged pathologist is the only way to go. My full signature has to be on the patient's diagnostic reports (and I'm not going to settle for only two initials at the end of the gross description anymore). Besides that, histology is one of my favorite subjects ever, and I'm excellent at identifying cellular arrangements and recognizing patterns (big picture vs. detailed).

      All this P.A. Master's degree will give me is job security, which is a MAJOR plus. Just off my bachelor's degree, there's no way that I could get the job I want.

  4. In response to starting rotations during the second year: Yes, my program starts us out with a didactic year, including a one week rotation in surg path, per person/per semester. Now that I am well into my 2nd year rotations, I originally found it very difficult getting started. We had an anatomic techniques course our first semester, starting in January; but then really did not apply what we had studied until the following January. I felt ridiculous going into rotations, starting out with a gallbladder specimen, and having to pull out my manual, thinking: Ok, step one... Of course I am really enjoying it now, and quickly getting up to speed; however, it think it would have been great to at least be familiar with biopsies and simple specimens before starting the second year. That being said, I am sure that our (class as a whole) grossing skills, problem solving abilities and speed will be up to par by the end of this year. And that is the main goal!

    1. Wow, you had to do that for a gall bladder specimen? I don't blame you when first starting out. Although I consider myself to be an intermediate to somewhat advanced practitioner of specimen grossing, what you just described brings back memories for me of what it was like when I first started grossing! Wow...what a flashback!

      Honestly, the hardest thing for me was trying to dictate with the foot-pedal machine! I kept stumbling over words and had horrible foot-mouth coordination in the very beginning. With regard to memorizing templates and specimen grossing, the verbiage just started flowing like butter for me, and every single specimen you gross has a consistent theme that's the same for EVERY specimen....the only difference being cancerous vs. non-cancerous specimens. Exclusively, they're obviously treated differently, but all cancer specimens are treated equally, as are all non-cancer specimens (for the MOST part with slight variations).

      When I start my 2nd year rotations, I was told that I'll be placed in "more advanced" rotations so that I can see the GOOD stuff. That was a very smart idea that my course director proposed to me. So far, I'm confident enough to bypass learning about all types of biopsies and small to medium specimens (gallbladders, appendices, lipomas, hernia sacs, placentas, skin ellipses, etc.). I'll relearn the fibroid uterus in one or two viewings (complete with bilateral tubes & ovaries) problem. That one is relatively easy, yet it's a big time consumer for me.

      What I REALLY have to re-learn (and learn down-pat) are autopsies, uterine cancer specimens (endometrial CA mainly), colon cancers, mastectomies (lumpectomies can use some brief review, too...especially the ones with clearly delineated sutures), prostatectomies, dissection of the blood vessels for leg amputations, and other rarities (radical necks, vulvectomies, etc...if I even see any of those...I remember seeing only one radical neck dissection before, and the pathologist did that himself.). So with all that said, Dr. D is READY!!

      Good luck to everybody in starting your 1st year, 2nd year, or graduation!

    2. Forgot to mention thyroidectomies and frozen sections in the need-to-relearn list! lol :D