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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Tips for medical students: How to Survive Lectures

Now, I don't remember very much about lectures in medical school, because to be perfectly honest, I was asleep during most of them.

With all the dim lighting, the comfortable high backed cushioned chairs, the soothing hum of the lecturer's voice, I just couldn't stay awake. Not for lack of trying, mind you. I did try sleeping early the night before, drinking caffiene-laden concoctions, avoiding starchy foods, sitting right in front of the lecturer, wearing uncomfortable underwear, getting a friend to jab me in the eye every few minutes...oh, everything I could think of besides sewing my eyelids to my eyebrows.


Unfortunately, the minute the lights dimmed and the powerpoint presentation began, my head would sink back against the headrest and I would be away with the fairies before the second slide. I would then shake myself out of my slumber about 45 minutes later, just in time for the concluding slide with the humourous cartoon, readjust my notes (now covered in doodles by my amused classmates) and prepare myself for another 45 minute snooze.

I became adept at avoiding getting picked on to answer questions during the lectures, like a sleeping ninja. And now, I will pass on to you my secret skills.

1. Pick your position carefully. Lecturers tend to look up and out towards the middle and back of the theatre in order to achieve better voice projection, so you will be just out of range of their gaze if you sit in the front third of the room. The first two rows in my lecture theatre were usually empty, and I used to sit around the fourth row, right in front of the lecturer and then fall fast asleep.

2. Avoid sitting near or underneath the lights. The human eye, being lazy, tends to be drawn towards the light, especially in a dimly lit room. You want to avoid sitting where attention will be drawn to you by pool of brightness, making you glow like a beacon in the dark. Even in a brightly lit room, there are still dim areas, especially (surprisingly) towards the middle.

3. Stick to clean, understated fashions. You want to avoid drawing attention to yourself, so stay away from bright, warm colours, fancy headdresses and merchandise with big readable slogans. Otherwise, the lecturer will immediately mentally label you as 'Red shirt guy', 'Shaggy goatee guy', 'Yellow hairband girl' and pick on you. Additionally, do not sit near anyone who is foolhardy enough to be so conspicuous, or you will risk being subconsciously mapped as 'Person sitting behind the Washington Redskins cap', 'Person next to Power Rangers, Go!.


4. Have a ready answer. There are a few generic answers for most medical related questions that are non-specific enough to be considered correct in almost any context. It is useful to have a few carefully selected responses ready for when the lecturer interrupts your snooze with a question. You only need to ramble on in a clear but slow and monotonous drone just long enough for the lecturer to get bored with you and move on to the next person. Examples:

Question 1: What are the common side effects of this medication?
Answer: GI disturbances like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, Allergic reactions presenting as a rash, angiooedema or anaphylaxis...

Question 2: How would you manage this patient?
Answer: Take a detailed history from the patient and collateral history, perform a full physical examination including blood pressure and finger-prick blood glucose measurement, get IV access and bloods including a venous gas, consider radiological investigations...

Question 3: What could this patient be suffering from?
Answer: Infections such as tuberculosis or HIV, Autoimmune conditions such as Lupus, Sarcoidosis, Endocrine disorders such as Addison's disease...


5. Create an aura of silent invisilibility around yourself by waving your Wand of the Imperceptible three times anticlockwise whilst maintaining the Stance of the Disappearing Echidna. You can also invest in a Romulan Cloaking Device which removes traces of your presence from the lecturer's radar. In other words, don't snore.

9 Comments:

Blogger Dreaming again said...

that is hilarious.

I have lupus. Whenever something goes wrong and they don't know why. Especially if it clears up in a few days to a few weeks ... "eh, must have been a lupus flare"

Now, I just assume everything that goes wrong is a lupus flare and go to bed and increase my Celebrex for a couple of days to see what happens before going to a doctor.

The weird thing is ...how often that takes care of the strangest of symptoms!

The answer is always lupus! *grin*
(sounds like House)

3:07 am  
Blogger tscd said...

dreaming again: Yeah, the problem with lupus (and some of the other illnesses I mentioned in my post) is that it can cause all sorts of bizarre symptoms and it affects every system in your body. And kudos to you for coping with it so well!

3:53 am  
Anonymous patientanonymous said...

Loved it. Especially the Romulan Cloaking Device.

5:55 am  
Anonymous enrico said...

"The answer is always lupus..." LOL! Medical school, well the first two years, anyway, puts way too heavy an emphasis on the rare disease that you'll probably hardly ever see but is a great teaching tool for a multi-faceted exam question to simultaneously test embryology, physiology, or what not.

As for the "comfortable high backed cushioned chairs," I wish we had some of those! We have plastic kindergarten seats that induce all sorts of orthopedic problems for everyone. Recliners with attached swing-arm LCD panels should be standard issue. ;)

2:02 pm  
Blogger tscd said...

patientanonymous: Thanks! I want one to use at work during my lunch breaks.

enrico: Ooh, I hate falling asleep in those plastic chairs...they give me whiplash.

1:51 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just randomly came across your blog. I totally relate to the sleeping problem. I tried all those techniques too and a few others to no avail. Sleeping ninjas and Romulan cloaking device...priceless!

9:31 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi! i just came across your blog.. im a 2nd year medical student, and really, there are times when i would just blink my eye or shake my head in order to get back to what the lecturer is saying...sometimes, my eyes would even go red and tear because of drowsiness hehe my seatmate and i would always mumble "boring" or "i feel sleepy"...hehehe
at times, we'd go out of class to get some nap...
it's really hard to keep up with lengthy lecture...:D especially when it's the holy hour hehe

9:18 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just came across your symptom.i'm a third year medicine..trust me those sleepy episodes are so hard to control.there were times when i had slept on the benches and this particular biochem class where i slept flat on the chairs

8:33 pm  
Anonymous rachel said...

hi there!
just came across ur blog..really funny..i am going to start my medical studies this year.hope i don get caught sleeping in class!!cheers!!

12:42 pm  

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