Tips for Wellbeing: Global Pandemic Edition

By Molly Maxwell

When I entered Year A, I knew that the hardest challenges I would face would be those that I had not considered. A global pandemic was definitely not something I had prepared for. As today is my first day of online schooling, I feel there is no better time to share some ways we can adapt to our new version of normal and get out the other side to help all of the medical staff who are fighting for us today.

 How to: Pandemic University

  1. Most important (for all aspects of life) is routine. Establishing a routine of “normal” study hours is essential to allow us to maintain our sanity whilst in isolation. This includes actually getting out of bed and getting dressed which can be challenging when you don’t have to.
  2. Make an online study group. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, this is not so hard for us through Zoom, Facetime, or the Forest app. It’s a great way to keep yourself accountable and maintain some socialisation.
  3. Be adaptable. Online learning is not the greatest way for us to learn to be doctors but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a good way. Accept our new challenges for what they are and use this time to build resilience and adaptability which is essential for our future.

How to: Outbreak Wellbeing

  1. Remember to exercise. With gyms closing around the country, it’s important to still maintain an exercise regime at home. A plethora of online at home workouts exist for free on the internet so you can look after your body whilst in isolation.
  2. Go outside. With social distancing and isolation our reality, remember to still go outside. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard or balcony, use it. A bit of vitamin D and fresh air can do wonders for our wellbeing in trying times.
  3. Social distancing doesn’t mean distancing socially. Whilst we can’t go and hang out at the pub or with all our friends for the time being it is important that you still make an effort to communicate. This golden age of technology means that remote communication is as easy as ever so find new ways to hang out whether it be a niche PowerPoint night broadcast over zoom or daily phone calls with people you love.

How to: Nurture your mental health

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. This is a scary time for everyone. It is okay to feel frightened or stressed or defeated, but you are not alone. Let yourself be not okay. Remember that this is a temporary situation and that you will not have to feel this way forever.
  2. Reach out. If you are struggling to manage your mental health during this crisis, seek help. If you are already seeing a mental health practitioner, many offer telehealth to attend your appointments from home. There are also many online resources from Beyond Blue and Lifeline that can give you handy tips including this forum to speak with people who are in the same boat as you.
  3. Self- care. Now is a perfect time to incorporate self-care into your daily routine and make looking after yourself a priority. This can be anything from taking a relaxing bath to getting ready for the day. Make sure to prioritise making yourself feel good (easier said than done). We all deserve to go a bit easier on ourselves right now.

Hopefully some of this was helpful to you. If all else fails, download Tik Tok and go on a deep dive. This whole pandemic thing should be over by the time you get out. Wash your hands and be kind to people!

Musings of a Worn-Out Med Student

By Rav Sellahewa 

You’re too harsh on yourself. You have always been your sharpest

critic. You have a strong and over-powering superego, a voice in the

back of your head- that tells you off. You hear it whenever you don’t

study, whenever you don’t gym. It tells you off when you want to

relax. It represents an idealized self-image of yourself. An image

that you no longer have the tenacity to maintain. You have spent too

many years of your life trying to appease it. Too many years fighting

off the urge to laze around and watch Netflix. You’ve finished 4 years

of medical school, a BMedSc(hons), and are nearly done with your first

5th year rotation and you are tired. You’ve earnt a break. You need a

break. Tell your super-ego to go get f****d. It’s time to give in to

your impulses and desires- and let your Id shine. It’s time to watch

that god-awful reality dating show on Netflix and enjoy it, because

you deserve it.”

 

Fifty-Four Years Ago

By: Bowen Xia 

For: The Auricle Writing Competition 2018

Prompt: ‘What is a piece of advice you wish you hadn’t taken and why?’

In a small house, a year 6 student sits in a dimly lit room studying hard all day to prepare in the hopes of entering a prestigious selective school. Surrounding him are boxes of certificates, medals and trophies of various competitions and outside that, on a patchwork couch, his parents and siblings huddle together watching the latest episode of the ‘Simpsons’ on an old box TV. They ask him to join but he has more important things to do. Ha! His family’s periodic bursts of laughter mix over the TV static and he blocks his ears. One day my hard work will pay off and then I’ll be truly happy.

6 years later…

In a prestigious high school, a year 12 student sits in an empty classroom studying hard all day, to prepare for his VCE exams, in the hopes of studying medicine at a prestigious university. His blazer is adorned with numerous academic and leadership badges and his brow is furrowed and beaded with sweat whilst gazing at the citric acid cycle. Bam! A ball hits the window and shouts of his friends playing outside fill the room he shuts the window and closes the blind. One day my hard work will pay off and then I’ll be truly happy.

4 years later…

In a prestigious university, a fourth-year medical student sits in the medicine building foyer silently studying hard all day, to prepare for his end of year exams, in the hopes of gaining an internship at a prestigious hospital. In his bag sits his Netter’s flashcards, four medicine textbooks and his trusty Classic III stethoscope. Slam! The silence is broken as his peers leave the building for their weekly pilgrimage to the ‘Nott’. He stares back at his Anki cards. One day my hard work will pay off and then I’ll be truly happy.

3 years later…

In a prestigious hospital, an RMO sits in the staff breakroom revising hard all day, when he is not on shift, to prepare for his eventual registrar exams in the hopes of joining a prestigious speciality. On the table sits his fourth cup of coffee, a Cardiology III stethoscope, two patient files and a model of the brain. Creak…! Some colleagues leave the room and head off to Zoukis for a well-deserved break, but he resolutely refocuses on his studying. One day my hard work will pay off and then I’ll be truly happy.

9 years later…

At a recently founded clinic, a neurosurgeon sits in a consulting room working hard at night. It has been a long day chock full of patients and paperwork but hopefully, he will be finished soon. On his desk sits a framed picture of his family, a pile of bills, a neatly drafted cover letter and a brochure titled ‘AMA Nominations Opening Now!’. Click…! He opens the main door to his house. All the lights are turned off except a small night light in the lounge room where it shines dimly on the couch and two small sleeping figures are illuminated. He picks up a piece of paper lying next to them and inspects it. A squiggly drawing of his family is on it and underneath is scrawled ‘please come home soon Dad!’. A tear rolls down his eye. One day my hard work will pay off and then my family will be truly happy.

12 years later…

In the nation’s capital, a high-ranking member of the AMA studies some documents in his empty boardroom. When he is not attending meetings all day, he prepares his family’s finances. In his wallet sits a real-estate business card, a prescription for Xanax and a well-worn photo of his children. Ding! A message appears on screen ‘where are you dad? I can’t see you in the audience from the graduation balcony’. As the Prime Minister and his panoply of staff enter the room, the text message is dismissed with a sigh. One day my hard work will pay off and then my family will be truly happy.

20 years later…

In an inviting, large, well-kept house no one enters except for the occasional cleaning staff. On the balcony, a recent retiree idles all day on a sunchair waiting for the clock to strike 5:30 pm. In a bin next to him sit two empty pill boxes, one bisphosphonates and the other NSAIDs, and a torn brochure titled ‘Europe travel guide’. Beep… beep… beep! He unsteadily gets out of the chair and shambles towards his phone. Every movement seems to be painful but made with determination as he stops the alarm. His daily ritual has begun as he calls the two people that matter the most to him. Both go to voicemail but not without him sending two text messages that are left on seen. As the sun begins to set and the darkness approaches, he begins writing a letter.

My dearest angels,

I am truly sorry that I could not make you happy, but I hope this letter can. Fifty-four years ago, I a young, eager boy promised myself that I would not stop pushing forward into the world until the right moment to enjoy life to its fullest arose.  Alas, that day arose too late and I an elderly frail man will bountiful time and material can make neither you nor me happy.

 I blame this on ill-disciplined motivation and determination and insufficient time. If only, my promise was made when I was younger, and I tried working harder, today’s grief would be avoided. Our past conflicts were due to our different outlook on life but as your father, I cannot let you continue making the same mistakes as me. I implore that you resist being complacent and discontinue your premature enjoyment of life. If you do not stop working hard for the future, you may be happy in the end.

 

With Love,

A Sorry Old Man

The Adventures of Pen

By Rav Gaddam

There are many things that bind the medical student community together; our love of stealing food, the ability to still be bamboozled by an ECG, and of course, our innate skill to lose pens at a rate that Ebola has got nothing on.

But have you ever truly wondered what happens to a pen? Where does it go? What adventures does it have? Ever wonder about the people and things it sees?

Well, if you’re reading this article, you can guess that I have.

My pen’s journey began last year, when I lent it to my consultant who snapped their fingers at me and gestured to my pen as they were on the phone. “Do you also have some paper?” I was also asked, while begrudgingly handing over my favourite black pen.

I was unfortunately called away by a registrar, lured away with the promise of being able to cannulate the next patient. As you can expect, I never did get that pen back, and I assumed it had been lost in the depths of the pen blackhole that is a hospital.

At the same time though, I also imagined that my pen saw many exciting things in its life. It would likely have been used to draw up a drug chart to save a patient from a DVT, or sign path forms for a renal patient on dialysis. It could have been used to write down obs on a glove in ED, or provided comfort to that paeds patient who had left their mark on the hospital (likely on the walls, possibly on the bed covers). It could have also vacationed in world of hospital administration, and heard all the juicy gossip about the number of beds that were not available that week. Who knows what the pen could have done; the possibilities are endless!

Well, in some exciting, awe-striking news, I found the pen.

Nearly a year later, as I rocked up to the first day of my new rotation, I found “pen”, as I affectionately now call it, sitting innocuously in a surgical theatre. “It couldn’t be,” I thought to myself. “After all this time?”

Now, I can imagine some of you scoffing at this story, and some perhaps even accusing me of stealing a pen that perhaps did not even belong to me anymore, for it now belonged to the hospital. Pish-posh, I say. This event was a reunion that would have put The Notebook to shame, and made you weep like the time Mufasa died (it’s been 24 years, and I still cry. Every. Single. Time.)

It would have been a reunion story for the ages, a tale so splendid that David Attenborough would have wanted to make a documentary about it.

That is until the consultant snapped their fingers, and off my pen went on an adventure again.


Featured image from user FP Network on The Fountain Pen Network

Dating Medicine

By Ning Yih Kam

My relationship with Medicine has been a tumultuous one. It is very much like I’m dating medicine…

My love for Medicine started with an infatuation – a crush, as some might say. I was attracted to the prospects Medicine offered me. ‘He’ appeared reliable, strong, caring and sometimes even mesmerising. But that is all I know about Medicine. I was attracted to the security he provided me with, the respect everyone seemed to have for him, and his seemingly endless intellect. But that’s not why Medicine was attracted to me. He seemed to respect my diligence, my willingness to make sacrifices for the things I wanted. He appreciated the fact that I could hold my own against him.

Then Medicine asked me out. I vividly remember the day he did so – it was nearly 3 years ago now. Even the fact that he bothered to ask me out seemed like such an honour – people were practically throwing themselves at him – and here I was, a plain Jane, that Medicine asked out. I was elated to say the least. On our first date, he woke me up at 8am in the morning, with a call – telling me not to worry, the first few months of a relationship he said, were always the best – the Honeymoon period, or so he called it. And he was right, Medicine for those months, never ceased to be charming, provocative and ultimately seductive. He could’ve seduced those who were at first, totally uninterested in him, and put off by his demanding attitude. I did not just want to be with him, I wanted to be him.

And then we celebrated our first anniversary. The first of many, I would’ve hoped. He gave me a utilitarian, digital watch and says, ‘I don’t want you to miss any of our appointments – they’re all important’. I was so pleased at the gift – I hadn’t expected any, but at the same time, I was profoundly confused – surely, we will have some time outside of each other?

It was by third year that the cracks in our relationship started to appear. At first, the thought of spending all my time with him had made me so happy, but all of a sudden, as I watched my friends enjoy their social lives, I realised how restrictive our relationship had become. And that wasn’t all. There were stories. People who had dated him before told me to beware of the initial allure, of his initial charms. ‘He doesn’t work out for everyone, you know’, said a friend.

Third year, the relationship had become a chore. He wanted more and more. He was insatiable. My time, my intellect, my life: everything was not enough for him. Nothing was ever enough. Maybe our shabby foundation had started to rattle us. We decided, or rather, I decided, that I needed time away from him – time to do what I loved to do, without him intruding. I just didn’t feel like me anymore – I felt like my life was overrun with assignments, OSCEs, hospital placements and more.

During our time away from each other, I realised how shallow my reasons were for dating Medicine. What had attracted me to Medicine? Was it the unattainability? Was it the glamour? Was it the constant challenge? Was it the allure of making a difference? Perhaps it had been the strange amalgamation of all of the above.

As I contemplated my return to Medicine, I knew I would have to confront all I had learnt in the past 3 years. The reasons that had drawn me to Medicine initially, now appeared feeble – or even slightly repulsive. A return to Medicine would require stronger foundations. I needed to be able to justify the long hours, the years of less than desirable working conditions, the intellectual rigour and the physical exhaustion.

At the end of my deliberation, I decided to return to Medicine. In my cynical moments, I thought I was returning to him because I had nowhere to go. In my moments of positivity, I felt I was returning because of a faith that things would work out between us. But ultimately, the appeal of either of these extremes never lasted. I didn’t want to return to Medicine cynical or hopeful. What I did want to do however, was to return to Medicine not in a way that consumed me; but in a way that allowed me to retain who I was.

This is why we couldn’t date anymore. I look at Medicine now, as an equal. I’m not exhilarated by his presence, and I am no longer ignorant to his flaws. I want Medicine to be part of my life, not my whole life.


Featured image from Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

 

Meditation: Incorporating Mindfulness into Your Everyday Life

BY ISABEL TSINTSIPER

I’ve always been a sceptic of the whole meditation trend, but COVID isolation meant that I had extra time, and the boredom led me down the rabbit hole of meditation and mindfulness.

As someone who whose attention span has dramatically decreased thanks to 15 second Tik Tok videos, I was surprised to find that listening to 10-minute meditations was becoming one of my favourite parts of the day.

If you’re still unsure about whether meditation is something you’d enjoy, try to disregard your preconceived ideas of why you’d dislike it, and give it a go – especially in COVID times, we all deserve to incorporate important self-care practices into our day to day life.

To start, I’d recommend downloading the free app ‘Insight Timer’, which has endless meditations of varying lengths and topics.

Here are four of my personal favourites to get started:

  1. Stress and Anxiety Buster: Two-Minute Mindful Release by David Ji

When I first started meditating I struggled to sit still for long periods of time, and so this was a perfect introductory meditation that I would do when I found myself stressed – David’s voice is honestly as calming as it gets

  1. The Dream for Sleep by Bethany Auriel-Hagian

This 25-minute meditation is perfect to put on as you’re falling asleep

  1. Morning Ritual by Jason McGrice

If you’re wanting to incorporate mindfulness into your routine, this meditation is a short 10-minute program that is meant to start your day off with motivation and gratitude

  1. Get your Glow On by Melissa Ambrosini

This 11-minute session focuses on self-care and motivation, encouraging you to have a productive day!

 

Following Orders

BY BILL WANG

This story received First Place in the Writing – Preclinical section of The Auricle’s 2020 Annual Writing Competition. 

Foreword

I had originally planned to write a different story but with the recent events occurring
around the world and the seeming apathy of all my friends and family I wanted to convey a different message. When learning about Nazi Germany I was always impressed at the ease with which the ordinary citizen can grow to accept and even turn a blind eye to atrocities happening around them. As future doctors, we will have a position that brings us respect and the ability to advocate on important social issues to the community at large. For us to say nothing in times of injustice or strife is to effectively lend our support to injustice through silence. Regardless of your wishes, people will be listening to what you do or don’t say.

“Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have
done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required
of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your
department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood,
perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and
you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart
breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.”

– They Who Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-45

Following Orders

The air is stifling in the holding chamber. I can barely breathe, every fibre of my being
twisting and shifting in fear as I listen to the muffled proceedings filtering down from above. Two guards stand at the one exit, waiting silently for their cue to bring me up to the stand, faces impassive and blank. I try to run through my planned defence in my mind again but it is no use, my thoughts are jumbled and the words fall away even as I try to reach for them.

Faintly I hear the rowdy applause emanating slowly down from the chamber. Another death sentence – the snake slowly tightening around my inside seems to move another notch in.

The guards’ motion for me to follow them, falling in step by my side as I slowly make my
way up the stairs.
Along the way I pass the Director of Security being led towards the execution chambers. His face is white and pale, the fury and rage that had underlined all his speeches replaced with abject terror. Good riddance.

That however does not solve my problem. The list of people on stand today so far have only been the worst of the worst, the architects and executioners of the hell-machine that tore our country and much of the world apart. The Asian delegation is out for vengeance and the European and Oceanic delegates have also suffered far too much to contemplate mercy.
Now that I think about it, why am I also being trialled today? I hadn’t done anything on that scale. Surely, they would realise I was just a single insignificant cog – just one doctor out of thousands also recruited to assist in the relocation of people.

A last desperate sweep of my thoughts to see if anything is particularly useful and then I’m pushed into the blinding light shining down on the stand.

Please state your name and occupation.

‘My name is John Pes and I am a doctor.’

Dr Pes, please describe your role to the tribune.

It began in the midst of the Kharsa pandemic…

*

There was a knock at the door at 11pm. I waited a few seconds, uncertain as to whether I
should answer, until the knock came again.

‘Dr Pes we wish to speak to you briefly.’

At the door was a federal agent, half occupied with some message or another on his data-
pad as he acknowledged my presence.

‘Apologies for the late call. As you may have heard last night, the President authorised the creation of an emergency task force for coordinating the continued quarantine efforts of Kharsa infection. We would like you on the team in light of all your infection control research.’

*

‘Of course I accepted. How was I to know the darker motive behind the taskforce?’
I can’t see the individual members of the tribunal through the blinding light, only the
occasional murmur and rustle of papers. My throat scratches against my tongue as I try to coax a slow dry swallow.

Describe what you did as your role in this task force.

*

The supervisor was a jovial fellow from out of state – a direct representative from the CDC, or so he was reported to be. The instructions were simple.

Every day quarantine officers would pick people up from the streets exhibiting signs of
Kharsa and bring them to our processing centres. We were to then make the diagnosis and either send them to the isolation camps for recovery or clear them of their health.
Occasionally we would be required to make a special decision regarding patients. If our
scanner revealed any link to the protests, we should send them to isolation as a
preventative measure because they were at greater risk of contracting Kharsa.

*

Do you know what happened to these so-called ‘special decisions’, Dr Pes?

The question I was fearing.

I reached down for the glass of water and drank, taking the opportunity to close my eyes
away from the dazzling gaze of the lights. I needed to think of something – anything.  What was that one Nazi that got away all the way back in Nuremberg a century ago? Something Albert. What did he say?

I decide to go with a form of honesty.

‘Well, not really…’ I begin. The European delegate interrupts with laughter – ‘Yeah right, just about everyone involved was briefed on the exact nature of these camps once the war was clearly lost.’

Quickly I backpedal. ‘Yes, I guess so if you mean at the end when it was too late for me to do anything.’

‘The reality was I was too focused on my job to ask questions – and for that I recognize I am just as complicit as those who directly ordered the process. I’m sorry for my own failure to find out.’

We have one last question for you. Documents obtained showed that you visited one of
these camps at the start of the war. How can you claim you knew nothing of what was
occurring?

*

The isolation camp loomed in the distance through the train window, a squat grey smudge that stood out amongst the rolling green hills of the countryside.

‘Whatever you do, don’t get off the train. We will bring the people you need to interview
onto the train for you.’ Reiterated the officer.

As the train pulled to a screaming halt just outside the gates, I noted a small line of people by the side of the tracks – small and terrified. I had been briefed on a list of names I would have to send back for further processing due to persistent Kharsa superinfection and the list of names who could go on to the rehabilitation camps.

With a start I realised the first person I was seeing was my former colleague and friend Dr Stantine.

He looks terrible, malnourished and broken in more ways than physical. He was one of the few who spoke up against the quarantine initiative – vanishing after he also supposedly contracted the infection.

‘Look at me in the eye Pes,’ he managed to cough out, ‘How much will it take for you to
make a stand? To protest?’

‘I don’t know what you are talking about,’ my heart racing with fear that they will over hear this conversation. ‘The Kharsa infection has clearly affected your mental state as well.’

‘I know what you are waiting for – for a single explosive moment that will finally ignite the apathetic masses to revolt. Bad news, Pes. There is never one moment, it’s always a series of small insignificant steps. Step C is only a little bit more worse than step B, if you didn’t protest then why would you protest now. And so, they move onto step D.’

*

I don’t know why I am relaying this conversation to the tribunal. Even as the words leave my mouth and I can hear them objectively – I somehow cannot stop the rebellion of my lips and tongue. They have surely signed a death warrant for me.

I guess I have finally made my stand, several years too late. At least I will go as having
denounced the madness that had occurred in the States.

A Little Change

BY RADHIKA CHALIKAVADA

What do we know about change? How do we feel about change?

Imagine sitting at your favourite restaurant and ordering the same thing again and again. We all have our favourites that we excitedly relish a couple of time. But what if we don’t order anything but that, forever? How would we feel? The same can be applied to our lives.

Now more than ever, in self-isolation, the idea of change is very appealing. Something to break up our usual routine. When self-isolation began, there might have been many like me who were secretly glad to have a reason to be home. Hoping to get a “break” from studying and going to uni, and most of all, doing things that we have always wanted to do but never had the time. Now, a few months later, the same idea of wrapping up in a warm fluffy blanket binging Netflix doesn’t seem that appealing. Something that you looked forward to a couple of months ago isn’t something you look forward to anymore.

But thinking about it, I realised I was satisfied. I had moments where I was as exhilarated as I imagined. For example, during my first clinical skills class. Even during my first anatomy class. During my first week of self-isolation, when I binged a series I was hoping to get to for a while. However, this wasn’t a constant occurrence. It didn’t last to my week 15 anatomy class. It didn’t last to my holidays, when I finally had the opportunity for endless entertainment. Why was that?

Monotony. Or put another way, I was too used to it. And we may already know this. That such a turn of events is normal. That somewhere through the track, an exciting thing is not so exciting anymore. So, what does that mean for us?

For me I realised that the moments where I felt that excitement was when there was something new. Something I wasn’t used to. There was a change. Many of us may associate change with bigger and grand ideals. But for me it was simply something that breaks monotony. Little things that change up a routine. I realised giving up my free time or my course wasn’t the answer. Life-altering changes aren’t the answers. Rather it was the little things that mattered. Little things that spice up a normal thing.

Ever since this epiphany, I made several little changes to my usual routine – be it in my studies or my day-to-day life. Some changes were as simple as switching to group study sessions and swapping checking social media the first thing in the morning for an early morning walk to see the sunrise. In a few weeks, this might become a routine and I might not be as motivated for them as I was before. Not because I don’t like them, but because I might be too used to them and it might be time to find something new. As mentioned before, we may already know about this. The idea of little changes may be trivial. However, when noticed and appreciated, they go a long way. And we all need reminders. No matter how treasured something was, we need to recognise that if our present feelings do not match up to what we imagined, it’s not because there was something wrong. It is just because we are somehow attuned to it. A little change is all we need, and it is completely normal and human.