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

 

COVID Ain’t The Only Pandemic

BY SAVANNAH MANDAKINI

Right hand yellow

Imagine a time where the only safe place is your room to hide

In their minds, people are dreaming of dining out- Inside Out

The fear of dying alone, with no hope of seeing home

And family, and I miss the joy of camaraderie,

My camera’s the only friend of me

As I vapidly take one hundred selfies

Angrily scrutinise them for deformities

And disgustingly add the black-and-white filter to make me edgy

There is no life outside,

People are dying like

It is the end of time

But no one realises

When it’s all over, the world isn’t safe

There’re still a million other reasons to panic

This ain’t the only pandemic.

Left hand red

There’s a lot of issues in this world

But first let’s recap the schism that has recently been re-unfurled

And let’s be real here- this is a chasm deeper than the thinking that started up these protests and impulsive animosity

What happened to the logical thought in this world?

What happened to equality?

Why does the colour of one’s skin matter so much to society?

And ironically, even those who ask this question

Are often the same people who criticise the “orange-skinned man”

For a “ridiculous fake tan”

There is no life outside,

People are dying like

It is the end of time

But no one realises

When it’s all over, the world isn’t safe.

COVID ain’t the only reason to be afraid

Panic’s the biggest pandemic.

Left foot blue

‘Click click click’

Are now a baby’s first words

I’m taking out the piss

On a collection of chicks, Toms, Harrys and Dicks

Who think it’s lit and sick

To act prissy- I’ll tell ya, missy

We’re all losing brain cells here; don’t get busy

Losing your mind over Instagram views, it won’t make a difference

I can keep saying that

But the truth is I’d be a hypocrite

Cos I’m hopelessly swept up

In a frenzy of selfies

As I lay in my bed on a magnifice-

-Cently lazy Sunday evening

Technology is killing our brains and our imagination

And if you don’t call that a pandemic,

I don’t know what will cause a panic

There is no life outside,

People are dying like

It is the end of time

But no one realises

When it’s all over, the world isn’t safe

There’re still a million other reasons to panic

COVID ain’t the only pandemic.

Limbs are shaking

The world is quaking

We’re in a time we haven’t seen before

People are making

Time to quell the aching

They are fighting injustice in corps

Unfortunately

We are creating

Disunity

It’s worse than

Quarantining

We should be awaking

Unity

It’s a world full of partitions

It’s more than an ocean of tectonic plates

Enough with the panic; let’s fight our pandemics.

There is no life outside,

People are dying like

It is the end of time

But no one realises

When it’s all over, the world isn’t safe

There’re still a million other reasons to panic

COVID ain’t the only pandemic.

All the world’s just a Twister game,

And we are merely players

Watch as I try to wiggle my way through unscathed

But it’s all just gonna

                            tumble

                                    over

Only if we change the rules, the world will be our oyster.

And we can conquer the demons that threaten our composure.

Right foot- green!

There is no life outside,

People are dying like

It is the end of time

But no one realises

When it’s all over, the world isn’t safe

There’re still a million other reasons to panic

COVID ain’t the only pandemic.

Silver Linings

By Anonymous

The history of civilisation has taught us that even in the worst of situations, there can be silver linings. Even if small, something good can come from difficult times. Don’t get me wrong, COVID-19 has wreaked absolute havoc and devastation across the globe. I am not trying to downplay or minimise anyone’s suffering or the widespread effects of COVID-19. The health and economic impacts are enormous. With the current number of total cases globally approaching 30 million with nearly 1 million deaths, it is likely things will continue to get worse, before they get better. More lives will be lost, and it will be a long time until we are living in a post-COVID era. While we are in the midst of what will be one of the largest pandemics to go down in history, it can be hard to recognise these silver linings. It is easy to be focus on the negatives of COVID-19 and 2020.

It has been an extremely difficult and trying year for all of us, some more than others. My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a loved one to coronavirus and also to the people who are struggling right now. As a final year student, I have been privileged to be able to attend placement for the majority of the year, even though my rotations have altered from what was originally planned. Even when I left my family home for a month during my ED rotation to live in an Airbnb near the hospital, I still felt lucky to get out of the house and have some sort of routine. I really empathise for all the junior medical students who have missed out on many months of clinical placement and have had to adapt quickly to learning via zoom. I am feeling Zoom fatigue, so I cannot imagine how it must be for students studying full time from home. Below are my reflections on some silver linings to come out the unprecedented year that 2020 has been. 

I am the kind of person who prefers to be busy. I have my daily “to do” list and only feel accomplished if I have ticked everything off by the end of the day. I am sure many other medical students can reasonate with this sentiment, I think it comes with being a perfectionist. In pre-COVID times, my weekends consisted of balancing two casual retail jobs, catching up with friends, study, exercise and spending time with family. Then on the weekdays, I would attend placement during the day and almost every night I would have something on, whether it be a social or uni event or study to do. Those days feel like so long ago now, where I remember rushing around to fit as much as I possibly could into a day. The strict lockdowns and restrictions on what we can and cannot do due to COVID-19 has allowed me to slow down. Previously I would stress out if I wasn’t doing things I deemed to be “productive” or a good use of my time, but now I really enjoy a Sunday morning sleep in, time spent watching Netflix on a Saturday night or just chilling out doing nothing. It is sad to think that it had to take a pandemic to change by mindset, but I am glad that it has changed. I have given myself the okay to chill out and enjoy the simple things. I really hope these chill vibes will stick with me long term. 

Being on placement, I have seen the impact that COVID-19 has had on healthcare workers, from nurses and allied health staff to doctors and administration staff. We are somewhat protected as medical students not being frontline workers. It is well known that there are ingrained cultural issues in medicine that have slowly been improving over the years. Another silver lining to come out of COVID-19, is the ending of presenteeism in medicine, as in – not showing up to work when you are sick. Previously, there was a culture of always showing up no matter what, to push through that sniffle or cough. But now, showing up to work unwell is very much unacceptable and looked down upon. Let’s hope that COVID-19 is the end to presenteeism for good. This will have two-fold benefits, including preventing the spread of an infectious disease to vulnerable patients and other healthcare workers, as well as focusing on the well-being of the healthcare worker, to ensure that they rest when sick and take the time off work they require. 

While Victoria has been hit hard and we have been in one of the toughest lockdowns in the world, things are starting to look more positive with case numbers going down on a daily basis. If you’re reading this, please make sure you take some time to do something good for yourself this week. It may be a nice walk along the beach or a virtual catch up with a friend; enjoy the little things. Look after yourselves during this time and think about your silver linings and learnings from 2020. Focus on these, and hopefully that will help to brighten your day. We can and we will, get through this together. 

If you’re struggling please reach out to a friend or family member, a university service (see more information listed below) or a mental health service such as Beyond Blue (1300 224 636) or Lifeline on (13 11 14).  Sending everyone lots of love, stay safe and stay well.

Dr Philippa Corby (Student Support): e: philippa.corby@monash.edu
Dr Matthew Thong (International Student Welfare): e: matthew.thong@monash.edu
Jodie Vickers (Student Services and Support): e: Jodie.vickers@monash.edu
24 hour counselling support services (free, confidential)
In Australia: 1300 STUDENT (1300 788 336)
Overseas: +61 2 8295 2917
For university health services: https://www.monash.edu/health/mental-health/resources/emergency-after-hours-contacts
Support from those who have experience dealing with medical students and doctors specifically: https://www.drs4drs.com.au/


COVID-19: An International Student Perspective

BY LORIN MCINTOSH

Back in my day, I lived through the COVID-19 pandemic. I remember in January 2020, we started to hear whispers of a new virus in Wuhan, China. We heard that the virus had spread quickly, and there had never been anything like it before. It was soon all over the media. At the time, I was a fourth year medical student, on an obstetrics rotation in hospital. To me, the virus honestly seemed like the latest news topic. Personally, I did not take it too seriously when I first heard about it. I had never imagined that five months later I would be sitting in my room writing about this virus in social isolation.

A couple months after the whispers began, all medical students were pulled off placement until further notice. I will never forget the dean of medicine hosting a zoom meeting, for international students, to explain to us that the borders would likely be closing, and that there would be no consequences if we decided to go back to our home countries to be with our families during this unprecedented time. That was the moment that I realised that I had only a week to make the decision as to whether or not I would go back to the United States, likely until the end of the pandemic. At this stage, the United States had a low case count, and my parents asked me to stay in Australia in fear of the “lockout”. I stayed in Australia, and we began to practice social distancing.

Over the next few months, I quickly learned that stage 3 restrictions meant I could only leave the house for four essential reasons. Social isolation meant you could only be in groups of 2 people. Face masks and social distancing were the new trend, and toilet paper would never again be taken for granted. Grocery shopping became the only weekly/fortnightly outing, and it became stressful. I would often buy what I could find, and rarely could get everything on my shopping list. My partner had to bribe someone at Chadstone (where he worked) for toilet paper. Zoom conferences all of a sudden became the daily norm, and gas cost 89 cents per litre in Melbourne. Also, the VIA was cancelled and OSCEs became pass/fail.

I watched in horror as my home country hit over 1.8 million cases and 100,000 deaths and many of the states began to re-open (pre-maturely). Some of my extended family fled New York City. Most of my extended family lives on the East Coast, in heavily affected areas. Currently, my Mom, Dad, and brother are in social isolation until further notice. My Mom and Dad are in the vulnerable population. Their state has completely re-opened, but is getting over 1,000 new cases per day with no signs of slowing down and ICU beds are starting to reach capacity. My family has made the decision that I will not return to the United States until there is a vaccine. The virus is too out of control. To give some perspective, their state has the same population as Victoria. My family is fortunate to be in the position to be able to continue to isolate. Some of my family and friends are in the frontline essential worker group, and many of my friends began their careers in the medical field during the coronavirus pandemic. I also have friends who have lost their health insurance during the pandemic, which (in America) makes healthcare unaffordable.

Now, in Australia, the restrictions are easing and the curve has flattened. This week, I enjoyed my first dinner (at an actual restaurant!) in five months and can finally leave the city to go hiking again. We are very lucky to be in one of the safest countries in the world right now. I am sharing this perspective because I feel, as an international student, that it is a unique perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic and as a reminder to check on your international friends. Many other countries have been heavily affected, and some international students are still overseas. I am very lucky that I have an amazing support system to help me through these unprecedented times.