A Day in the Life of a BMedSc Student

By Steph Davies

Sometimes I feel like I’ve fallen off the face of the earth. Not quite a med student, not quite an honours student. I don’t quite fit into any category, which I have learnt makes it very easy to be forgotten. What’s more is that nobody understands what on earth we spend an entire year doing. Not only is our year very different from medicine and other courses, no two BMedSc students do the same thing. It can be very hard for someone on the outside to understand what a BMedSc is like. Research projects are notorious for things going wrong. Unlike in a medical degree where if you follow all the directions everything will probably be fine, research projects almost always have a part that doesn’t turn out as planned. And like I have learnt all too well, mistakes happen. In a way, this year has been more challenging than any other year in medicine.

So here’s a sneak peek into one of my days, in the hopes that us BMedSc students will be a little better understood and a little less forgotten.

7am: Today is the big day, I’ve spent two weeks culturing patient samples to generate an immune response. For some context, my project is on adverse drug reactions to anti-epileptics and characterising the patient’s reaction at a cellular level. This is the part where I get to see the results of two weeks of work. I would be more excited but I am still practically fast asleep. I’ve done this a number of times so I work with my supervisor like clockwork, each taking different jobs. I’m finally at a stage where I am trusted to do most of this by myself without my supervisor watching my every move. The first step is to count the cells I prepared a day earlier. 1, 2, 3, 4, is that a cell? Looks like it might be dead. I’ll count it anyway, I could use the extra numbers. 5, 6, 7. You get the picture. Alright, onto the next step. Count some cells. What’s after that? Count some more cells. Over and over again until I am really, really sick of counting cells.

10am: Three hours later and the experiment is finally set up. Now I’ve got two hours to kill until I have to do anything else. Time for that magical time of day. Coffee. Then, back to the office for some ‘light’ reading for my literature review. By light reading I mean that I’ve read over 100 papers in two months; although by the end of the two months, reading tends to constitute a quick ‘control + F’ to find whatever it is I’m really looking for. Despite being tedious, this process has helped me to develop a specialised knowledge in immunology, specifically in relation to the interaction between T cell receptors and human leukocyte antigen molecules. A BMedSc provides a unique opportunity to learn in depth about a niche area of medicine. Something we don’t normally get the opportunity to do in medicine.

I am lucky to be in a lab where there are seven other research students in my office, each working on a slightly different project. Whenever I have a question (which is often) there is always someone around to help out. This can involve anything from locating papers on the structure of T cell receptors to letting me use their free printing.

12pm: Five hours since I started and it’s finally time for step two. I calculate how much of the reagent I need and add it to every single well of the four plates. Then back into the incubator it goes for another four hours. This project involves a lot more killing time than I expected. Luckily, it also involves a lot of multitasking. At this stage of the year I can be juggling 6 different patient samples at various stages. I spend this break learning how to perform PCRs (polymerase chain reactions) with my supervisor. I have been really lucky to learn a variety of skills during this year. Ranging from cell culture to flow cytometry and analysis of T cell receptor sequencing (this is still very much a work in progress). I have been quick to learn that lab work requires fine hand eye coordination as well as the ability to work quickly and accurately. With more and more practice my fine motor skills have picked up although my gross motor skills have unfortunately not improved. Luckily, my supervisor has been there to catch anything I happen to knock over, like a full measuring cylinder, before disaster ensues.

4pm: Another four hours and it’s time for step three. I promise, despite the long hours lab work is actually fun. This time I make up a stain consisting of antibodies bound to fluorochromes so that I can identify what sort of T cells are causing the reaction (and whether they’re still alive). This is the part of the day when I know I’ve nearly made it because after this there are only two steps left. At this time of day there are usually quite a few people still left in the lab so there’s always someone to hang out with during the incubation periods. Usually they are also avoiding doing any work. Soon enough though I’m back in the lab for the next step. This is probably the only time when I cut my breaks short because the later I run, the later I get to leave.

6pm: Fast forward to the last step which involves washing off the previous addition and spinning the plates in the centrifuge. It’s also at this stage that I forget to turn on the centrifuge and come back to find it hasn’t even started. Provided that everything goes to plan and I don’t perform the last two steps in the wrong order (this has happened, killing all my cells and rendering the day’s work useless) I usually finish by 6pm. I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out if the experiment has actually worked.

An open letter to Greg Hunt MP; Tobacco Tax is a smoking gun

By Grace Scolyer

Dear Greg Hunt MP,

Stop taking money from my cousin.

When I think of the people who should be paying the most tax proportional to their income, I think of the big earners, with their multiple properties and multiple cars, their children in private schools, whose assistants make reservations at fancy restaurants for them. But I’m not writing to you about tax cuts for large and small businesses and the adjustments made to tax brackets. I’m writing to you about my cousin.

My cousin Anthony is a gorgeous thirty-three-year-old man who loves the NBA, magic cards, playing guitar, and painting. In high school he was social, popular, loved acting and playing sports, and was a prefect. Since the age of eighteen though, he has been battling severe schizophrenia.

Anthony is unable to support himself financially. He has struggled to keep a job. He struggles to make his government income last the fortnight. It is through the support of his family that he is able to survive, and often, survive is all he can do.

Survive, that is, and smoke.

Anthony smokes a pack a day, and has done for many years. When he smokes, he is focused, mindful, yet between puffs, he is lost in his internal whirlwind of chaotic thoughts and voices. He takes another puff; he is back, and the cycle continues. It calms him; he remembers to breathe.

My family often refer to smoking as a part of his treatment. As a medical student myself, who is fully aware of the risks associated with smoking, it seems almost paradoxical to call it therapeutic, but it is hard to deny. His medication changes, as do his moods, as do the volume and rhythm of the voices that control him. But this never changes: he will always find himself on his balcony holding a cigarette to his lips.

He has tried to stop countless times, because he cannot afford a pack a day. He spends half his pension on tobacco. But there is no hope in him stopping, not in the foreseeable future. It is undeniable though that the biggest impact smoking has on his life, aside from the positives, is financial.

Mr Hunt, this is not a health promotion issue. I care about rates of lung, throat, mouth and bladder cancers. I care about COPD and asthma and heart disease. But I also don’t think this tactic is working. If it were, with the taxation of cigarettes rising 12.5% every year, we would not be seeing the first increase in tobacco use in decades. If this were an effective health promotion measure, Australia would not have the smoking rates it does. If this were an effective health promotion approach, those facing financial hardship would have significantly lower rates of smoking than the rest of the population.

This is a financial issue. My question is how the government can justify benefiting from the most vulnerable members of our society. Because that is who is impacted by tobacco tax, and it benefits no one – except you. With tobacco tax rising at the rate it is, the financially disadvantaged are taxed more heavily, proportional to their income, than the richest people in the country. And that might sit alright with you, Mr Hunt, but I can see the impact it is having on people, and it is not alright with me.

I would like my cousin to stop smoking Mr Hunt. I would like us to find a way to make that happen together. In the meantime, I would like his life to be just a little bit easier. And I can think of one easy way to make that happen.

Kind regards,

Grace Scolyer

Bingo, you’re a medical student!

By Fraser Tankel

The hospital grind getting you down? Have you snuck off for an extended toilet break and already browsed all the dank memes? Are you wondering what life will be like once you’ve finished the VIA? Introducing….

Medical Bingo for Bored Students (MBBS)

Consultant unaware of student’s existence

“Hi, my name’s ___ and I’m one of the med students…” Misses easy cannula Gets kicked out of room because there’s ‘too many people’ Orders 10 coffees on the reg’s BOQ Specialist card

Turns up to rounds incredibly hungover

Follows reg to the toilet Friend/family asks for medical advice Wears RM Williams boots

Can’t find patient’s chart or file

“Uh, I have a tute I need to go to…”

“So, are you going to specialise, or just be a GP?”

Free

Grand Rounds

Space

Lunch

Obs not actually stable

Gets stuck talking to patient for >1 hour

Reg borrows pen and never returns it

“Can you sign my log book?” Ward round lasts >6 hours

No swipe access to important area of hospital

Actually asks about patient’s concerns

“Sorry, I’m just the student, so I’m not allowed to do that…”

Best hand hygiene despite least patient contact

Follows multiple dank medical meme pages Requires antibiotics for conventionitis

Contaminates sterile field

A letter to the AMA: Mandatory sentencing

By Seamus Horan

In 2014 the Victorian Liberal government instituted six-month mandatory minimum jail sentences for people who assault emergency service workers, except where there are “special reasons” not to impose it. In December last year two women were found guilty in the Magistrates Court of assaulting a paramedic and, as per the mandatory laws, were sentenced to prison. On appeal this month, the County Court overturned this decision on the basis of the “special reasons” exemption.  Those reasons related to difficult backgrounds, mental health and dependent children. This prompted an outcry from Ambulance Victoria paramedics, who have called for the mandatory minimum sentencing laws to be tightened, with “It’s not OK to assault paramedics” painted onto ambulances across the state. In response, the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has promised to tighten mandatory sentencing laws.

In a newsletter from 17 May 2018, the AMA conveyed their “profound disappointment” in the removed jail sentence for the two women, and called upon the government to send a “strong message” that “such acts [should] be met with the mandated penalty”. In response, Seamus Horan wrote the following letter exploring the effect of mandatory sentencing.

I refer to your email newsletter from 17 May 2018 regarding penalties for attacking healthcare workers, specifically discussing the recent assaults against paramedics. I was surprised to read that the AMA is supportive of mandatory sentencing.

Healthcare workers have a right to be safe at work, and often this right is not met. Tragedies in the last year alone have shown us the devastation that attacks on healthcare workers can have. As the peak body representing medical practitioners and students in Australia, the AMA has a responsibility to advocate for change that will make us safer. Advocating for mandatory sentencing does not achieve this.

The AMA supports evidence-based medicine, however it appears this outlook does not extend to the legal system. The evidence indicates that mandatory sentencing fails to produce the desired result of deterring crime, and comes at high social and economic costs. The Law Council of Australia found that mandatory sentencing results in unjust sentences where the punishment does not fit the crime, and that by their very design they disproportionately impact particular groups within society. These groups include Indigenous peoples, juveniles, people with mental illnesses and cognitive impairment, and those who are impoverished. Indeed, in 2000 the United Nations condemned mandatory imprisonment legislation in Western Australia and the Northern Territory for its disproportionate effect on Indigenous Australians, acknowledging the negative health consequences, as well as the social and legal impacts.

If we were to compare the legal system to the medical system for a moment, imagine the medical equivalent of mandatory sentencing. Mandatory clinical guidelines would be unthinkable in medicine. There would be an outcry if they were imposed, particularly if they were imposed by politicians spurred by popular demand. Clinicians would rightly say that the specific circumstances of individual patients should influence which treatment is recommended. This is the job of doctors – if we follow mandatory clinical guidelines, what is the point of having doctors?

Mandatory sentences are unjust because by their design they similarly ignore the circumstances of individuals and lead to unjust results. If we have mandatory sentences, what is the point of judges? Why allow discretionary judgement in any profession? By weakening public confidence in our justice system in this way, we only weaken ourselves.

For further detail of the substantial evidence that mandatory sentencing leads to unjust outcomes and fails to deter crime, I refer you to the article below.

In the era of Fake News and political scepticism, our institutions are under intense pressure. The AMA has the potential to play a moderating role, to champion evidence-based policy and confront populist politics. By supporting mandatory sentencing, the AMA has done the opposite.

Regards,
Seamus Horan

Articles:

Sentencing Matters: Mandatory Sentencing, 2008, Sentencing Advisory Council, Victoria
AMA Media Release


Featured image from WorkSafe Victoria 

Rainbow Doctors: The experience of one queer med student

By Chris Hardy

Content warning: harsh language, distressing scenarios

“Oh, look at that cute little baby!” I said, walking through the halls of the hospital. No sooner had the words left my mouth when the guttural cry of a complete stranger snaps me back to reality, with words that I have heard all too often: “Fucking faggot.”

How lovely. Exactly what I wanted to hear on that Wednesday morning, right between ward rounds and my regular morning coffee.

The shock of being called such a name never wears off, no matter how often you have it thrown at you. Whether it is out of a car window, in a club, or just walking down the street holding your partner’s hand, it still leaves a hollow, cold sensation running through you and a fear of what will happen next. Will they just move on? Will they spit on me, throw their drink on me, hit me? In that moment, all possibilities are considered and feared over.

Don’t get me wrong though. We all develop a thick skin, especially as medical students. We are constantly being yelled at, abused, and underappreciated by both patients and colleagues alike. Falling to pieces every time someone is mean to you is just not practical. But to have such an integral part of your identity, a part that you may still be coming to terms with, be attacked is devastating. Some attacks are not as openly hostile, like the double take of people when you walk down the street and the deliberate lack of questions regarding relationships at the dinner table, but are still just as damaging.

I am in the GP clinic, talking with a patient about a mundane issue that was quickly resolved in the first 5 minutes leaving the next 25 for small talk. Same sex marriage comes up, and I cringe internally. The patient’s face crumples into a grimace and the familiar arguments brought forward; what will it lead to, gays are diseased, God doesn’t agree with these choices. The once quite pleasant patient is now a hatred-spewing entity who disagrees with a core part of my being. I look impartial and listen like we are told to do, until the onslaught is over and the patient returns to their normal state. “Now then, what about you? Have you got a special girl?”

People are often shocked when I tell them about what has happened to me just because I am gay. Some don’t believe me and think I am overdramatising things: “Surely that is a thing of the past? No one thinks like that anymore!”

Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true? Wouldn’t it be a much happier world if we just didn’t care about this stuff and let people live? Such a cliché and I legit feel like a dick writing it, but we can all have a dream. I would really just be happy with some more queer representation in the curriculum or a focus on the unique issues surrounding queer health to be honest. It is impossible to change people’s minds, but it is possible for us as future doctors to help make the world just a little bit less shit for those who are different.

Don’t assume someone’s sexuality or gender identity, don’t assume they aren’t struggling, and don’t assume that you will never encounter queer people. We exist, we are your friends and patients and colleagues. Don’t forget about us.


Featured image from Pixabay

urological surgery: an interpretation

By Georgia Carter

you are in a submarine. you are looking through a periscope. all around you is blackness, the crushing shade of water when the sun is a distant rumour. you hang, suspended motionless in the current that stirs up flecks and clouds of matter. below you, thrown into relief by your tiny circle of light, stretches a fleshy coral reef. outcroppings, patterned with crazy brain-like shadings, shadow near-invisible holes, and malignant little jellyfish try to pattern themselves after the pinkish floor they cling to.

with your curved little instrument you dig away at the reef. satisfying lumps of material slide easily off the whole. what is left turns pale and fluffy at the intrusion, its stuffing almost frothing out like a slit couch. beeps and sizzlings accompany your work.

you turn your attention to the floor, scraping delicately at the jellyfish. silky red flags unfurl from their hiding places and spiral smoothly into the dark. your instrument begins to roughen, blacken, and the smoky smell of a barbecue left unattended rises incongruously around you.

a jellyfish clings to your cauteriser, suddenly squid-like, red and white like a sunburnt beachgoer. you manage to scrape it off against the floor, and it too whooshes away with the current


Feature image from National Geographic

Depression: a pop-up joke by my brain.

By Rav Gaddam

As I write this, I am sitting in class, questioning how I got here. Not medicine, or life, or anything as deep and meaningful as that, but more how did I get to this class, all the while feeling sad and teary?

As Maria von Trapp once said in a brilliant movie, “Let’s start at the very beginning, A very good place to start.”

This morning, I woke up before my alarm, and I did what I do every morning; I start my day telling myself that “Powerful people get back up every day”, then dragging my hideous PJ clad-self into the shower to begin the routine; a ninja wash, waging and winning a war against my hair, breakfast sculling and then off to placement.

Here, things diverged from the routine.

Normally, I would pretend to be 100% interested in my placement, soaking up things like the knowledge sponge I am, all the while secretly day dreaming about lunch. Once in a blue moon, an intern or a consultant will interact with me and ask me a question (which I usually improvise an answer to), and slowly but surely, lunchtime appears.

But today? Not so much.

Today, I got to the placement, joined the handover, and then, I had a funny feeling. It’s the feeling that you sometimes get when you know your housemates are up to some mischief (like perhaps sticking your flamingo candles to the roof). Call it intuition, call it a warning shot, whatever floats your sailboat. Turns out, I was right to be on guard, cause today, my brain decided to play a fun little prank on me.

What was that joke, you ask? Well, I went from being Pooh Bear to Eeyore in under 5 minutes.

I’m going to be honest with you; if I were to have a hidden OSCE talent, this would be it. If there was a station to see how fast you could go from being relatively functional to crying on the floor about how you didn’t wear matching socks today, I would blow the examiner away. I would be the percentile that was above the percentile, an ATAR score of 100, if you will.

So today, at placement, I went to the bathroom and cried.

What triggered me? Who knows, I probably never will. But for some reason, my brain just decided that that today is the day for a cry. I like to imagine that perhaps there are little people in my head going “TODAY, SAD RAV WILL BE ACTIVATED.” Yes, I know I do med, but I still have an overactive imagination, so the people in my head will continue to be there to make the decisions that I make.

I digress from my point though.

Depression is a funny thing; a little bit HAHA funny, but a little bit frustrating funny too. Your doctor tells you to remove your triggers, your therapist tells you to challenge your thinking, your mum tells you that you are powerful, you can dust yourself off and rebuild again. Despite all that great advice though, sometimes you just don’t know when it might hit, or what you might be doing (fun fact, I once broke down while eating a HSP, and I don’t know if you have ever seen a person ugly cry while also shovelling food, but trust me, ain’t a good look).

What does it feel like, I hear you ask?

Well, imagine watching a really sad movie (not sad because they are terrible like Twilight, more sadder like Marley and Me), and take the part of the movie you cried in, and put it on replay. That feeling of sadness, despair and a little hint of hopelessness, all combined with irritability, anger and tears, that’s what depression feels like for me. It usually just tracks along most days in the background like all the advertisements on the interwebs, but every once in a while, it pops up despite your ad-block, so you just have to emergency quit Safari and hope that you didn’t lose anything important in the tabs you just also accidentally closed. Somehow, while all of this is happening, you’re also expected to trundle along and keep smiling/being derpy and continue to be a medical knowledge sponge.

So where to from here?

Well, I do need to get through this class, despite my mind telling me that this is not worth it. Then, home would be a good start. A hot shower, a call to the therapist, perhaps a visit to Officeworks or Aldi. I am fortunate/unfortunate enough to know what to do when I get in one of my spirally low moods, but not everyone might be at this point yet. Figure out what helps you from spiralling downwards and deploy it as necessary. Ask for help, and if anyone even mildly gives you any shame about that, either:

  1. Cut them out of your life
  2. Ask them why they are doing it, and get them to challenge their thinking
  3. Walk away like the BAWSE you are and let the haters do their own thing

Most importantly though, be kind to yourself. Love yourself, even if your brain decides to throw a tantrum and ruin your productive plans and be accepting that some days/weeks/months can be an absolute shit-show. Even if you are completely “normal”, you are bound to have a bad day, but if you’re somewhere along a mental health issue journey (like me), know that you might have more hurdles than most, so be accepting of that, get your warrior mode on and be that powerful person and try to get back up every day.

Forgive yourself for having the bad day. It’s ok, and know you will always have people to help you get back up again.

Oh, and just to bring this to a full circle, how did I get to class? I drove myself. (HAHA funny joke, I know, I am now set to do stand-up as my back up career.)


 

Medical Student Gets Lucky; Consultant Buys Team Coffee On Student’s First Ward Round In Five Weeks

By Christopher Nguyen

In a feel-good news story for your Monday evening, The Auricle has received word about some miraculous happenings at Monash Medical Centre.

Third year medical student Jean Allen, attending her first ward round of the rotation, has managed to swoop on her rotation group’s hard work and take advantage of a free cup of increasingly transient and ineffective liquid Ritalin: a good old-fashioned coffee.

“This is the first ward round I’ve attended in this rotation and it just happens to be the one where the consultant’s finally warmed up to the medical students enough to shout them a soy cap. I reckon I’m off to buy a lottery ticket today.”

Her less truant counterpart, ward partner Michael Jamieson, scowled in the corner with his long black, ruing the early starts and daily four-hour sessions spent roaming around the hospital trying not to get in the way of important routine procedures on the ward rounds each morning.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t annoyed. I’ve tried every trick in the book; getting here earlier than the registrar, chanting my full name three times whenever someone’s asked for the medical student, even scrambling for my stash of fifteen pens that I’ve slowly been giving away in the hope that the consultant realises they’ve been taking my pens before taking pity on me and shouting me that elusive coffee. I’ve even declined going to the outpatients’ clinic to subject myself to an afternoon of tagging along with the intern on the ward and being an absolute pest while they’ve done paperwork to try and cash in on just fifteen glorious minutes of team bonding and that damned free coffee I desire. It’s just unfair, ridiculously unfair. I had half a mind to oust her right there and then. I was going to go all Damian from Mean Girls on her.”

In light of these revelations about the underground world of ‘coffee hunting’ from the higher ups, we went in search of more comments on the current state of arse-kissing at a third-year level and future forecasts for the field.

“I reckon it’s all about picking and choosing the team based on the vibes you get,’ remarks one student wishing to remain anonymous. ‘Things like whether the consultant wears a tie doesn’t give you much to go on; it gives you an idea of whether you should bother showing up at all, because you’d probably be grilled on how they used to treat a rare condition back in the 1960s. I’ve heard some people use the consultant’s reaction to the classic ‘I have a tute’ excuse to get out of ward rounds as their litmus test for whether they should persist with trying to get some sweet, sweet bean. If they show interest and ask you about your tute trying to catch you in a lie, you just know you’re in for a bad time. My yard stick is whether the consultant continues to ask for your name despite forgetting it at least 5 times. I’ve got this general surgery consultant and she’s up to 4 now; she puts in the effort to ask every time, I’m definitely in with a chance. She’s operating tomorrow and there’s a prime twenty-minute window between her second and third case; pick your battles wisely, I say.”

At the very least, it’s abundantly clear that this issue hits home for many medical students; both in its familiarity and importance. As another student explains and/or complains, “How am I supposed to know whether I need to buy myself a baseline coffee to get me going in the morning if the field is so volatile these days? What if consultants suddenly start buying us coffee before ward rounds? Would I even want to live in such an unpredictable climate? I can’t have two coffees within 30 minutes. I haven’t experienced enough stress and hardship for that yet.”

What started as a positive snippet of news has become an investigation into an extreme sport as old as time itself. The competitive nature of coffee hunting and today’s incident may even perhaps be an allegory for the challenges of finding advantage and favour, in order to further our individual causes at the expense of our relationships with our fellow peers, only contributing to the mutual self-destruction of cohort morale. This, however, isn’t the time for speculation into any hidden meaning behind a seemingly harmless and friendly sport occurring every single day.

Despite all this, our team is left with more questions than answers as they assess the facts that remain: first, that team coffee rounds will perennially be unpredictable, perhaps on purpose to drag students out of bed to ward rounds; second, that the coffee conundrum of whether to bank on snaring a free coffee and forgo the self-funded morning perk continues to stew in the bleary minds of students; and lastly (yet most terrifyingly) that it’ll only get even more messy in fourth year as coffees on the ward are exchanged for babies in the labour suite. The Auricle understands that the dynamics only get more tense when the stakes are higher and midwives and logbooks are involved.

Reporting for the Auricle and signing off,

Christopher Nguyen


Feature image from The Independent 

Self-care is a long term relationship with yourself

By Tanya Tang

Self-care has become trendy lately. #selfcare has nearly 5 million posts on Instagram, and more on Twitter. But when you log into Instagram and hit up the search bar, the first few posts under #selfcare are of girls with their perfect beach tan glowing under the sun, captioned with something along the lines of ‘how to stay soft all day #selfcare #selflove’ and a long list of beauty products. Further down the page, there’s a post extolling the greatness of a morning bath for a busy mum, complete with a picture of a rose filled spa bath.

Somewhere along the line, something has gone horribly wrong.

When we think of self-care, there’s a trend towards self-indulgence. Self-care has become synonymous with ‘treat yourself’—a tub of ice cream for the days that are too stressful, a shopping splurge or ‘retail therapy’ because you deserve it. The face of self-care has become cold-pressed juices, yoga and motivational quotes. Even when we bring this back to the basics that we as medical students have understood and experienced, mindfulness has also been commercialised. The old Buddhist meditative way of living has evolved into McMindfulness that slots into busy consumer lives just as easily as a one-tap-pizza-to-door delivery service. Often it isn’t taught right. For some, myself included, the sort of meditation that is taught to us in first year only serves to heighten our anxiety and, at its worst, can trigger an episode of depersonalisation.

What, then, is self-care?

Self-care is anything that is initiated by a person to maintain their physical, mental and emotional health. The key word here is maintenance. The self-indulgent nature of the modern consumer based self-care so prevalent nowadays is not sustainable. We take photos of our salad and tag it #selfcare but behind the uploads are the bags of potato chips and a few too many batches of brownies that were stress-baked. We buy packs of face masks and beauty products for a night to ourselves but end up peeling off the black charcoal mask to reveal a festering layer of guilt for the wasteful spending of our savings.

And if you see a trend of self-care targeting wealthy females, that’s not entirely a coincidence.

Self-care is neither kind, nor indulgent. It is a chore to be practiced every day, every hour and every second. More than mindfulness, meditation and becoming aware of the present, it is a deep introspection of yourself. It is facing yourself in the mirror and criticising yourself so that you can be a better version of yourself.

It is, in fact, a dedication to discipline.

It takes time to cultivate a truly balanced mental state of mind, and it definitely will not bring a sense of instant gratification. That mental health day we take when we are burnt out serves to only bring us a sense of instant gratification that lasts maybe only a day or two. To draw a medical comparison, it is the band-aid fix to a chronic ulcer. By practicing good self-care and self-control every day, we reduce the chances of burning out. Perhaps we might even prevent needing a mental health day.

How to care for yourself

This is perhaps the trickiest part. Despite knowing exactly what is good self-care, how do we in fact SNAP ourselves? With the trend to become healthier mentally and physically, the motivation to get started is right there; and yet that gym membership is still unused despite saying that you will go to the gym every day since Craig Hassed taught you exercise is the essence of health.

It isn’t a lack of motivation. It’s hardly the lack of motivation with all the attention being focused on student and doctor wellbeing in the medical area, and also on self-care in the wider society (albeit in a self-indulgent way).

It may not even be an issue with laziness.

It’s a problem with converting words into action.

‘Taking care of yourself’ is a huge, intangible concept with so many branches and offshoots, it may as well be one of those mirror labyrinths. There’s the diet, the exercise, the work-life balance, the social aspect and the hobbies amidst all our study. By taking small steps, we can gradually incorporate every aspect of what good self-care looks like, and nurture a balanced physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. We can plan it all down to the details, we can allocate time and money, we can scout out which gym membership is cheaper and we can educate ourselves on the healthiest recipes and procrastinate and procrastinate, but in the end, we have to own up to the fact that motivation was never the culprit in the first place.

In the end, you just have to take a deep breath and commit to yourself.


Featured image from Yoga Journal

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