A Monash Love Letter to the Jaffies

#8519

Clayton/Medicine/Being a first year

 

Scrolling through Monash Love Letters has become a part of my daily routine. Reading through the sad breakup messages and hopeful love letters to strangers with the excitement that maybe one day I will come across one for myself. It’s funny how I treat it as light-hearted banter, until I read one that I can personally relate to.

 

Over the past semester, several letters written by first year Medical students have appeared on my newsfeed, many hitting close to home. Starting university was most likely a daunting process for many of us. Even having grown up in the area and living close to campus, the thought of having to leave my old friends and start a new chapter of my life amongst strangers in a course I was interested in yet uncertain about was nerve-wrecking.

 

First year is the start of a long journey, and as a second-year student looking back, I too remember the feeling of not quite fitting in. I remember feeling disconnected from my peers as they greeted each other every day with hugs and excitement. As someone who is naturally introverted, I often felt uncomfortable around large groups of people I did not know well, mostly whom seemed extroverted and enthusiastic. As many students know, compared to other university courses, Medicine can be ‘cliquey’ and as semester passes by, it can seem difficult to make new friends once everyone has settled into their own groups. If you are in the same shoes as I was, it is easy to use study to escape the insecurity and anxiety associated with the stress of the course.

 

Eventually, I decided I would be the one who had to actively get to know my peers, even if the thought of making small talk was something I dreaded. I did not want to make superficial relationships just for the sake of making friends in my course; rather, I decided to get to know people who I felt I could ride out my medical journey with. When you find people you can click with you don’t feel the need to change yourself to fit into ‘the group’, rather you feel comfortable being your complete self around them. Thankfully, I have a small but close group who I can study, party and have fun with. Get involved, stick around after classes and lectures, go to events and even if it seems lonely, you are not alone with this feeling.

 

It is important to note that medicine can be one the loneliest professions. It can be difficult to maintain long-lasting friendships while studying full time at university for long hours, continuing into residency and clinical training. As much as it is rewarding, medicine is a demanding and competitive career where much of your study is reliant on working and spending time alone.

 

We all know medicine is a hard and stressful course, so we have to do everything we can to look out for one another. I encourage you all to check up on your friends and to be inclusive and welcoming. Although you may be comfortable in your bubble of friendship, go to events and get to know new people, approach your peers if they look like they would like some company and shoot your shot with the person you wrote a MLL about, because we are all in this long journey together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advice from one very tired person to another

By Nicola

Oh, sleep… that really great thing we all wish we got more of! This week’s topic is all about sleep, it’s function, and some tips to help get more of it. We’re going to get educational here, so buckle in for some good ol’ VIA revision that will hopefully convince you to stop studying/watching Netflix/playing LoL and get some shut eye.

Sleep has three main important functions. One, NREM (non-REM) sleep is for restoration and repair, it allows for tissue repair and energy recovery. Two, REM sleep has a big role in memory consolidation* (*pro-tip: study something really important just before bed!). Three, sleep overall is a method to conserve energy and hence is a protective mechanism, something we can observe in hibernating animals.

When we don’t get enough sleep (which, mind you, is so often with all of us…), there are a plethora of consequences that accumulate. We have the real obvious one – we don’t perform as well the next day, yawning through a 8-10 hour day of placement and lectures, and making more errors in seemingly easy tasks. There is an increase in our sympathetic nervous system drive, which over time predisposes us to hypertension. A change in dietary and hunger hormones causes a higher appetite and probable weight gain. Lastly there is higher levels of nocturnal cortisol secretion which can lead to insulin resistance.

Have I convinced you to go to sleep yet?

The balance between our sleep drive and our wake drive (i.e. the Circadian rhythm), plus the role of melatonin, promote sleepiness when we need sleep and will wake us up when we need to get up. Things like, having varying sleeping and waking times make it difficult for this homeostatic mechanism to work effectively, explaining partially why sometimes we wake up feeling absolutely awful (some of it might also be because it’s 5:30am and we need to be on ward rounds by 7am). This kind of imbalance is seen with shift workers or in jet lag, and have been demonstrated in a multitude of studies to be associated with impaired attention, poor decision making, mood alterations, and even higher incidences of cancer long-term.

How about now? Are you feeling sleepy?

One of the biggest contributor to our poor sleep patterns, other than staying up to all hours studying, is being on our screens too late. The effect of blue light on our Circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion has been researched by Harvard University, and even dim light can mess it up. Blue light isn’t all bad though, during the day it’s awesome – boosting attention, improving reaction times, and mood. With blue light in our faces all night, our poor brain thinks it’s still daytime.

But just filtering out our blue light emitting screens isn’t going to solve all of our sleep issues, it helps a lot though. The best thing to do is have great sleep hygiene. This is defined as “recommended behavioural and environmental practice that is intended to promote better quality sleep”.

Here’s a (not exhaustive) list of things which are associated with a better night’s sleep:

  • Sleep scheduling, this is having a set time to fall asleep and wake up every day. This is difficult with the changing schedule of clinical placements and classes, but I found that at least trying to get to sleep at the same time every night helps!
  • Aim for that 20-30 minutes of exercise every day, but no later than a few hours before bed. You get all the fun, no-metabolic-syndrome-benefits of exercise but it’ll also tire you out enough to sleep.
  • Meditate! (I am so so so sorry that pre-clin ruined it for you, I promise it’s good). Apps like “Calm” or “Headspace” have specific guided sleep meditations.
  • Read a book before bed (and I mean a paper back one, e-books have no place here).
  • Avoid caffeine later in the day. Say… no later than 3pm… I know, shocking right, but that stuff hangs around in your system for ages! That includes caffeinated teas too! It’s suggested to not have any caffeination 6 to 8 hours before bed.
  • Try and have your bedroom for sleepy times and sexy times only, no study times. Again this is super difficult if you’re in student accommodation (read: a shoebox), but maybe try studying at the library or in the lounge room.
  • Don’t lie in bed awake, get up and do something else and come back to bed once you’re tired.
  • Listen to a sleep podcast, this is a really good one – Sleep Restore.

Good things come to those who wait – change isn’t going to happen overnight. Sleep hygiene and consequently improved sleep is a habit you need to work on. Did you know it takes approx. 4-6 weeks for form a habit? Good luck, and enjoy your new-found good nights of sleep 💤

 

P.S. in all seriousness, if you’re having trouble with getting to sleep, staying asleep, or having daytime sleepiness, especially after trying the above tips, please see your doctor 🙂

Say Cheese

by Joyce Ling

 

Smiles were incompatible with black, but thats not why I never wore one. It felt too personal, too intimate to show someone all your teeth, no matter how white or stained, how neat or braced. It felt like your whole soul was on display, pure and thoughtless feeling. And its fucking terrifying, being vulnerable like that

I loved black, once. If you looked in my wardrobe the whole thing would stare back at you, a dark syncytium breathing defiance. Hoodies and jeans, dresses and dress pants. My life was dominated by a single shade of washout, and I accepted it, because I was told it would pass. Just a mood swing, a phase that every teenager goes through. That made me sad, knowing how many of them were probably thinking about it too

I dressed in the role I perceived myself to have. An intangible, uncertain thing shadowing no one in particular. I was insignificant in this big, big world, a supporting act to other peoples flourishes. Confidence was what I yearned for, and defiance was what I gave. Blatant, resentful attitude. I trampled on my doubts with crude mantras and defied rules, subtly, through thought

Reading was a way, the way, for me to cope. A world of marvel, dashed with blood from the unvoiced. I learned to fill myself with the stories of other people, walked around in their skin until I was tired, asleep. They say you learn valuable things from reading, like empathy and perspective. That may be true, but sometimes I wish I hadnt tried so hard to escape from myself. Because the hollow feeling wasnt just a phase. It was there every time I resurfaced for breath

Coming to terms with who you are is a long, hard task. No moment is defining in an ultimate way, and Im thankful for everything, and everyone, that happens to me. Though they might not know it, every, single one of them has helped me discover who I am now. Theyre the ones that make me want to resurface despite the initial pain and disappointment. Their energy is the appeal of reality

Im grateful that Im here. A speck amidst a shimmering constellation, small and complete in myself. There are times when I want to go back, hide in a warm black corner and enjoy its comforts. But often now, I find myself beyond that. Walking beside the people Ive grown close to in light and shade

I couldnt replenish the emptiness with lives that werent mine, because that space was meant for someone else. Not for any expectation or impression of me, but for the person I am in each, given moment. Expanding with every breath into a new and familiar self

 

Continue reading

A Simple Act

By Kit Ming Foo

 

Year 3B, the first year where we as medical students truly get to experience the wonder and thrill of ward medicine. It is the first time that we witness the feel-good moments of solving a patient’s issues. It is the first time that we celebrate many little victories, like being able to scrub in or even getting in our first successful cannula. It is also the first time that we as medical students are exposed to a side of medicine, which we often do not talk about; death, dying and all the emotions that come along with it. Continue reading

A Letter to my Year A Self

Anonymous Author

To My Year A Self,

You’ve just arrived in Churchill and it is not what you expected it to be. When you thought “rural” you pictured rolling hills and gumtrees. You did not picture a somewhat post-apocalyptic landscape marred by a coal mine, and fields bathed in the glow of the power stations. When you thought “country town” you thought of a tight-knit, friendly community. You will be shocked to realise that several med houses have already been robbed.

You’ll walk to the main shopping area, which will take approximately 3 minutes to explore. The dining options are limited, but you’ll comfort yourself with the fact that you’ll spend less energy thinking about what to eat and therefore have more energy to study. It’s kind of like how Obama only had blue or grey suits, so he’d spend less time choosing what to wear and more time making other important decisions. Kind of.

You’ll meet everyone, make some friends and go to your first lecture, only to be told it will be your last. You’ll be hit with the “flipped classroom model” and “lectorials” and be asked far too many times if you’re #medready. The flipped classroom in year A means that you’ll be watching lectures online and coming to tutorials ready to discuss what you’ve learnt- so basically what you did in undergrad when you didn’t feel like physically turning up to lectures. The first few weeks will be spent conducting a complete overhaul of your learning style, resigning yourself to the fact that flashcards are the only way you’re going to be able to memorise all the content they’ve thrown at you.

You took anatomy for a whole semester a couple of years ago, but as you look at the cadaver in the anatomy lab you will question where all the knowledge from your Biomedicine degree has gone. You will mistake a nerve for a tendon and feel your head start to throb, partially from stress and partially because of the formaldehyde.

On some days you will drink your weight in coffee to make up for your lack of sleep. For some godforsaken reason Federation University’s student society has decided to host parties in the building behind your room on Wednesday nights- the night before clinical skills days and hospital placements. Invest in some earplugs and try to go to bed at a reasonable hour. It is your only hope of getting a good night’s sleep and curbing your caffeine addiction.

When you meet your first patient in the hospital your ability to talk to another human being will promptly disappear. It will take a few more clinical encounters for you to realise that you can just talk to patients in the same way you would talk to another adult. You’ll learn how to build rapport and feel like you’re helping them, even though you have no formal role in their care. You’ll feel like you’re helping because they’ll tell you how happy they are to be contributing to your education, and at this point you’ll be taking all the encouragement you can get.

Although this year is going to be tough, I assure you that there will be time to laugh and enjoy this crazy journey. You’ll join a mixed netball team and realise that you are probably the worst netball player in history, but you’ll love playing all the same. You’re going to make some great friends, who will be there to support you when you’re struggling- academically or otherwise- because they’re all going through the same thing. You’ll motivate each other to study and run marathon OSCE sessions at each other’s houses. After exams are done you’ll play Cards Against Humanity, which will make you laugh until you can hardly breathe and will help you forget the horrendous history you took in station 3.

You’ll realise you must take care of yourself if you want to stay afloat this year, and you’ll realise this somewhere between polishing off a Woolies chocolate mud cake and opening another bottle of wine. Eating breakfast will become part of your morning ritual and will give you enough energy to get through lectorials. Going to the gym will become a daily habit as well, and it will be a welcome break between finishing class and going home to study. You’ll discover the life-changing concept of cooking in bulk and will be thankful for all the time you have saved, especially during exam time.

Although this isn’t what you thought medical school would be like, you’ll be grateful for the people you have met and the knowledge you have gained. As you move into your clinical years you’ll still feel a strange affinity for Churchill, and whenever someone mentions they also did year A there, you’ll exchange a knowing look and swap some funny stories. This year will be one of the most challenging, stressful and rewarding years of your university life. So, unpack your things, call your mum to let her know you’re safe, and take a deep breath. You’re going to be just fine.