My Advice for Your ComServe Application

It’s almost time for the asynchronous community service applications in SA, and shortly thereafter the regular applications will begin. So I thought I’d take a break from dispensing medicine, and dispense a tip I could have used:

Apply somewhere that is going to challenge you.

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Zithulele, Eastern Cape, where I went in my final year for Family Medicine. A fantastic Community Service option.

Apply somewhere that you will be expected to work with a reasonable level of independence. Probably the best place to do community service, in my opinion, is somewhere that you can do emergency medicine, or at least your overtime in emergency medicine. Yes, even if you don’t want to do EM in the long run.

Why? Because EM will teach you independence. EM will teach you how to think on your feet. And EM will give you plenty of experience with emergency situations in whatever specialty. Everywhere I have applied, emergency scenarios have formed part of the interview.

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While at Zithulele, I even got to assist in some basic eye surgeries.

This advice comes from experience. I was lucky enough to get my first choice for ComServe: a highly specialised children’s hospital. But it was also a safe choice. At that stage, I wanted to do paediatrics as a career. I was going to do a Diploma in Child Health, and I’d be set. Except… I’ve since changed my mind. I still love kids, but paediatrics isn’t my first choice anymore.

It’s not just that. Because I was in a highly specialised setting, I was not encouraged to act independently. We always had backup close at hand, and we were expected to make use of it. And while I’m thankful for a great many things during that year, I’ve noticed that in job applications, I’ve been at a distinct disadvantage. I’ve lost a lot of the skills I gained in internship, while my peers have been able to build on theirs. I’ve been studying up as much as possible, but as we all know, theory is a poor substitute for hands-on experience.

fdd3f4239b2c7ad6feb3d86aa29083b5A year in EM would have been especially beneficial to me, because of my self-confidence issues. I know that I know how to do certain things, but my lack of self-confidence often means that I hold back. More experience in EM would have forced me to dig deep and take ownership of situations.

So apply to that rural post with limited resources. Apply to that busy hospital in the township. Apply to that day hospital with an overflow of trauma. (Just make sure you have some support, like a psychologist, for regular debriefing.) It’s one year, and it will only benefit you in future.

Tips and Tricks: Planning Your Elective [Part 1]

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 14.17.59Since I’ve kind of started paying more attention to the blog again, my friend Caroline asked me to share some tips on electives. (Hi, Caroline!) You may remember the elective series I ran a few years ago. I haven’t exactly stopped the series, I just am not really in the position to seek out medical students for interviews anymore. (Guest posts welcome, hint-hint, nudge-nudge.)

I’ll give as much advice as I could gather from myself and friends, over a few days. Today, I’ll start off with the process of choosing your elective.

Disclaimer: This will be written with South African medical students in mind. For international students, note that some things might not apply to your program.

First: Start. Early.

If you think you’ve got plenty time, you’re wrong! I have a colleague who went to Oxford for her elective, and she booked her space for the program more than a year in advance. If you have a holiday between exams and rotations, use that time. Do not rely on the hope that things will just fall into place. (I speak from experience.) Continue reading “Tips and Tricks: Planning Your Elective [Part 1]”

The Best GP Advice I’ve Received: Part 1

 

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(c) Simon Prades

The night before my first shift in general practice, I frantically messaged one of my doctor-heroes on Twitter (@sindivanzyl). I think I was hoping for a cheat sheet, something about hypertension and diabetes, but the one thing she emphasised was, “Please, please, always examine your patients.”

For medical students that would probably sound absurd. Duh, how can one not examine the patient? 

But I learned quickly that, in an environment where there are always more patients to see, it is sometimes easier to make a quick observation from across the desk than to do as we have been taught. Continue reading “The Best GP Advice I’ve Received: Part 1”

Tips for New Interns: First Week at Work

Last night I worked my last shift for Community Service. 1 January 2018 will mark three years since I walked into my first day of work. And on that day, more than 1,000 new interns will enter our workforce.

I remember the nerves the night before: being unable to sleep. Feeling like a fraud, like I had been allowed to graduate by accident. Worried that I would be labelled Worst Intern Ever; worried that I’d have awful colleagues. But I survived the first week, and eventually the first year, too.

And so will our new interns. I have some tips for those who need ’em.

64062aa6fd8336df8d9536c250fadde7 Continue reading “Tips for New Interns: First Week at Work”

Can I Be A Depressed Doctor?

Ever since I wrote about how going for therapy was my biggest gift to myself*, I’ve met with a few medical students to talk about the topic of mental health. Many of them were worried about their ability to make it through med school with their illness. Many were worried about the viability of a career in medicine with depression.

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When I was a student, there was a rumour that students with mental illness would be excluded from the course. We were informed by our senior students, and they by theirs, and thus the rumour was propagated. Continue reading “Can I Be A Depressed Doctor?”

FAQ: Will I Get Into Med School?

Ever since I first posted tips for applying to medicine (in South Africa) in 2014, I have received multiple questions from aspirant medical students.

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The hardest to answer (and thus one of the most popular) is DO I STILL STAND A CHANCE? – usually prefaced with the person’s failure to achieve the desired grades for medical admission, or some other stumbling block. Continue reading “FAQ: Will I Get Into Med School?”

Another Song for Medical Student, Interns, and Basically Everyone

I heard this song for the first time as I was driving to my New Year’s Day call on Friday. Apparently I’m the only person in the whole world who hasn’t heard it, but WHATEVER okay.

I wept a little.

THIS is what I want to say to people. To the new interns who are hopefully going to realise this year that medicine was the right career for them; but who will certainly meet many challenges this year.

Medicine is hard and you’ll be expected to be super-human, never to have broken wings, never to feel like you can’t go on.

Remember that for every person who expects you to motor on without a wink of sleep,  without any debriefing after a difficult resuscitation, there is another who will lend you their wings when it’s hard.

Look for them. Look for us.

Find the people who will support you when your day or week or month is shitty.

And when your wings are working… please help someone who needs them.

A Song for Medical Students, Interns, and Basically Everyone

By now this is an old song, but I remember last year I thought: this is the song I want to dedicate to my class.

I don’t know if I’ve always followed its advice. Have I grabbed every opportunity to LIVE? Perhaps not. But I’ll keep working on that.

I keep saying this about medicine: it is when we learn and experience that we come to grow through this profession.

If you’re about to start medical school: grab every opportunity.

If you’re about to finish medical school: grab every opportunity.

If you’re somewhere in-between: grab every opportunity.

No matter where in your journey you are: make it one helluva ride.

Tips For New Doctors: Things To Do During Your Last Summer Before Internship

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of finding out that I had passed my final year of med school; and on Friday a new group of young doctors was born. I’m so excited to welcome them as my colleagues!

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As I write this, I’m sure that most of them are in a deep slumber trying to catch up on all the sleep they missed out on this year. I am jealously thinking about the summer holiday they have ahead of them, so I made a list of things I think one should do before starting your first official job as a doctor.

1. SLEEP

If you don’t sleep a lot during your last big holiday I might actually disown you.

2. Do what you’ve been dreaming of all year

In my case it was spending the festive season with my family; for others, it was traveling. DO IT NOW. You deserve it.

3. Declutter

Chances are you’ll be moving into a new place – maybe even a new city! Instead of chucking everything your own into boxes, spend some time going through the detritus of your life and getting rid of things you don’t need or don’t use. Haven’t worn that all year? Chuck it. It’s the age of minimalism – dust is gross and moving companies are expensive. If it’s old and gross throw it away; if someone might still use it, donate it to a charity shop.

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Some awesome articles here – click for source.

Continue reading “Tips For New Doctors: Things To Do During Your Last Summer Before Internship”