Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Finals Countdown

There are a lot of very worried looking final year medical students hanging round the hospital at the moment. They’re pretty easy to spot. It’s the bags under their eyes, it’s the gaunt expressions it’s their whole demeanour that just screams out “I am stressed.”

I don’t like thinking back to the time that I sat my finals because it was really horrible. I’d actually go as far as saying that the run-up to my final medical exams was the worst three month period of my life so far.

Five years of study gets compressed down and assessed in a two-week period. There’s nowhere to hide, you really have to stand up and be counted. The sheer volume of stuff that you have to know is immense. You know that the examiners could pick just about anything in the field of medical science to test you on, so you really have to be able to talk and write sensibly about everything.

You pray that you get something “easy” to get examined on - something like angina, multiple pregnancy or osteoporosis. But you know that they could just as easily pick rare conditions like facioscapulohumeral dystrophy that you may never ever have heard of.

Your whole academic year is trying to achieve the same goals at the same time and EVERYBODY is stressed out. A good proportion of my year were on some sort of anti-anxiety medication in those weeks before the exam. It ends up being like a pressure-cooker of stress because everyone you speak to about the exam is stressed out, and the fact that they’re stressed makes you more stressed, which then stresses them out more and it goes on and on like this.

People who have been through finals try to comfort you by saying stuff like “Just do the study and you’ll be fine. You have to remember that the vast majority of people sitting Finals pass them. The University WANT to pass you, so you have to fuck up pretty badly to fail.” I’m not really convinced that hearing stuff like that was particularly helpful though.

The worst thing about it though is that there seems to be no end to it. There’s nothing to look forward to, there’s nothing to enjoy. You wake up, you study, you go the hospital to try and see some patients. There’s loads of you all doing it so the doctors, nurses and patients in the hospital get pissed off because there are loads of students hanging around. So you come home and study some more. This pattern is repeated day after day, weak after week, month after month and it gets really, really depressing.

Anyway, my finals came and went. They were just as horrible as I imagined them to be. I was unlucky. I didn’t get the easy topics like heart disease or hernias, I got the random stuff and it was horrible. I got through it though. I’d done enough work to say something sensible in each viva so I passed. I got my medical degree and earned the letters after my name and the right to call myself “doctor.”

It took me several weeks to de-stress afterwards, to get my personality back and feel like my normal self. Medical finals are horrible and my heart goes out to all the medical students studying for them up and down the land.

I wish you all the best of luck.

12 comments:

Merys said...

my god I'm never going to survive! I'm crapping myself now for my end of year exams, and they're not until July...

Jo said...

I want to wish everybody the besst of luck - you are doing something that I know I never could, and I admire you all greatly.

john said...

thanks so much for that post, i've just bunked off home with a splitting headache and its a perfect description of how shit my life is at the moment. its good to hear that it's this bad for everyone! only 4 weeks to go...

Lily said...

Mine aren't for another 3 years and the word dread doesn't come close to what I feel about finals. It makes me feel lucky to only be doing end of year exams.

It must feel so good to have them behind you. Although it seems to never end with post grad exams etc. Just a continuous cycle of revison, panic and exams. Joy.

Murk said...

I'm only having my first year exams and I'm still (almost) defaecating myself...

the little medic said...

fucking well tell me about it! Less than a week to go for me, and you know, its not the exams that are stressing me out, its all the bloody people stressing about them. Its even more annoying when the stressheads are the people most likely to pass if they just calm down a bit.

Honestly, its driving me bananas!

Anonymous said...

I'm having second year exams soon, and I'm completely freaked out. At this rate I seriously wonder about what my mental health is going to be like when I eventually sit for finals!

steph said...

What a brilliant post!

And a lovely gesture so full of understanding.

These words could make all the difference for some.

rob said...

1 exam and 1 osce to go. roll on wednesday night when i can have my life back

Anonymous said...

well, i'm a 4th year who just got dates for finals next year....giving me 5.5 months of solid study after my elective period.....fun, fun,fun!

Little Miss Medic said...

What a perfect description of how I am feeling! Especially the part about how there just seems to be nothing else in my life and how it's all that goes through my head - and the dazed pale expressions all around me. One of the F2s today told us that her best advice for finals was to carry on doing the things we liked. Even if it was "useless" things like TV, shopping and sex. Good advice methinks!

Thanks for a great post! Fingers crossed for the next three weeks!

Ms Medic said...

Mine start in a week. I am so tired and fed up I keep crying at the news, and yet I still have to pick up 'surgical talk' and soldier on! It's good to know that everyone suffers through it and most survive and some proper understanding like that in your post really helps morale! Thank you.