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Saturday, November 2, 2013
Stress Reduction In Medical Students
The stress begins just trying to get accepted INTO med school. The GPA. The letters of recommendation. The volunteer work. The MCATs. The applications. The interviews (you have to pay for all travel and accommodations).
Then there is the move. And the first day of medical school! At last, it is the dream come true! I remember eating lunch on the lawn with a circle of my classmates, in a formal 'small group getting to know each other' setting. We bought our own white coats--now these are given in a small 'ceremony' to the entering students. (Remember, the shorter the coat, the newer the student! The longer the coat, then they are 'attendings'.) But the Dean of the school gave us a chilling lecture--she said, 'This is the first day in your career you won't be behind!'
She was right. The amount of facts mastered in the first two years was mind-boggling. I literally studied until I couldn't learn any more and went to sleep. There were tests and practicals and 'introduction to being in the hospital' classes. That same dean told us to allow about three hours a day for our needs--one hobby, exercise, meals, housekeeping. Everything else was spent learning medicine.
I took a special course that took extra time: Medical Spanish. I decided to not have to wait for the interpreter the rest of my career. But this took my lunch hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Thursday afternoons I went to a clinic that was Latino to practice--for two years straight!
A group of us was interested in Alternative Medicine. We had a class and I learned during this elective about Ayurveda, acupuncture, massage, herbal medicine…many things.
A classmate was a karate black belt, and he offered classes for us. It was 'Yo Shu Kai' karate. I earned my yellow belt. Others were ballroom dancers, and we would practice in breaks between classes and sometimes go downtown together to try out our 'stuff'.
My favorite was wednesday nights. I took Jazz dance (Hip Hop) at the rec center. I couldn't afford ballet at the studio my friend went to . But together we went to Salsa dancing until ten at night. It was the best fun I had all year.
I also had a year pass to the local zoo, and went to mass every week.
Second year, I actually taught massage to the first years, as part of a new course in Stress Reduction.
Some schools now have more formal courses, and a few include Reiki.
Here is an article on the latest news about stress reduction techniques in medical student education: http://www.examiner.com/article/meditation-is-helping-medical-students
What is NOT written in this, and is important to note, is that work hours ARE limited for both medical students in the hospital rotations (they are generally excused at three in the afternoon 'to go read') and residents (eighty hour work week). There are NO work hour limits for physicians.
After sixteen hours awake, studies have shown that impairment is equivalent to one alcoholic drink.
Some hospitals take this seriously, just as they would for pilots, and truckers. They have a 'breaker' person come in to give a four-hour nap to the on-call anesthesiologist in the O.R. and immediately after, the O.B. anesthesiologist. (I do not know about the other specialties).
Others, like my own, assign twenty-four hour shifts and do not guarantee more than 'the short room' for the following post-call day.
This is an important part of health care no one likes to discuss.
I think you should know.
Aloha and Mahalos,
P.S. eating RAW vegan gives me the energy I need to 'keep up' with all-night shifts. It makes a tremendous difference in my stamina. Also, 'light lunches' keep me from getting sleepy in the O.R. which is often very dark after lunch.