Thursday, September 30, 2010

Expecto Patronisum

No.  No no no no no.

We had a practise OSCE this evening.  Oh how we laughed.  Eight stations, five minutes each.  All pretty straightforward stuff.  Or it would be, if you had any freaking idea what you were doing. 
Case in point: x-rays.  Now I know all about x-rays.  But clearly I don't know much about anatomy or pathology because I tanked that station.  Really badly.  But hey - that's why we have radiologists, right?  I mean, apart from having to find somewhere to put all the oddball graduates.

Anyway, that's not what this blob is about.  This blob is about the post-OCSE feedback session in which we were ruthlessly patronized by our supervising doctors who marked us.  Here's what went down...

First, we were subjected to a lengthy mealy-mouthed pep talk which actually contained nothing of substance whatsoever.  "The best advice for the OSCEs is to go into each station and genuinely try to address the clinical problem that is given to you."  Swerving that violently to avoid colliding with actual content left me reeling with mental whiplash and in no state for what was to follow.

We were then given a little finger wagging lecture about how if we are ever in the position of not knowing something we should always ask for a little lesson on it right then and there to "close the gap" rather than just shrugging and saying, "Meh, I can haz brains L8R", presumably because we are all adolescent dipshits rather than responsible adults.  At this point I bit my tongue and refrained from pointing out that, in my experience, asking questions of doctors leads to one of two possible answers:
  1. You should know this by now.
  2. It's not my job to answer questions that you can look up in a textbook.
Then, we were told in feedback for one of the stations that it was disappointing that so few of us knew the dose for drug X.  There were two marks available for knowing the drug and the dose but if you didn't know the dose you got zero.  Right. 

We did point out that we've been specifically told that we don't need to know the doses of drugs, to which the response was the evergreen and fanciful idea that we can get some kind of mythical "bonus marks" for impressing the examiner with knowledge like drug doses (as opposed to the cruel reality of disappointing your examiners by being unable to distinguish the bum from the elbow).  Buddy, the day I start spending my time planning ways to "impress" my examiners is the day I'm not devoting enough time to my stamp collecting.

Seizing the opportunity presented by our collective stunned silence in response to the feedback about the dose of drug X, I asked a question.  "Oh wise practitioners", I asked, "To enable me to close the gap and to ensure that I learn something from this encounter, couldst thou in thy wisdome inform me of the correct dose for drug X?" 

There was widespread hilarity.  My Esteemed Colleagues laughed because they know me well and recognized that I was being at least somewhat of a Smart-Arse.  The doctors laughed because I should know this by now and they are not here to answer questions that I could look up in a book.  I kid you not - the doctor next to me said, "You'll remember it better if you look that up yourself when you get home".  And then another doctor said, "The correct dose is one ampoule", and chuckled to himself behind his little doctor's beard.

I love it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Plan D

So I finally came up with a plan for what to do when I drop out of medicine.  I'm going to start my own garden improvement business, specializing in building those latticed structures that you put in gardens and train plants over, as shown in the picture.  They'll be the best ever, renowned throughout the land!

I'll call the business "Hypergolae".

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I am shriven

"Surgeons are fine.  I have no problem with surgeons.  It's the people who want to be surgeons that you have to watch out for." - My doctor.
Jokes about surgeons being awful people are stock in trade for this blog.  But I have an appalling confession to make.  After my exposure to surgery this year, I'd actually quite like to be a surgeon.  It looks really interesting.

I'm so ashamed.

That's my hatstand

In 1983 Paul Young topped the charts with his cover of a Marvin Gaye song in which he sang, "I'm the type of boy who's always on the roam."  I remember wanting to be that kind of boy when I grew up, probably because it seemed like a good way of getting on television.  Although I haven't done much in the way of "love them and I leave them, break their hearts and deceive them", I do have a history of career instability so perhaps I have achieved my aim in other ways.  Nobody's written any songs about me yet though.

It made me start wondering - what type of boy am I?

I'm the type of boy who:
  • gets the Vegemite out of the cupboard, opens it up, realizes there isn't quite enough left to top one piece of toast, and puts it back in the cupboard again.  And does the same thing the next day.
  • spends more time doing background research on his lecturer's unusual given name from Greek mythology rather than going through the respiratory physiology pre-reading that the lecturer gave him.
  • has seven books in progress at his bedside and goes looking for another one because none of them are quite right.
  • piles stuff up on one desk until it is unusable then moves to a new desk and starts piling stuff up on it too.
  • writes a shopping list using the word "the" in front of everything because it looks funny: the onions, the celery, the butter, the paper towels, the soap, the tinned tomatoes.
  • knows your name but is too afraid to use it in conversation just in case he appears to use it too hesistantly and makes you think that he's unsure of it.
  • will give you a large though unspecified number of chances and then hold an iron grudge against you for the rest of his life if you screw up that last time.
  • often tries so hard to do something well that he does it badly.
  • bought some headless plastic Roman legionaries on eBay for 99 cents and free shipping because it might be fun to glue monster heads on them.
Do you think Marvin Gaye could write a good song about me with that material?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I suck

Out here in GP land it's hard to get much in the way of exposure to obstetrics and gynaecology.  The university lures you in by getting previous students to boast that they were delivering babies before breakfast on their first day.  But it's been my experience that unless you are prepared to stake out the labour ward in drag you won't have much luck.  Only one doctor in my practice does deliveries any more, so of course early in the year I made the point of having a conversation with him about how hard it was to get access to these patients and he made all the right noises about how important it was and so on and so forth, and then ... that was kind of the end of it.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  I also harrassed another doctor I know and he agreed to help out but nothing came of that either.

I saw my first birth not long ago when I managed to guilt a midwife into persuading the mother (who was a nurse) into letting me hang around.  And recently I saw my first caesarian delivery because the scrub nurse in the operating theatre mentioned that it was going to happen that evening and perhaps I should hang out in the tea room munching on biscuits until then.  So my advice to any future medical students reading this blog is this: don't bother asking doctors for help, bug the nurses instead.

Not only did I get to see a caesarian, I also scrubbed in, which I haven't been allowed to do much this year on account of being a jerk and a klutz.  But most excitingly of all - I got to drive the suction thingy.  It turns out that when you cut your way into a full uterus, there's an awful lot of blood and amniotic fluid waiting to rush out.  So it was my job to hover there, sucking it all up with my little plastic tube.  Sluurrrrrrrrp!!  It makes a noise like a kid reaching the end of a giant slushie.  A raspberry slushie.

A couple of times I got too keen and started sucking up the doctor's finger or a swab or bits of the baby's face so I'd then have to wrestle the suction thingy free before somebody went missing.  It was great fun, certainly a change from the rest of the day with the visiting surgeon where my contribution began and ended with me being asked to fish his glasses out of his top pocket and stick them on his face because he'd scrubbed, gowned and gloved before remembering where they were.  And the only reason he asked me was because I'm tallish and so I was able to get my hand down the front of his gown.  Who'd have thought that was a skill that would come in handy in my professional life?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Words of wisdom

Which reminds me to pass on the excellent advice given to me recently by a general physician:
"Never go drinking with a painter.  The solvents in their paint induce their liver enzymes so they'll still be going strong when you're flat on your back and half unconscious."

Monday, September 13, 2010


Okay, three posts in one day.  I am officially procrastinating now.  But I wanted to draw your attention to something important.  Previously a reader expressed a desire for a statement of my vision.  I couldn't come up with anything for a long time but today something crystallized and I was able to summarize in a few short pithy sentences what this blog is all about.  It's now immortalized as an "About this blog" page.  Read it today.  Or even tomorrow.  But not yesterday, oh no my friend.  That wouldn't be playing by the rules.

Battle lines

Cry havoc and let slip the tubas of war!
It's been a long time since I reported from the front line in the War On Innumeracy.  But last Friday we had a marathon 7 hours straight of respiratory medicine from a Distinguished Physician, so of course after the first 3 hours my brain filled up and went to the happy place where all it does is trawl through my life looking for bloggable material. 

I was snapped back to reality when the Distinguished Physician said, "The terrible thing about asbestos and smoking in terms of your lung cancer risk is that they amplify each others' effects, making them synergistic.  For example, if asbestos made your risk ten times higher and smoking made your risk six times higher, then smoking and asbestos together make your risk sixty times higher."

Well, sorry to break it to you Dr Smart-Guy, but what you just described would mean that smoking and asbestos are independent risks rather than synergistic ones.  Did I stand up and blaze away at him with the Holy Machine-Gun Of Mathematics?  No, I kept my mouth shut, for two reasons:
  1. In the War On Innumeracy I'm deep undercover.  So deep that sometimes I'm unsure if I'm fighting for the right side any more.
  2. He's probably going to be marking us in the OSCE at the end of the year and the last thing I need is for him to write me off as that smart-arsed bastard who corrected his arithmetic the moment I walk through the door.
Still, I expect more of you, Gentle Reader.  If someone abuses mathematical jargon in your presence today, let them have it with both metaphorical barrels!


Every now and then I have trouble getting to sleep.  Usually it's because I slept in really really late that day so I was only actually awake for 12 hours or so before going to bed again.  Sometimes it's because my mind is racing with something interesting or challenging or upsetting or disturbing that happened during the day.  And sometimes it's because the Secret Cat is stomping all over my face trying to make herself comfortable.  Regardless of aetiology, it's annoying.

So I've developed a great method for focusing my consciousness and getting myself off to sleep.  It seems to work well, for me at least.  If you have insomnia why not try it and let me know if it works for you?  Here's how it works:
  1.  Visualize a sphere floating in front of you, about the size of a tennis ball at arm's length.  The ball is smooth and matte and shining against a dark background.
  2. Now change the colour of the sphere from however it first started.  The colour you want depends on your current emotional state.  If you are angry, make it red.  If you are agitated, make it purple.  If you are sad, make it blue.  If you are happy, make it green.  And so on.  The colour doesn't really matter, the point of it is to identify your current emotional state and make the sphere an appropriate (for you) associated colour.
  3. Just focus on the sphere now it is that colour.  It will probably try to change to a different colour or maybe even a different shape but just gently nudge it back to what it should be.
  4. Now, visualize the sphere gradually changing colour to a pale silvery grey, over the course of several seconds.  Hold it there.  Feel your mind relax.
  5. Repeat the previous steps in order about ten thousand times until either you're asleep or the goddamn sun comes up and it's time to get out of bed.
 If I get a positive response to this maybe I'll record some CDs of the instructions and sell them in hippy shops.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Doctor Who?

Once again I find myself surprised by the results of one of my polls!  I really expected that there would be heaps of votes for Tom Baker and maybe Peter Davison, since they were the reigning Doctors of my youth and that otherwise there'd be a little spike for Christopher Eccleston, who brought some much needed credibility back during his short time on the throne.  But no...

The most popular Doctor is Jon Pertwee!  To my mind, that means there's a bloc of readers slightly older than me who watched the good Mr Pertwee as the Doctor before their memory of him would be forever blighted by his portrayal of Worzel Gummidge, the scarecrow who comes to life in a Calvin-&-Hobbes-esque fashion.  Whereas I was young enough to only catch Pertwee's Doctor in repeats and so he'd lost street cred with me already.  Having said that, one of the most genuinely scary Dr Who stories ever was, for me, Planet Of The Spiders, with Jon Pertwee as the Doctor.  Tellingly though, it was his last, with the irrepressible Tom Baker taking over after this.

I don't know what to make of the people who voted for Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy or Paul McGann.  I stopped watching during that time so when I did see these actors they just looked like twits in silly costumes.  Eccleston was where the Doctor first started to creep back into my consciousness, as his role coincided in my my mind with him getting a fair bit of critical attention for some of his other more dramatic roles.  Perhaps that was why he was so short-lived.  And perhaps people felt that he didn't stick with it long enough to be credited with their vote.  Pure speculation of course, but it is interesting to see how fast actors move on from the role these days compared to the Golden Age of Tom Baker who hung around for seven years.

As for David Tennant, the putative second-best Doctor ever, I just don't know.  I still don't watch the show so I have no opinion at all on either him or the losers readers who voted for him.  Perhaps he has great virtues, chief among them being that he doesn't have a head shaped like a besser block like the current Doctor does.  Perhaps he got the votes purely for ushering in a new Silver Age of Doctor Who.

Do any of my Gentle Readers care to illuminate me as to why they voted the way they did?

p.s. New poll up.  Vote now or I'll make an ill-defined threat.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Careless whispers

I feel so unsure
As I take your hand
And lead you to the dance floor
As the music dies, something in your eyes
Calls to mind a silver screen
And all its sad goodbyes
I've never gonna dance again
Guilty feet have got no rhythm
Though it's easy to pretend, I know you're not a fool
I should've known better than to cheat a friend
And waste the chance that I've been given
So I'm never gonna dance again
The way I danced with you
Time can never mend the careless whispers of a good friend
To the heart and mind ignorance is kind
There's no comfort in the truth, pain is all you'll find
Tonight the music seems so loud
I wish that we could lose this crowd
Maybe it's better this way, we'd hurt each other with the things we want to say
We could have been so good together
We could have lived this dance forever, but now who's gonna dance with me
Please stay
Now that you're gone
Was what I did so wrong
So wrong you had to leave me alone

A wee bowl of porridge

Picture from
Think of Scotland and what leaps to mind?  That's right - oats and bananas.  I've been getting right into having a sliced banana in a little bowl of porridge every morning.  It's not only delicious but warming and sustaining and apparently can help to lower your cholesterol reabsorption as well, so it's win/win/win. 

A few times in the last couple of weeks I've been close to the bottom of the bowl when I've had a spoonful of porridge which has tasted a bit strange.  It's almost a spicy taste, hot and salty.  Several years ago, an Esteemed Colleague mentioned to me that if you put a tiny pinch of salt in your oats the porridge comes out creamier and it really does work.  So I assumed that for some reason the salt wasn't dissolving properly and was having some strange reaction with the oats and making it taste funny.  So I've been diligently pre-dissolving the salt in the water beforehand to avoid this, because the taste really is a bit gross.

But today as I reached the bottom of the bowl, my spoon unearthed a deep brown lesion in my porridge, about the size of a grain of rice.  I poked at it.  It was soft.  I scooped it out.  I was able to smear it across the back of the spoon.  Horrified, I realized that it resembled nothing more than the poop that my late mouse Devondale used to do.  I'm pretty sure that those spicy salty grenades in my porridge have been mouse poo and I've been eating it up.

On the bright side, they really do make the oats nice and creamy.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Is it significant that FaceBook has started pushing ads for anxiety attack cures at me?

I can tell that exams are coming.  They aren't close, they won't arrive for another few months.  If this was a Western and I was a train robber, I'd be crouched down with my ear to the rails listening ... listening, while my boss chewed his terbaccy and spat in the dust.  I can't hear exams of course, but I can tell they are coming all the same, because my classic diversionary activities are really ramping up.  I have noted:
  1. increased frequency of online Scrabble playing,
  2. heightened interest in recreational wargaming, and most ominously of all,
  3. marked propensity to cook elaborate meals.
Yesterday I cooked a ragout of Italian sausages in a chilli, sage and tomato sauce, that I served with buttery parmesany polenta, roasted garlic and pumpkin with rosemary, and sauteed asparagus.  And today I made Burmese braised pork with chilli bamboo shoots served with a boiled salted duck egg.

Deluxe.  And a whole lot better than studying.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fathers Day - whither the apostrophe?

Despite the fact that I have no children, my Smaller Half took me down to our favourite cafe today and bought me coffee and scones.  Lovely!  It was really crowded when we got there though so I was worried we might be turned away. 

But lo and behold, knowing the staff really helps.  They directed us to our favourite table by the fire.  There was even a sign on it saying, "Reserved", so I knew that it was being saved for me.  After all, I can be outgoing when the mood strikes me, but on the whole I am more introverted than not.

Sitting sipping our coffee and nibbling on our scones made me wonder - where does the apostrophe belong in the phraselet "Father's Day"?  Is it the day of the father - Father's Day?  Or is it the day of all fathers - Fathers' Day?  I lean towards the latter even though the spirit of the day is more the former.

I hope you've all had a good Fathers' Day.  If you're lucky enough to still have a father around, make sure you tell him how important he is to you.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Beverage poll results

Head shot
I was surprised by the results of my recent world famous Hot Beverage poll.  Tea, which I only put in as an afterthought because I feared the retaliation of rabid tea drinkers, turned out to garner 45% of the vote.  Hi there, rabid tea drinkers!  Welcome to my blog, I love having you here.  Please don't hurt me. I looooove tea!

I was expecting the flat white to be the Hot Beverage of choice, but only 13% of people chose it.  Perhaps these are the same 13% of people I mentioned in my previous post who would change their vote if only they'd known we'd end up with a hung parliament.

Cafe Latte got 10% which was again less than I expected.  Can I take this opportunity, as a recently reformed milky coffee drinker, to scoff at your pathetic need for milk?  Drinking milky coffee is a sign of childishness and inconsequentiality of character.

Real men, like myself, and real women, less like myself, drink their coffee black.  Drinking black coffee is a sign of sophistication, elegance, and a certain world-weary ennui that is somehow not tiresome to one's friends.  Ever noticed that people in black and white movies drink black coffee?  That's because they have style.  Ever notice that people in sepia-tone photos drink milky coffee?  That's because they are cliched.

So it was disappointing to me to find that only 9% of you drink black coffee, since mine was the sole vote for the long black and should rightly be excluded.  That means that the others are all short black drinkers.  Scary stuff.  I find people who drink short blacks a little bit frightening.  It's not that they seem more likely than the rest of us to explode into sudden, mindless violence.  No wait - it is.

That leaves macchiato drinkers, a surprising 18% of you.  Now I confess that I myself have partaken of the macchiato but solely on financial grounds.  At one cafe I know, a double shot macchiato is actually cheaper than a flat white.  Not that I'd drink a flat white any more.  Ha.  But I don't really "get" the macchiato.  You take the mindlessly violent short black and tip a leftover babycino into it.  If you enjoy drinking toddler spit I suppose it's fair enough but 18% is definitely higher than I would have expected.

Thanks for voting.  The next poll, as suggested by an incredibly nerdy comment by a reader, concerns your favourite Doctor Who.  Vote now or I'll travel back in time and kill your ancestors.  Or worse, seduce them.