Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Typical Day as a Single Parent in Medical School

I have received quite a few questions about my daily schedule and how I handle medical school as a single parent, so this will be my attempt to answer them. Since the beginning of orientation week, I have had my wonderful guy here helping me out, so the adjustment has not been too bad so far. With that being said, I always have a plan B, so in addition to my current schedule, I will put what my schedule would be if I had absolutely no help at all. This way, you all can get an idea of how manageable everything is (at least for the first two years, anyway).  ***Not too long after writing this post, I had to implement my plan B, so also see my follow up post HERE***

How do you get both you and your daughter ready and to school in the morning?

The picture above represents my schedule for this week. As you can see, I start class at 8am and either finish at 5 or 6 depending on the day. For those of you considering GA-PCOM, be aware that the elementary schools in the county do not run on the same time schedule. I believe this is because they have so many students (my daughter’s school has over 1600 students), so the buses need to be able to handle the load. Some schools will start as early 8:15 and others as late as 8:50. I got lucky in that my daughter’s school starts at the early time, and her bus arrives to pick her up around 7:15 every morning. This gives me enough time to get her ready and on to the bus first, and then focus on myself and make it to class by 8. I was also lucky enough to find a place that is literally a 30 second drive from the school, so I do not have to worry about traffic times in the morning (which are pretty brutal in my area).

What do you do with your daughter when she gets out of school?

Like I previously mentioned, my S.O. currently gets her from the school bus and helps her with her homework before I make it home in the evening. If I did not have him here to do this, she would be in an after-school care program. Unfortunately, for her school, there is not one available on-site, but I was given a list of about 20 programs that provide bus transportation from the elementary schools to their location. These run about $75-100/week and go until 6:30pm. If you provide a letter from the provider to GA-PCOM, they will increase your cost of attendance so that you can get more loans to cover everything. I’m pretty sure other schools will do the same, but don’t quote me on that.

How do you find time to study?

From 6-8pm every day, I do absolutely no studying. This gives me time to talk to my daughter, make dinner, get her ready for bed, and do anything else parent- or relaxation-related. At 8pm, she is on a strict bed-time schedule, and I study until midnight. I am a night-owl so this works best for me, but for those who aren’t, you can always adjust it to go to sleep early and wake up around 4am.

Do you have to attend every class?

For the time being, I attend every class, but only the labs and guest lecturers are mandatory. GA-PCOM does record the majority (but not all) of its lectures, although some professors will pause the lecture recording at times to give hints to those in class. I learn best from reading the texts and writing out notes, and I found that listening to the recorded lectures at 1.5x speed really helps at night. Therefore, I may end up skipping a few lectures to read through and learn the material in the library, and then I can reinforce the material later on in the evening by streaming the recorded lectures at home. Either way, I am on campus all day, but I will get more hours of studying done versus zoning out during lecture time. I would be too tempted to sleep in if I did not go to campus, so even if I decide to not go the lecture, I still plan on going to the library or one of the study rooms.

What about weekends?

My Saturdays will probably be split between at-home studying and anatomy lab on campus. My daughter is pretty used to my busy schedule, so she usually leaves me alone for a few hours. If I did not have my guy helping me, then I would already have found somebody from who had a pretty good availability to come if needed. I also do have family about 45 minutes away from me, so in a true emergency, I could probably drop her off for the day.

On Sundays, I do NOT study at all. I made a promise a long time ago that I would give myself a breather one day a week, and it is really important to me to bond with my daughter at this time. Sundays are pretty much mommy-daughter days, and I plan on keeping it that way (although I may alternate with Saturdays at times). This keeps her happy, and gives me less of the mommy-guilt. GA-PCOM also has a break every day at 12pm that coincides with my daughter’s lunch, so I may eat lunch with her from time to time if I feel she is starting to miss me more.

I hope this answers everyone’s questions, but if not just send me a message. I can also ask my other classmates about their experiences if you would like to know something a bit more specific or relatable (i.e. raising a toddler or infant in medical school). The first two years are a pretty set schedule, so medical school if definitely doable with or without help as a single parent. My daughter is also school-aged and I have been raising her by myself without help since she was a toddler, so I think it does come a bit easier for me, and I can manage with or without someone around. There are also more than a handful of other parents in my class (both single and married) with children ranging from infants to teenagers, and they seem to be adapting just fine, so please do not think that medical school is impossible if you are a parent (single or otherwise).


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Week 1 of Medical School Complete!

Getting ready for anatomy lab

I am happy to say that I survived my first week of medical school, and it is every bit of intense as everyone says it is! Just last week alone, we probably covered more than what I learned in what amounts to probably a month or so of undergraduate coursework. There definitely wasn’t any introductory period either. On the very first day, we covered the superficial and deep back muscles, histology methods, osteopathic principles, and we had to do a back dissection on cadavers in anatomy lab. I barely managed to make it home before six on any day, and I still had to study for about 4-5 hours to understand what was taught. Oddly enough, I didn’t feel too overwhelmed during the week, but that all changed when Friday hit and we covered the first eight weeks of embryology in just one day. So much information!!!!

GA-PCOM ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The week didn’t pass without some pretty good highlights though. On Thursday, I used a power saw for the very first time in my life, and removed the vertebrae of my cadaver in order to visualize and remove the spinal cord. I thought it was so awesome! Anatomy lab, although time consuming, could easily pass for my favorite class right now. I also had the chance to do a cervical palpation on a classmate during OMT lab. OMT, which stands for osteopathic manipulation treatment, is something that is only specific to DO schools, but so far I really enjoy it. It not only is a way to have a break from sitting in a classroom all day and going over the basic sciences, but it also a good way to get to know and understand the body from a physical standpoint. So many people complain about not having any patient contact during the first two years of medical school, and I feel like OMT helps to give a little bit of that. GA-PCOM also proved its awesomeness by having a school-wide ice bucket challenge on Friday to raise money for ALS, and it was pretty cool seeing our professors get ice water dumped on them. They also had a huge water slide and free cookies, so it was a nice end to a pretty long week.

My week in a nutshell: studying, studying, and more studying!

As for this weekend, the studying didn’t end with classes on Friday. I not only studied all of Friday night, but on Saturday morning I was back in the anatomy lab doing a dissection to find the subocciptal triangle, and to make sure that I could identify all of the back muscles before we flip the bodies over on Monday. After that I came back home to study embryology for a few hours, but then I went right back to campus to go over the vertebrae and deltoscapular region with one of my classmates. I made a promise that for one day a week I would do absolutely nothing school related, so last night I went out with my wonderful guy and daughter to a nice dinner. I also took my daughter to an indoor trampoline park today, and we basically spent the whole day bonding. It was actually really refreshing to take one day to not worry about schoolwork, because I literally felt like all I did was study throughout the week.

Dinner Break!

A few of you have asked me to make a post about my daily schedule, and I am about to do that right now. I didn’t want to make a super long post though, so I will most likely schedule it to be posted either tomorrow or Tuesday evening. Outside of that, I probably will not post again until next weekend, so I hope everyone has a fantastic week!

Mommy and Daughter Bonding Time :-)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Say Good-Bye to the Pre-Med and Hello to the Medical Student!

Orientation is over and my first official day as a medical student starts tomorrow! I have no idea what to expect, and the best way to describe my emotions would be a mixture of anxiety, happiness, and overall eagerness. I probably shouldn’t be too excited, because I’m pretty sure I’m about to be hit with schoolwork like a ton of bricks, but I’ve been waiting on this moment for so long! I’m finally on the right track to fulfilling my dreams, so I’m definitely excited for this new phase that I am about to enter into.

Some of the Awesome Students of GA-PCOM Class of 2018

As for the recap on orientation, I had a blast with my classmates at Dave and Buster’s, but I decided to not go to the final night events which included mini golf and a tour of the local brewery. After sitting through orientation speeches all day, I was just tired! The final day of orientation wasn’t too bad though, as we had the task of working on a class mission statement and writing ourselves a letter that we will be given back in four years at graduation. I thought this was a pretty neat idea, and hopefully I won’t read it and roll my eyes at what I wrote in four years LOL.

At graduation, I will get to read a self-written letter to myself

There were two things that were said at orientation that really stuck out at me. The first was “how you do in medical school has absolutely no bearing on your future. All you have to do is survive it.” The second was “the race is not for the swift, but for those who endure.” The first one gave me a little encouragement that I will still succeed even if I’m not the smartest or best in my class, and the second one made me reflect on my pre-med journey. As most of you are aware, getting into medical school was an extremely long and hard road for me. I endured a lot over the last few years, but by staying persistent, I’ve managed to stay on the right track. I know there are going to be way more challenges in medical school, so hopefully I’ll remember to just stay in my lane and keep going. I really don’t plan on worrying about how everyone else is doing or how I compare to them, because we do not share the same goals. My focus really will be on surviving and learning as much as I can so that my future patients can receive the best care possible.

I love getting new school supplies!

I won’t go on and on about that though because I’m trying to keep this post somewhat short. As for my last free weekend, I must say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Yesterday, I had the chance to sleep in and it was so wonderful. This morning, I was surprised with an Amazon Prime shipment on my doorstep. I just can’t get over the awesomeness of free two-day shipping and Sunday delivery! Plus, all my anatomy stuff came which is important, because we start with back dissections tomorrow. Super excited! My daughter also had a birthday party to attend today, so we spent a few hours at Chuck E. Cheese. Apparently, some of my other classmates spent the day pre-studying, but I didn’t have that luxury. Parenting never stops for me, and since I know spending time with my daughter is about to become limited, I wanted to make sure I took advantage of the opportunity. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep up with the rest of the class. But anyway, that’s it for now. I may have to start posting once a week, but I do plan on keeping up with this blog. I also plan on continuing to answer everyone’s questions, but don’t be upset if it takes me a little longer than usual. I’m a busy medical student now!  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Mid-Week Orientation Update

I just finished cooking dinner, and I have about 45 minutes until tonight’s orientation event starts, so I thought it would be a good time to update everyone.

Day 1 of Medical School Orientation!

Orientation week has been pretty great so far. On Monday morning, we completed the rest of our “housekeeping” list, which included getting our IDs and making sure everything else was good to matriculate. We were split into groups according to last names, so after lunch it was my group’s turn to complete the BLS/CPR training. I had a great instructor who really made sure we knew our stuff though, so when it was time for the exam, I passed with flying colors. After that was completed, we were free to leave, and I made it back home a few minutes after my daughter. I forgot to mention that on Sunday night, my wonderful guy drove in from New Orleans, and having him here to help out with my daughter in the afternoons has been a huge relief. It even gave me the opportunity to go out on Monday night to the karaoke event put on by the student council. That was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed getting to know my classmates (who are pretty much all awesome, btw). I even somehow ended up singing “No Scrubs” and an N’Sync song with a few of them lol.

Tuesday was a free day for the DO students, so I spent the day shopping and hanging out with my guy. There are a few other parents in the class, so I also planned an event at an indoor playground yesterday afternoon, and we all had a lot of fun with our kids and getting to know each other. The orientation event that was planned for the students yesterday evening was the Atlanta Brave’s baseball game, but I was so tired after the kid event, that I decided to give away my ticket to another student. I’m glad I did because it really allowed me to relax a little last night.

Halfway through Orientation Week!

As for today, orientation was long! We started breakfast at 8am, and then from 9-11:30 we sat in a lecture hall and listened to introductions from representatives from both the Philadelphia and Georgia campus. One of the things I love about my school is how it feels like one big family, and the administration really works hard to keep it this way. We had about a two hour break for lunch, so I ate some free food on campus, but then I came home to relax for a bit. After that we were back in the lecture hall for three hours of more talks. I think the final presentation was based on understanding different feelings and people, but it incorporated animals into the examples given, so it was very interesting. I’m not going to lie though, I was so happy that it ended early! Sitting in class from 8-5 is definitely something that I’m not used to yet, so I’m somewhat glad we’re starting it this week so that it won’t be a huge shock when we actually start classes next week.

Tomorrow we will pretty much be doing the same thing as today, but I will be a little more prepared for it. Tonight’s event is at Dave & Buster’s though, so I’m about to go have some fun! 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Gearing up for Med School Orientation!

My first week of medical school!

Orientation officially starts on Monday, but to me it feels like it started this week. Yesterday, I finally received my schedule for the first term, and to say it’s intense is an understatement. The above pic is just from the first week alone! I guess the good news is that I get to do a back dissection on the first day of class :-) 

Completing the Orientation Checklist!

In addition to receiving my schedule, I also just finished a few “housekeeping” items that need to be completed before orientation on Monday. This included part 1 of Basic Life Support training which just took me over an hour and a half to complete, but I passed! The other parts of the BLS training will be completed on Monday, and then I will be CPR-certified. I also had to complete an AACOM entrance survey, a “Learning and Study Strategies Inventory”, and a “VARK” learning style questionnaire. From these I learned I have a very strong read/write preference, and I also need to find ways to improve my self-testing and skills in selecting main ideas. I also took a trip to campus today to have my final TB reading done since I previously had it done way earlier than what was required for matriculating students.

The good part of getting ready for orientation was that I was assigned my “Big” which is a second-year student who helps guide and mentor a first-year student. We met up for lunch today, and I got some really good advice and files for my external hard drive. It’s nice to have someone to talk to who actually went through what I am about to experience in the next year. It definitely helps to ease some of the anxiety, and right now I’m feeling just about as ready as I’ll ever be for the start of my medical career. This weekend will also be my last as a non-student for the next few years, so now that everything is done, I will be thoroughly enjoying it. When my daughter got out of school today, we went straight to the movies to see the new TMNT movie, and it was awesome! So far this weekend is off to a great start, and with some great evening events planned next week for orientation, I plan on keeping up the fun until the very last minute. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Getting Back on a Schedule

It's that time of year again!

Today was my daughter’s first day back to school which meant that we both had to be up for 6:30am. I somewhat prepared for this by having my daughter start her usual bedtime routine about a week ago, but she still wasn’t too happy about having to wake up so early. Having been out of work for a little over a month now, my body definitely was not ready to wake up early either. Despite this, I was able to have her dressed and out the door a few minutes before her bus arrived. Hopefully, she likes her new school and fits right in.

Right now, I am sitting at home dead-tired but I refuse to go back to sleep. Orientation starts next week, and even though there won’t be any studying involved, I don’t want to be a zombie around my classmates. I’m also a big fan of naps, but I know once school starts there won’t be any more time for them :-( I won’t really know what my fall schedule will be until next week, but I have a pretty good idea from talks with current students. With that being said, I’ll probably be able to get in an hour of studying before my daughter wakes up, I’ll try my best to dedicate two hours every day to spending time with her in the afternoon, and the rest of the evening will involve more studying. I’m a bit of a night owl, and rarely go to sleep before 12am, but my goal is to get six hours of sleep once I start classes. I also plan to make one day a week (most likely Saturday or Sunday) a study free day, so that I can make sure I leave room for a little fun and spending time with my daughter. Once classes have started, I’ll make sure to write a post on what my daily schedule is like, and that should help those of you who asked about balancing parenting with medical school. I’m so ready for classes to start, but this is my last official free week, so I’m going to occupy my now very long days with reading, movies, and getting my last little bit of fun in. Shout out to everyone who has already begun or will be starting medical school in the next few weeks!

Friday, August 1, 2014

100th Blog Post and Nominated for a Liebster Award!

I’ve finally reached my goal of 100 blog posts before medical school! I thought that would be the hardest thing to cross off the list, so I’m pretty surprised that I hit the goal with more than a week to go before the start of classes. Hopefully this will hold my new readers (and allow my current readers to catch up on old posts) as the frequency of posts start to decline with the start of school. Blogging has been an awesome hobby for me, so I look forward to bringing you all a lot more :-)

On another note, I was nominated for a Liebster Award by the very down-to-earth Awkward Black Doctor. Thanks for the love! If you guys have not checked out this individual's blog, then you’re missing out! This blogger will be starting medical school this fall at UCLA, and her blog is one of my favorites. If you’re interested in medicine, travel, or just want to read something from someone who isn’t afraid to express their true feelings, then you’ll love it too. Anyway, here is a breakdown of the award that I lifted from the blog: 

To accept the award, here are the rules:

The Liebster Award Rules
1. Thank the nominator and post a link to his/her blog
2. Display the award on your blog
3. Answer the eleven questions provided by the nominator
4. Nominate 5-11 blogs which have less than 1,000 followers, and let them know they’ve been nominated
5. Make up and post eleven questions for your nominees to answer
6. Post these rules on your blog

My Questions:

1) Why should someone follow your blog?

If you’re a nontraditional student considering becoming a physician, then you should definitely follow my blog. I have helpful tips for navigating the application process, inspiration to help you get through, and peeks into my life where I like to work just as hard as I play. There also aren’t a lot of blogs available from single parents in medical school, those who overcame low stats, or underrepresented minority females, so there’s a little something in here for everybody.

2) What is your stance on white chocolate?

Haha! My first thought was men or the food? LOL If you’re a long-term reader of my blog, then you know why that came to mind. When it comes to food though, I love white chocolate on strawberries, but that's pretty much the only time I eat it.

3) What is your pump-up song?

It’s a tie between "Blow up" by J. Cole and "All the Above" by Maino

4) What would your best friend say about you? What would your worst friend say about you?

Best  or worst, I think they all would say the same thing: I'm slightly crazy, stubborn, and a little OCD at times, but you can't help but love me!

5) Tell me about a favorite dish you think I’ve never heard of.

Since I'm craving them right now, I'll say Boudin balls. It's a Cajun dish that is basically rice, sausage, and seasonings rolled up and deep fried.

6) Any special skills?

I actually like to pole dance (for workout purposes only!) and I’ve gotten really good at not having to use my hands with it. Unfortunately, before I moved I had a little incident where I didn't tighten my pole enough, which resulted in me flying through the air and almost breaking my arm. I'm afraid to get back on it without a spotter, so it sits in my closet for now LOL. 

7) Do you have a Plan B for your life?

Having a Plan B gives you an excuse to not give it your all. The only plan for my life is God's plan, which doesn't leave room for any other plans.

8) What is your favorite place you’ve visited internationally?

Although I recently visited Cancun, Mexico and fell in love with it, Jamaica still reigns as my favorite country. The food, culture, and people really give it a uniqueness and comfortable feeling that I have yet to find anywhere else. There are still quite a few places on my to-visit list, so this could change in the future.

9) What is the best book you’ve read recently?

Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs: The Making of a Surgeon by Michael J. Collins. It's a great book written by an orthopedic surgeon, and it talks about his journey through medical school. I still can't believe this man had 12 children, and mostly while in medical school and residency!

10) Do you think fate is real or a rationalization of occurrences?

Without a doubt, fate is real.

11) Does the future scare you?

There's a quote floating around somewhere that says something to the effect of "If your dreams don't scare you, then they're not big enough." Of course, the future scares me, but not in terms of what will happen to me. I'm more afraid of not living up to my full potential and making the impact on the world that I am supposed to.

Nomination Time!
3. Doc201x
5. Stilettos + Stethoscopes

Here are my questions!
1. What's one major lesson that you have learned from blogging?
2. What's your guilty pleasure?
3. What is one thing that most people find surprising about you?
4. What is your favorite quote?
5. Are you a morning person or a night-owl?
6. What is one thing that you miss the most from your childhood?
7. What's the best advice that you could give to your younger self?
8. What's one of your pet peeves?
9. Do you prefer dogs or cats?
10. What's your favorite season?
11. What motivates you to keep blogging?

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