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Beyond MCAT-Dome March 27, 2012

Posted by therealtinlizzy in Uncategorized.

In the whack-a-mole blogging fashion I have, it seems an auspicious day to poke my head out of the blog hole. (It’s really more an inverse whack-a-mole – poking my head INTO the blog hole, where the moles are perhaps taking whacks at me.) Auspicious for no other reason than the two factors relevant to me ever blogging, impulse and opportunity, have shown up in the same place at the same time. Those two things seem to be my Schrödinger’s cat: either impulse OR opportunity – never both at once. But today I’m somehow both dead and alive; you get to know both my velocity AND location so voila! blog post.

My quest for med school continues onward – primarily at the moment in the form of MCAT studying, cramming, re-learning, learning-the-first time and everything short of outright piping the relevant Physics, Chem, Org Chem, and Biology info straight into my skull. Actually even the piping-directly-into-my-skull is happening as I’ve gotten my mitts on an MCAT audio study tool (Audio Osmosis, as it calls itself) that I listen to in the car and while biking to work. All of the above isn’t to set the expectation that therefore I will be blowing the asshairs off of the MCAT exam (May 24th to be date-precise) given all of my balls-out studying.

Fact is – there’s still quite a lot of not-studying happening in the form of work (which has been turned up to 11 in the past 6 months) and other bits of life that studying has to be worked between and around. So yes – studying happening, progress being made, neurons long asleep being dusted off – but miles yet to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

Another wheel on the ramshackle Mad Max-like vehicle that is my pursuit of med school:

is volunteering in the Emergency Department at Hennepin County Medical Center. The position in question is glorified candy-striping. And by “glorified” I mean it’s glorious that gone-are-the-days when hospital volunteers were required to wear this:

(For funsies I actually signed up long ago in a galaxy far, far away (roughly junior high, iirc) to be a candy-striper in my home-town hospital. When I arrived and was expected to wear pretty much that exact uniform, I promptly NEVER CAME BACK AGAIN.) Gloriously – volunteers at HCMC wear black pants and a red polo shirt.

Anyway – volunteering in the ED at HCMC is pretty much what you might think/know of candy-striping – light-duty tasks like turning over rooms, refilling blanket warmers, talking to patients and showing them or their families to rooms – functionally you’re a minion for the staff on duty. But because you’re just a volunteer minion, you’re not allowed to participate in procedures, physically lift patients, clean-up bodily fluids (except in minor quantities). All in all, perhaps not terribly exciting on the surface. However – it’s a starting point, a needful one. And, like I asserted to the person interviewing me for the position – I’m not too good for anything; I’m there to learn and to make the staff’s jobs a bit easier, not to be a pretty pretty princess. And as I’ve found – it’s actually a very engaging and interesting position to serve in, for lots of reasons. But that’s for another post perhaps, albeit in limited fashion due to confidentiality/privacees and all.

A small amusing (to me) aside: my orientation was with a scrum of undergrad pre-meds, not surprisingly. This cast me, also not surprisingly, starkly in the role of “one of these things just doesn’t belong here.” Lucky for me, I’ve been used to playing that role since roughly junior high. However, given my life circumstances and choices, it’s actually been awhile since I’ve had the great, er, fortune of feeling something akin to that mud-on-the-head feeling that Neal Stephenson ascribes to young avout (read student/monk) Erasmus’ embarrassment in a passage of Anathem:

Embarrassment is something I can feel in my flesh, like a handful of sun-warmed mud clapped on my head…The embarrassment had turned runny. It was horrifying my scalp along a spreading frontier…Now it was sheeting warm down my face, clogging my ears and sanding my eyes.

That’s the sort of feeling I get when I’m in new, really REALLY new situations. Not just new social situations or new change-of-scenery kind of situations – I’m some combination of pretty adept at and adaptable in those sort of situations by this point. I mean that feeling of being at a complete loss, where none of my experience/skills applies nor recommends me, and I’m smack at the bottom of the particular strata in question.  It’s much akin to the feeling that started in about junior high and carried well through until I hit about age 30: when I’d been in my professional career for 5+ years, as well as been some fashion of grown-up for awhile by that point and noticed I finally, FINALLY didn’t feel like the awkward clutz dummyhead playing catch-up to everyone else.

That feeling – the perpetual embarrassment and deer-caught-in-the-headlights of everyone seeming to know miles more than me, of not having the experience/street-smarts to never know if people are serious or just dicking with me (you would be amazed at what I still can STILL take at face value if you try and pull one over on me) – that’s what elicits in me the mud-on-my-head feeling that Erasmus talks about above.

Anyway, that’s what I’m back in the business of feeling again driving this ramshackle dunebuggy of mine: mud-on-the-head. I’m no longer an expert in any way in this particular context/strata, and everyone else knows wikis-ful more than I do; I jumped in on a brand new RPG and I’m back to a level 1 player character.

But you know what makes it ok this time around? a) I’m choosing to do it, b) it’s not my first go-around being one of these things that doesn’t belong, and c) I do have a few bits of armor plating and weaponry that actually do carry over from my last RPG. So while I may not have Tina Turner’s chain mail, I will start out with a fairly kickassedly-outfitted dune buggy nonetheless.


1. Stefanie - March 28, 2012

But quantum physics says you can’t know both location and velocity, so you’ve broken the laws of physics! Where are the physics police when you need them? 😉 Good for you volunteering at HCMC. My sister who has no interest in med school volunteered for several years in the emergency room of Cedar-Sinai in Los Angeles. She loved it. They made her sign an extra confidentiality statement that she was not to mention to anyone if she saw any movie stars come in. I’d say in some ways you have an advantage over those pre-med students because you don’t come with preconceived ideas about how things are supposed to work. It might be awkward to be a newbie but you are probably learning more, because you are open and willing to learn. Good luck with the studying!

therealtinlizzy - March 28, 2012

Yes – I’ve completely broken physics, with utter impunity! Take THAT physics! 😀

As for an advantage over pre-meds, well – we’ll see whether the powers-that-be think that’s the case when push comes to shove in the application process! I’d like to think so 🙂

2. Preflash Gordon - April 1, 2012

As somebody who’s been a newbie myself at repeating intervals throughout life, I have to say you’re probably better at this than you know. Newbie-ness is something we improve at over time, just like anything else; and as you very rightly point out, those bits and pieces of armor that come with you from your last RPG are not to be sniffed at. A formidable dungeon it was, and you ruled it. I think something of that must be detectable to any reasonably-witted HR person at HCMC.

Meantime, I’m smiling big smiles about all this – of joy and fandom and all sorts of other nice things. You rock. They will be lucky to have you. And HURRY UP for crying out loud. I want you as my doctor (I don’t care if your speciality ends up being toe fungus, I want you anyway). 🙂

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