Thursday, July 22, 2010

Surviving Board Exams

country road

Well, I think I'm going to live. Yesterday, I wasn't so sure, but this morning, waking up hungry at 5.04, two hours ahead of my alarm, the world looks brighter. Surviving board exams is all about endurance. Two hours of 100 questions followed by a ten-minute break, 100 more and lunch, then another hundred, break, and the final hundred. It sounds like a lot, but the time goes fast, sometimes too fast. By the last hour, you're fighting brain fatigue, butt fatigue (despite a comfortable chair), and a bountiful desire to just get it over with.

Now comes the waiting. For reasons that baffle me, practice question sites, such as the one I used and highly recommend to any readers who are osteopathic medical students (Combank), are able to process exam scores immediately while boards require two-three weeks. To paraphrase Thomas Paine, these are the times that try medical student souls. Even the best of us (and I don't mean me) come away with a measure of uncertainty about the outcome.

Honestly, I think its part of the process of making doctors, teaching us how to live with ambiguity. Even the most straightforward of surgeries, for example, may conceivably involve a post-op infection. We never really know things are going to be absolutely okay until the fat lady sings and sometimes she's late coming onstage. Becoming accustomed to waiting is essential and the sooner we get good at it, the better off we'll be.

So, yesterday about the only thing I did, besides nap with the dog and cat, was mow the lawn. Now, here on the farm, that means getting out the tractor mower, because I'd wager I drive at least a couple of miles back and forth, maybe more. I looked at the computer screen and thought about writing and that's as far as I got. Exam days are always hard on the frontal cortex (the part of the brain that handles conscious thinking) and the day following, one feels as washed out as a country dirt road following a cloudburst. The fact that I'm here this morning indicates Tuesday wasn't a flood after all.

(Creative Commons Image by Grant MacDonald via Flickr)

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