Level 4: 4th year exams – how the f*ck do you get through them?

This is not an advice blog. I don’t know how to tell you how to study for the 4th year exams because I’m still making it up as I go. My midterm. My final. I never know how to study for these things, because its all scenario-focused. You study the content, and the exam makes you apply it in a scenario that has very little contextual information because it’s not actually real. It’s not the most fun.

What I can tell you is how I get my confused little brain through an exam.

Most of the questions are things like, “What is the first, most important action?” While others are matching … or even fucking worse, true or false (my arch enemy).

These questions always make me want to bash my head against a brick wall. What is the most important? What would I do first? Is it true, or not?!

What is the right answer?

To solve the riddle, I usually close my eyes and try to imagine the real-life me in this situation, but suddenly all I can think of is how I meant to clean the cat litter that morning. Refocus, Sonia, refocus! Would I first call for help and then do something to address my birth concern, or vice-versa? Will Gemini wait 3 hours before using the litter box? Would I give the medication first or rub a client’s uterus? Is my house going to smell something-awful when I get home because Gemini is the stinkiest cat in the world?

Then there is the time-old debate of REAL LIFE versus what they want you to answer on the exam. Theoretically, I would first want to set up my birth equipment if I came in to a bombing birth where the head is visible, but in actual fact, do I have time to even get gloves on? No!

So what do I put on the exam? What I would actually do or what the book says I’m supposed to do? Because you bet your perineum I’d be deep diving down below that baby, glove-free … but is that the right answer!?

How do I combat exam exhaustion?

The questions are all like this and the tests are long, so I always reach an interlude where I sink my head into the desk and sigh a great big sigh. I then flutter the pages to determine how many are left, only to be inevitably disappointed in the thickness of the flutter. Then, when I realize I can’t read while lying down, I sit up and force myself to carry on.

To combat ennui, my strategy is usually to flip to the back of the exam and do half of the true/false (T/F). The problem with this strategy is that I always reach a point of feeling annoyed at how vague/poorly worded the T/F questions are. So I flop back to the front of the exam for inspiration, thinking that maybe somehow I will be triggered to have knowledge by reading the rest of the exam, or, that maybe the magical exam fairy will come by and remove the other page of T/F that I have yet to conquer. I’d be pleased with either, really.

Should I go over my exam again?

Finishing the exam is a great moment, but arguably the hardest part of the whole testing process. I’ve circled several questions that I was unsure of … should I go back and go over all of them? This age-old debate usually lasts at least 5 minutes. Why? Well, what if I change a question that I got right initially based on gut-instinct, but changed because I stupidly went over my exam again? OR! What if I go over the exam and change 5 answers to the right ones? What if I misread a question and picked a totally wrong answer? Oh, but what if I misread the question the second time and then picked the wrong answer?

Inevitably, I always go back over the circled ones. I’ll never know if that helps or not. The only feedback I get is my exam mark. Good thing I spent so much time overthinking it?

Is there a way to tell my grade before I leave the exam?

If you can tell this, then I think you should drop midwifery immediately and pursue being a psychic. No jokes. I do not have this skill, but I try to pretend I do by tallying the total number of circled questions and dividing that by the total number of exam questions. The percentage is what I assume I would get if I got all of the circled questions wrong. If I’m satisfied that I got 70%, I close up the booklet and get the heck outta there. (Also, let’s be real, even if I don’t think I’m getting a 70%, I still get the fuck out of there in order to clean the cat litter and initiate my 18 hour post-exam nap.)

When grades come, sometimes they give me an A, sometimes not, and I set myself up to do it all again.

Midterm for MNP is on October 20th. Then there are “only” 5 more exams left before graduation … I can’t wait!

 

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Level 4 – Starting Fresh

Before

Whenever someone asks me how midwifery training is going, I have a hard time not answering completely honestly – it’s really fucking hard. If you haven’t gathered from my previous posts, I’m tired, angry, emotional, and feel stupid most of the time.

That being said, after a month off, I was starting this new semester in the infamous MNP (Maternal Neonatal Pathology) course as a total nervous racket. I was fearful that I would continue to feel the same way as I did in the summer – sad, lonely, stupid, and barely keeping one foot in front of the other.

A new feeling

Miraculously, however, things feel different this month. I don’t know if it’s the bright sunny, September weather. I don’t know if it’s the six weeks of adventures, friendships, and relaxation (amazing what time off can do for your mental health!). The bags from under my eyes are gone and I feel more ready to take on this work, this community, and these studies.

Starting again

Coming back this month, I was welcomed by the midwives with warm hugs. They all were excited to have me back and working again. They make me feel like I’m a part of the team, and that I’m a competent respected member of it.

Lately, they text me and ask how my tutorial was. They give good feedback, and make me feel safe to make mistakes. They lament with me when they make mistakes and we talk together about how we can all get better. They tell clients that my skills are excellent and rave about me to the client’s partner. It’s almost unbelievable, really.

They … actually … believe in me!

I want to live up to the expectations and beliefs of my midwife mentors, and I want to be worthy of their praise. It’s slowly starting to feel like I belong somewhere, and that my professional competencies are coming together. I kind of enjoy it now.

Long way yet

I mean, lets be real, I still don’t know half of anything, and I make really simple and stupid mistakes every day, but information is starting to cement itself in my brain. Last week, an experienced, staff OB agreed with my cervical assessment and I almost collapsed on the floor and died at the end of the bed with glee. That felt pretty fucking awesome. Naturally, an hour later as I was taking my gloves, I got a little too aggressive and sprayed blood over the clients legs. So … balance?

New approach

My new approach is to try to fill my life with more action rather than reaction, and trying to keep a positive, solution-oriented view of placement. This shit is hard. I don’t sleep for 27 hours, and am expected to perform in class every Friday. I’m constantly reading, learning, absorbing things and re-adjusting myself to meet expectations. But! I think I do better when I’m busy and under a little bit of motivated pressure – so I’m participating more in all things midwifery and personal. I joined the executive team of the Student Midwives Association of Canada, and am actively taking better care of myself by eating better and sleeping more effectively. I’m trying to volunteer and say “yes” more, and be more available to my friends.

I’m hoping to keep going, and mitigate depressed burnout.

At least, until the midterm and winter strikes haaaaaaa. Wish me luck, this feels good right now!

 

Level 4: Placement Break Phases

As we quizzed each other for our final exam, a classmate of mine casually tells me she can’t wait for the initiation of the Placement Break Phases. Curious, I ask her to expand: “You know, the phases after the final exam is over and we aren’t in placement anymore,” she says to me matter-of-factly. “My partner has them memorized.

Here they are, see if you agree!

  1. Hibernation. Occurs immediately after final exam and may last up to 72 hours. Student midwives may be confused, hungry, and emotional/anti-social-yet-wanting-your-company. They may require frequent vital checks and food delivery.
  2. Binge watching. The student midwife wakes. She now requires all your best Netflix recommendations. Common side-effects include: sore body’s from back-to-back hibernation-to-binge watching phases.
  3. Reintroduction. Hello society, how are you? The student-midwife begins to relearn how to engage with others in normal social situations. She may require guidance, as she no longer understands the boundaries of normal social conversation. What do you mean, bulging perineum isn’t something people say in normal conversation? Well rested, she may even dabble in a few of her favourite activities.
  4. Back to normal. That brief period where the student midwife has fully recovered her mental, physical, and emotional energy and feels like herself again. This is living! This is what it’s like to be alive!
  5. Complaining of no hobbies. After months of declining participation in normal social events because being a student midwife makes having hobbies very difficult, student midwives begin to realize they need more hobbies. Now that they feel normal again, they ponder whether to start a new hobby. Unfortunately, they can’t have hobbies just now because school is going to start again soon and their main hobby then will be homework. So, in this phase, while the desire to hobby is there, the student will just have nothing to do other than to complain about lack of hobbies.
  6. Anxious about placement. The student midwife realizes she has to go back to the unpredictable, exhausted, confused, ghost-shell version of herself that did nothing other than try to survive. She becomes irrationally nervous about everything. Plus, there’s so much left to learn! Will he be able to learn it all? Best to lie awake at night the week before placement and think about it.

The reputed, hardest placement of the entire 4 years is coming for me on September 12 … Maternal and Neonatal Pathology (MNP).

Cue “anxious about placement” phase. Can I do it? Stay tuned … Here we go!