Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Where did I go?

I've been really grumpy, lately. Everything seems like kind of a crapshoot. I delayed taking classes until the fall, but then I encountered an insane car bill and have now spent most of the money that I had been saving for tuition. I applied for several private loans but was rejected for all of them even with a cosigner (which surprised me, because my credit rating is in the 700s). I think it is really hard to get loans as a non-matriculated student taking 5th year undergrad courses. I'm feeling screwed.

Spending nearly four years exploring menial jobs to confirm my interest in medicine has proved to be overkill, and now I feel like I'm going to lose my shit. Working overnights sucks. I never get to sleep during the day as much as I would like to (between two and six hours) and I think the sleep deprivation is messing with me.

It's depressing not to be challenged, and I constantly feel torn between wanting to learn (one of my favorite activities is reading charts, and looking up terminology that is unfamiliar to me) and doing what needs to be done (emptying foleys and urinals, stocking supplies all over the unit etc.). Stocking is this endless task that no one wants to get stuck with. We stock about a hundred supplies in each room; it's mostly boring stuff: shampoo, toothbrushes, suction liners, tubing, yankauers, emesis basins, etc. Initially it was cool to familiarize myself with some unfamiliar equipment, but it's just banal repetition. Compelled to do my job as well as I can, I always do whatever needs to be done over what I enjoy doing. The thing is, I stand there filling these cabinets while I imagine my brain atrophying and grow more and more bitter. The nature of my job involves few puzzles, little problem solving. If I actively seek it out too much, I feel like I'm slacking off. I guess the good news is that it's not forever, but I just don't know if I'll really last two more years as an aide while I finish my pre-med requirements.

Despite this, we recently had a patient who was detoxing, but two weeks later, was still significantly confused. He came in reasonably oriented, and I was puzzled as to why he wasn't getting better. I asked one of the nurses if it was normal to have DTs for such a long period of time -- don't they usually subside by this point? Do you think the benzos are making him loopy? And then wide-eyed and excited, "maybe he has Korsakoff's Syndrome!" recalling tidbits from a human neurobiology class from undergrad. His nurse looked up at me, "what's Korsakoff's Syndrome?"

Tonight I was reading a progress note by one of the internists whom I really respect, and he too, was curious about the origins of this guy's encephalopathy. And what did he consider? Tail end of DTs, adverse reaction to benzodiazepines, and you guessed it, maybe Wernicke Korsakoff's syndrome. I was really surprised with myself. Usually I just laugh at myself and the ridiculousness of an aide throwing out ideas as a diagnostician. I think the thing that I have to remember is that I'm learning, even if only by osmosis, a lot the time. Hopefully some day some of that will actually be useful.


  1. Glad to see you posting again! I'm sorry you feel stuck right now. Remind me again of what your plan for the fall was? Were you planning on taking 1 class or 2? If it was 2, maybe you could do 1 instead? I can imagine how frustrated you must feel to have to put things on hold. Any way you can job at a university that would enable you to work during the day and allow you to take classes for cheaper?

    Incidentally, have you heard of Mt. Sinai's program for non-traditional students? Apparently, they a) do not require the MCAT, and b) do not require ANY of the pre-med classes (except maybe basic bio and chem?). You need at least a 3.5 GPA from undergrad and good SAT scores. It's basically designed for people like you. You really have to look into it. And before you freak out about not being able to afford Manhattan, I can tell you that they have subsidized student housing for married couples.

    Worth considering anyway.

    Here's the Times article:

    And here's an article in NEJM about non-trads that might make you feel better. You have time, mezzo, LOTS of it. If it doesn't happen this year, maybe next year will be better.

  2. Hi OMDG,

    Here's the current plan:
    I was going to take two classes (probably chemistry and physics this year, and biology and orgo next year). Since I'm non-matriculated, though, I'm also the last person to register, so I'll take bio instead if I can't get into physics right now. I'll have summers off to save some extra money and spend time with my family.

    Thanks for the articles. I did stumble upon the one in the NY Times about Mt. Sinai's program a couple days ago. My undergrad GPA was a 3.8, but I'm not sure if I would really be considered a humanities student since I don't have a B.A. (I have a B.Mus.). You are right, though, it's definitely worth investigating. Right now it seems like something like that would make life about fifty times easier!

  3. Welcome back EG :). I am so sorry to hear about your troubles, I imagine it must be very frustrating.

    I suppose if I were you, not knowing what you have already done, I would enlist the help of the career counselors at your school and the Med School you are looking at to map out all the courses you need and the financial resources you can use to make it happen. Several of the non-trads in my class did this and it seemed to work out well for them. They learned about resources they otherwise would not have been aware of and by involving the Med School they had an advantage when it came time to apply.

    You seem to have a fantastic Mind (and even more importantly Heart)for Medicine and you *will* get there eventually.

    As for working as an Aide, I do feel confident in saying that everything that you are doing and seeing will *definitely* help you down the road. Even if it's putting away supplies. I put away hundreds of boxes of supplies working as an RN on nights and now I can walk into any facility and after observing a unit for about a day I can figure out what and where everything is. This has come in extremely handy already many times on busy units.

    Having been a CNA (that's how I worked my way through undergrad) and an RN I also learned how to interact with patients and do basic cares and procedures. And I developed the same thirst for more Medical Know-how that you are experiencing that ultimately got me to where I am today.

    You are building an indispensable foundation for yourself that will someday put you light years ahead of your classmates. Hang in there!!

  4. Ninja,

    Thanks for the advice and the moral support :).

    I did meet with one of the bioengineering professors at the huge state school school where I'm going. I was considering their program, and ultimately she advised me that I might as well take just the courses I need as a non-matric. student. She is a practicing part-time physician as well as the director of that program, and surprisingly advised me not to meet with their pre-med advisor, who she said is mostly useless and has no background in medicine or the sciences.

    I have contacted the medical school that is closest to me and that I definitely plan on applying to. I have met with a couple people on their admissions staff and they endorsed my current plan (which seems fragile, both from a financial standpoint and in terms of having the registration status to get into my classes). The plan is to work full-time overnights (three shifts on or near the weekend) and take two classes at a time at school. I need to take chem, orgo, bio and physics, so if I do it at this rate with summers off, it would take me two years. It would also be fairly cheap (tuition being slightly less than $4,000/year).

    There are some other expenses, chiefly daycare and gas for a 140 mile/day commute that I would drive three to five times a week (depending on when my labs are). No one has really given me the heads up as to any financial resources, but maybe I should reinvestigate. Sometimes you have to ask the same question to ten people before you get a useful answer.

    I don't mean to be all doom and gloom and realize that sooner or later, I'll figure things out. Hopefully sooner.