Round 3

I keep having little moments of incredulity. “Bloody hell… I’m a third year?”

Hello one and all, it’s nice to be back on the blog. I’ve hit an enormous milestone: third year marks the beginning of the clinical courses, the point where you leave behind what’s normal and what’s healthy and dive into the vast world of disease and drugs. In my pre-clinical years, I had always imagined that once I became a clinical student somehow this inner professional would have started to blossom – i.e. I would have had my crap together. In reality?

In reality, I still feel like I’m accelerating headlong into a profession with absolutely no clue how to drive this thing. I don’t feel like I know enough, or that I have solid learning strategies in place. I feel like I’ve managed to improvise my way this far, and that improvising isn’t going to cut it in the warzone of third year at the Dick Vet. In summary, the general Type A personality mini-crisis that every single one of my colleagues will be experiencing too.

The legend of third year is passed down the students year on year, and its reputation instills a pretty profound sense of dread. The word on the block is that if you can make it through third year, you’ll make it to graduation. That being said, the material they’ll teach in the next few semesters is exactly what I came here for… it’s real medicine. This first semester alone will see us cover:

  • Applied Pharmacology & Therapeutics
  • Anaesthesiology
  • Critical Care
  • Surgery
  • Clinical Oncology
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Principles of Pathology
  • Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Reproductive, Neurological, Haemolymphatic, Alimentary, Urinary, Endocrine, Dermatological, Musculoskeletal, and Clinical Pathology
  • Professional & Clinical Skills

And so I begin this year with a clashing mixture of apprehension and buzzing excitement… the thought of covering all of this so fast is scaring the pants off me. But I’ve got a few things in my favour; there are very few dropouts from this point forwards, I finished second year with a Distinction (I am as surprised as anyone), and these are the subjects that I’ve been waiting impatiently to begin studying. So bring it on.

I’ve been back for a week now, during which I’ve rebooted uni life. The beginning of the week saw me back at Easter Bush welcoming the eager-faced vet freshers into our big shiny school. My job was to take five groups of 20 and give them each a half-hour introduction to their Professional & Clinical Skills course. The first group of the day arrived buzzing and full of questions, they listened intently and laughed at my jokes. It’s nice to have an audience that does. When the talking was done, I had a wonderful black Labrador to let loose on them all, who willingly provided kisses and love to every single one.

By the time we got to the last group, my jokes were getting halfhearted nasal exhales and I could see my information and advice sliding right past their glassy eyes. Poor sods. I remember Fresher’s like it was yesterday, everything’s completely new and scary. You feel like everyone is better than you, you’ve no idea where to go, or what to say, or how to work your microwave, how to navigate the canteen, or how to deal with the dumptruck of information blasted at you from all sides. It’s long bus routes with strange people, 650 societies, thousands of flyers, forms to fill in, equipment to collect, maps to read, names to learn. No mum, no home, no bloody clue – just chaos. I could see it all in their faces.

In the end all I could do is deliver the bare essentials and let the dog out as a reassuring lifeline to their drowning minds. All they really needed to know was that they have a new family now, who will be there for anything they need.

It’s also funny going back to uni as an established student. It’s like an entire different universe that’s been put on pause, and you arrive back to press play on it again. Though it’s only a few hundred miles, it feels like a world away from my life in Yorkshire. It’s a confusing mixture of wobbling as you try and stand on your own adult feet again and feeling the rush of exhilaration as you start exercising the freedom every student relishes. One moment you’re frowning over your online banking, and the next you’re buying marshmallows and booze on a whim. The entire city waits for you to take back to its streets, any time of the day or night, whatever it is you fancy doing. Free evening? You could join the African Drumming Society for a laugh, or just scoot off to the nearest cinema, or cackle the night away with a friend and a cup of tea. What a strange way to live. What an amazing way to live.

Next on the agenda was restarting my own life in Edi. A colossal Asda spree with Mum had made sure the flat was well-stocked, but when Rowena arrived and we began living together again, somehow we found that there was still stuff to be acquired. It blows my mind, how much stuff I accumulated over the first two years, how much I brought back with me, and how much I took out of storage… how could there possibly be anything missing?

Well, our kitchen scales had been shattered in storage, our flatmate accidentally abandoned our plant in the last flat, and a bunch of our cutlery had mysteriously evaporated. The bottom of one of our pans had disintegrated into a strange seasoning over the last semester so a new one was definitely in order, and our remaining cutlery was currently skidding around chaotically in a kitchen drawer, which would never do. We bussed out to Homebase and Argos to rectify this list of problems. This year I’m in the same building as last year, with a similar view and an identical bedroom, but with a much bigger kitchen. Apparently a larger kitchen doesn’t make you a better cook, as evidenced by the fact that we made a complete Thai green curry with green beans, but no actual rice… excellent start. Bravo.

I thought it would be much simpler settling back into a flat almost identical to our last one. But it’s amazing what can go awry. We pretty quickly discovered that the microwave was incomprehensibly complex to operate and emitted an acrid smoke whenever we used it. There were a few unusual holes in the walls, some of them with exposed electrics, and my desk chair looked as if it had endured a hurricane. When we got a guy in to look at our non-cooperative toilet flushes, he managed to break a bathroom light at the same time as fixing the flush, which left Rowena to perform by torchlight for a couple of nights. Apart from the maintenance issues ranging from inconvenient to mildly life-threatening, it’s mostly been a case of constantly looking for things in the wrong cupboards.

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*That’s not a small ghost near the ceiling, it’s a teatowel slowing a rather aggressive flow of cold air from a vent, the purpose of which I don’t really understand*

After the domestics were out the way, I realised with tremendous excitement that I had the rest of the week to adventure with my favourite person. Where do we start? With a bottle of hooch and burritos, obviously!

Next, a trip to the National Museum of Scotland to see a bunch of dead animals – you know, get in the mindset for another semester of death and decay.

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A couple of days later, we decided the Royal Yacht Britannia was well overdue a royal visit, and so we graced her with our presence:

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Then it was back to the reality of Monday morning. No more royal yacht visits, no more possibility of scooting off to cinemas or eating marshmallows. I’d honestly forgotten what it was like to hear that God-awful alarm and leave the warmth of my bed. Scotland being Scotland, I’m writing this snuggled up on the sofa with Rowena, windows shut and radiator on. Somebody needs to let the Scottish atmosphere know that winter is not due for a while yet. And so we trudged through a biting wind to the bus stop as we have done so many hundreds of times.

Day one of teaching was a whistlestop tour through the horrors to come, and picking up piles of lecture notes that would rival the Bible in thickness, finished off by ploughing head-first into a lecture on Pharmacokinetics & Pharmacodynamics. It was a flashing series of graphs, equations, chemistry, and long words. I think I have yet to fully re-engage the science compartment of my brain. But I had better do that quickly, because the rest of this week holds hours of pathology lectures, tutorials on clinical history-taking, many more pharmacology lectures, anaesthesia lectures, and a practical introduction to equine surgery. It’s guaranteed to be one hell of a baptism, so I’ll see you on the other side with what remains of my wits!

For now, please send prayers for better bloody weather.

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