Words cannot even begin to describe….

The mental anguish

The physical exhaustion

The constant worry and anxiety

The niggling guilt whenever I am away from my revision

The dreaded final exam is in 7 days time. I feel like there is still so much more ground that needs to be covered, though I doubt anyone can ever be completely prepared for it. After all, I am “only” expected to learn not just anaesthesia, but also medicine, surgery, paediatrics, obsterics & gynaecology, neurosurgery, cardiothoracics, ITU, A&E, anatomy, physiology, physics, pharmacology, and the art of talking. You would think that “surely they only expect you to know the basic principles,” until you get quizzed on the pKa of cocaine, or the exact angle of the right main bronchus compared to the left.

I do hate being viva-ed. I hate being asked all these difficult questions by my consultants and colleagues. I dread the possibility of coming across as “thick” and ineloquent whenever we go through the long and short cases. Yet, despite how much I really dread asking a consultant to viva me, I force myself to do so. I go asking for trouble. I put myself out there in a vulnerable and very uncomfortable position. All for the sake of practice & perfection.

These last few weeks have gone by in yet another exam-induced blur (It is concerning that there have been so many “missing”/ blank periods in the memory of my life these last 4 years). I have completely sacrificed my evenings, my weekends, my sleep, my social life. Heck, I even sacrificed my birthday and spent it doing 12 hours worth of magic roundabouts at the viva revision weekend. It just sucks so bad when you spend the minutes before going off to sleep thinking about the Budapest criteria for complex regional pain syndrome, then find yourself waking up in the middle of the night with your brain racing away trying to describe the anatomy of the larynx.

Sometimes, I look at the patients smoking at the hospital’s main entrance and wonder if they can or ever will appreciate this torture we are going through just so we can look after them. I don’t think they ever will, especially when so many of them do not even realise that Anaesthetists are doctors too…

Some of my friends have pointed fingers at me accusing me of managing a terrible work-life balance. People shake their heads when they hear how life has now been reduced to the work-study-sleep cycle yet again. I don’t think they understand. This is literally the last hurdle. The Royal College will unshackle my freedom and return it to me the moment I pass this exam. My sanity will be returned to its rightful owner, and perhaps there will finally be time to vacuum the floor, scrub up the bathroom, or change the bedsheets. For now though, I need to work and plan diligently for the day I go to “war” fighting for my freedom.

I do need to manage this stress though, and realise that taking an exam is not a truly stressful situation. As DG always says, true stress is when you knock a kid down in your car on your way to work, when a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, or when you are cold & hungry with no knowledge of when or where your next meal will come from. These are truly stressful situations. An exam? That is nothing in comparison. So what if I fail this test? I get to sit it again, that is all. Yes, it will be a pain in the bottom, but that is not the end of the world.

J, please remember this.

Keep going, keep praying. God will sustain you through it all. He already knows if you are going to nail it or fail it. Note this, and have peace.

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