AKA “Seriously? I Signed Up for This?!”
I wasn’t going to blog today. I was going to be a good girl and work on my oral boards prep, but after two straight hours at staring at a computer I needed to stop. Yes, I realize I am still staring at a computer but this is fun so it doesn’t count. It’s like when you were a kid and told your mom you couldn’t possibly eat another bite of carrots but DUH there was room for ice cream. Because you had two stomachs. This is like that.
Moving on…I thought I’d share how you get to be a grown-up doctor, because I realize unless you are in medicine the whole hierarchy is a tad bit confusing. Throw in Grey’s Anatomy and House and no one knows what the hell is going on (however, Scrubs is nearly 100% accurate).
In a nutshell, here’s what it took for me:
I went to college and did the Type A pre-med thing, majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry and English. I volunteered in a hospital which mainly consisted of carrying around jugs of urine to the lab, so yeah, I really knew what I was getting into when I signed up to go to med school (not). I did love wearing the pink coat, however. That was the best part.
I sat for my MCAT (med school admission test) in my junior year and applied to schools after that. I was lucky and got into med school on my first try. I say lucky because when tens of thousands of people are applying and you somehow get in, don’t tell me luck isn’t part of it. In my mind the admissions committees just threw all our files on the ground and put sticky tape on their clothes. They then rolled around and whoever’s files stuck got interviews. I am serious in that I think there is some truth to this.
Med school was four years of always being told you are never good enough, which when you expect it doesn’t really bother you. The first two years were mostly classwork, and the second two years were clinical rotations. As med students you rotate through mostly everything and at some point during your third year decide what you want to specialize in. I knew OB/GYN was for me after my rotation and never really had any problem with the decision, so onward I pressed.
I met my husband in med school, and while that was awesome it added a little bit of complexity to the issue of residency. See, after med school you apply to residency, which is where you are trained in your specific specialty. It ranges from three years (pediatrics, medicine, etc.) to something like eight or 10 years for neurosurgery and plastics (ouch). But you don’t just get to apply to these programs and pick where you want to go – oh no, that’s too easy! Instead there is something called “The Match” where you apply and interview at a bazillion programs. Then you rank your choices, and the programs rank who they want. These rank lists are submitted to a computer who magically decides where everyone goes. Buuut…if you are trying to match with a husband, wife, partner etc. you enter into the appropriately-titled “Couples Match.” This means you will only accept a position at a program where your partner has also gotten a spot. This is the overly simplified version of the couples match, but suffice it to say it means if you want to up your odds you match with someone smart (score, my hubby was smart) and apply/interview at a bunch of extra places. Which we did. And man did we spend money.
We were lucky in that we both matched at our top choices, so we were able to move forward with getting married and living together and all that. Yay.
Then we graduated medical school.
(Don’t forget the three board exams we had to take and pass along the way in school, including a fourth during our first two years of residency. All I can say is they cost $$$$$$$).
So next phase was residency. Now mind you this is the first part of training where you actually MAKE money, as opposed to taking out six-figured loans to get through school. However when you work 80 hours a week and calculate what your hourly rate is based on your hours….well, you try not to do that, because then you cry. So there I was at 25 years old finally starting my first “real job.” A job where if I screwed up I could kill someone. Awesome.
An OB/GYN residency is four years, and along the way I was exposed to the whole scope of the field: normal labor and delivery, high-risk OB, gynecology clinic and OR cases, infertility, primary care, oncology, the ICU, etc. It was the hardest four years of my life but also the most fulfilling. I learned a ton and made some great friends, because when you are doing an ER consult for a retained foreign body at 2am on a Saturday night, no one except your co-residents will understand why you signed up for this.
Remember this episode from Scrubs? These were “the OB/GYNs” – totally NOT true. They lack the bags under the eyes, the clothes splashed in amniotic fluid, and where is the crazed look in their eyes saying hurry-up-I-have-to-get-back-to-L&D-before-my-patient-delivers!!! ? Hmm.
Then HALLELUJAH residency ends. Finally you are a “real doctor” as the patients like to say (side note: during residency you are a doctor, but you are supervised by attending physicians who are docs who have finished their training. However, you have the ability to write prescriptions, operate and deliver babies, but all under varying degrees of supervision appropriate for your level of residency. That is, an intern – first year resident – is going to get way more hands-on supervision than say, a chief – or 4th year – resident).
Done??? NOT YET!!! So begins the process of Board certification.
Just a few days after graduating residency is the written OB/GYN boards. So I got like three days off to study for it. Ain’t that sweet. I passed that and finally felt a bit freer. Doug and I moved to where we now have our first grown-up doctor jobs.
This also means our huge-ass loans have started repayment. I refuse to open the envelopes.
SO YOU’RE DONE, RIGHT?!??! HAHHAHAHAHAHHA NO!
This is where it gets really crazy.
So in the field of OB/GYN in order to be fully board-certified (which really means nothing except that you passed these tests – you can practice without it, but after a few years if you haven’t sat for these boards and passed I think insurance companies drop you. So you best take them and pass), you have to pass the written test and an oral exam.
The oral exam is going to be the death of me.
This test is only offered in Dallas, Texas. So that’s nice. Why not Miami? or Hawaii?!
This test is essentially where I submit a year’s worth of GYN cases, deliveries, and clinic visits and then get grilled on all the excruciating details by a bunch of poker-faced examiners who are the big guns in my field. It requires an extraordinary amount of prep work and studying. It involves me taking a five-day review course this summer. It involves thousands of dollars, and probably a million mental breakdowns along the way.
That’s where I’m at now. Not sleeping at night because I’m thinking about my application, case lists, schedule, study plan, and more.
Oh as if that’s not enough, I am also in the midst of doing my 90 hours of online lactation coursework to be able to sit for the IBCLC board exam in July.
What’s that, you say? Volunteer to organize, host, and lecture at my county’s breastfeeding coalition conference in the fall? Sure, WHY NOT!
WHAT WAS I THINKING?!
WHY CAN’T I STOP?!?!
Oh, and that kid of mine? What’s his name? I need to keep him alive too?
I’m a tad stressed.
There ends my tale of how to become a real grown-up doctor, with a few extracurriculars thrown in along the way. Carrying those big containers of urine in my pre-med days would have only been more enlightening if they were filled with poop, because at times all these hoops sometimes feels like a bunch of s***. But I will make it, because I have no other choice, and I have to see it through. I mean hello, who else is going to pay these loans back, right?? And there really isn’t anything like helping to bring a chubby little new baby into the world.
But…I think there is a frosty beverage in the fridge with my name on it for tonight.