Day 4 - Mindfulness and Reflection

Today was a bit more unusual than the previous days, in that it was mostly about personal development and self care. It was also different in that this morning we had a severe struggle to find change for the parking meter, resulting in us very nearly being late for our first class.

We began the morning with a lecture on 'learning to learn', which probably makes just about everyone cringe, but it was actually incredibly interesting. The talk focused on how new memories are created, and efficient revision tactics for success in medical school exams, a situation where many traditional or more commonly used techniques (such as rote memory cramming, the way I worked while studying at Newcastle) simply do not work very well.

The lecturer warned us that some of us in the room may have to change our revision tactics, which I most definitely will. I'm glad this has been clarified early, because it means I can address it quickly and attempt to consolidate my learning ahead of time by experimenting with new techniques. Our first formative assessments for Block 1 are in just 6 weeks after all, and with plenty of new material to cover I plan to be proactive. We were also encouraged to keep a reflective portfolio (required to), and instructed on how to do this properly.

We also closed our first Case-Based Learning scenario - I chaired the session again and the information to work through in this part turned out to be much more broad and encompassing than before. Whereas I had been reading aloud the sources for the group, in this case we skim-read in silence and systematically worked through them paragraph by paragraph, which was much more efficient. One member also brought cake along, kickstarting our rota. I was very happy (and in all honesty surprised based on past experiences of groupwork) that all of us had completed the external work we set ourselves on Tuesday and fed back our findings.



Lunch came around and a few of us headed to The Bread Oven, a Subway-style baguette sandwich shop on the main campus. I opted for a Honey Roasted Ham and Mustard Mayonnaise skew, which for some reason I was charged less for than the advertised price. Small victories I guess.

After lunch we underwent a session on mindfulness and personal wellbeing - while it often invokes a cynical response, I am very much aware of the importance of this practice, particularly in the context of medical practice. Mindufulness is defined as the practice of being aware of one's own thoughts and feelings in a given moment, from a non-judgmental perspective. You might, for example, focus on the sensations in a particular area of the body you don't normally think about, or pay attention to stimuli beyond what you can see.

It's a strangely powerful therapeutic technique, and one I have used myself in the past as a means of remaining calm. I am not so good at the self-care aspect however, which covers elements such as eating and sleeping regularly - I definitely need to work on these. I've never experienced a mindfulness exercise in a group before, and in a room of 15/16 people, it was certainly very different. I'm somewhat interested in doing a short guided exercise with my CBL group halfway through a session and see what response it gets. There does seem to be an unhealthy inherent view of these practices in some circles (particularly high-intensity medical ones) as being a sign of weakness, so I'm really glad the university considers them important enough to make compulsory.

Some concepts important for mindfulness

Some concepts important for mindfulness

Our last lecture was an introduction to the Pharmacology & Prescribing module, which was a brief overview of methods for drug delivery, and the main systems that drugs will interact with once inside the body. While it's been a while since I've done any biochemistry and I always found it a bit of a hard slog, I think the clinical context makes it much more palatable and I remained alert and attentive throughout, even at the end of the day.

Speaking of which, there was a club night arranged by the MedSoc called 'Me Without Medicine', a fancy dress social where attendees would dress as an alternative career they might have taken. As far as I'm aware, very few people attended, myself among the majority, because by this point in the week we were far more concerned with getting a good night's sleep in preparation for our first visit to University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire tomorrow - exciting times. We'll be leaving at about 7.45 to make sure we arrive on time, and will have to dress more smartly than we're used to! I'm really looking forward to seeing the clinical environment and having some lectures outside the university.

Instead of partying, we decided to take a wholesome trip to a very large nearby Tesco for general supplies and all enjoyed a lazy night at home. Not that it helped with my sleep - it's 00:52 as I write, although a comfortable 6 hours is still more than what I'm used to at the moment.

In addition to the random question in each entry, I've also decided to include one interesting fact that I learned today, which will also repeat. This might help consolidate my learning, and at least it'll provide you lovely readers with a factoid to tell over dinner.

Q: Do you have nice handwriting?
A: I used to be rather proud of my neat handwriting, but as I've become more accustomed to speed-typing it has become what I would generously describe as 'somewhat lacking'. Maybe I'm just subconsciously preparing to fill the stereotype of the doctors' illegible scrawl.

Interesting Fact: The Hippocampus in the brain resembles a seahorse, and damage to it can lead to anterograde amnesia. It is one of the few areas where new nerves can grow, and it does not develop until the age of 2, which means that humans cannot explicitly remember their experiences of before that age.