Nick is almost state-side for good! HUZZAH! We’re both so excited for him to be off that island (Dominica, for any new readers). I get to pick him up from the airport on April 29th and am counting down the days.
In honor of this, I asked him to give me an update and explain some of what’s coming up. I got this in response:
I love him ❤
To be serious now though, an update from him and how he’s shaping the timeline of our future together in his own words:
I’m sitting right now in my cozy spot in the Annex, having just celebrated with my friends at the fourth semester banquet. Within the last few days many great things have taken place, including receiving my final grades – I’ve passed all of my finals! The best part is, I scored better this semester than any semester in the past, and by a long shot. To top that off, my street-hockey team also made our 4th trip to the intramural championship and crushed the competition 15-6. Now that all of the fun and excitement is out of the way, I’m preparing for the last test I’ll take on the island: the comprehensive exam aka The COMP.
What is the STEP exam?
STEP 1 is a big deal. STEP 1 will determine what I can practice and where as a physician. A lot is riding on this test and I will be taking it very seriously. This score is essentially the primary criteria for comparing me to my peers when I apply for position as a “resident” (more on this later). Because getting into medicine is kind of a cutthroat system, I need the best score I can get.
Preparing for the practice-STEP
The COMP, or as Sarah likes to call it, the “PSTEP” is the last test I have to take on the island. Until now we were only supposed to be tested on material that was taught during the semester we were in, but the COMP can test us on anything over the past 4 semesters of medical school. This test is used to gauge where Ross students are in preparation for the biggest test of our young career: STEP 1. Only if I pass the COMP will I be able to schedule my STEP 1 exam.
In preparation for the COMP, I’m using a variety of the best study aids known to medical students and have a basic schedule that will keep me on track. I wake up early and go to my review class (they cover all the ugly topics that med students hate), then I’ll go to the gym to burn off some steam. Next I’ll use a program called Doctors in Training. This program covers all of the essential information that must be understood completely for my exams – everything from how organs function (esp. microscopically), to pharmacology (how drugs act on the body and how the body acts on the drug), microbes, diseases, etc. and how they all intertwine. I also attend study sessions with a friend where we grill each other with tough facts and try to stump one another (a great way to learn). I also use a program called Picmonic, which uses odd and goofy pictures to help summarize complicated associations for drugs, bacteria, viruses, and others.
When is the actual STEP?
When I return home from Dominica, I’ll take a little time to settle back in before I begin my intense study regimen for the next few months. Assuming that I pass my COMP, I hope to take my STEP 1 exam between late June and early July. This means I will be studying approximately 7-12 hours a day for about 2 months until the big STEP 1 test day.
What comes after the STEP?
After completing STEP 1 I’ll move on to semester 5 (of 10).
Semester 5 will start in September, and this will last 6 weeks in Miami, Florida. This semester is known as my introduction to clinical skills (pre-rotations), where I’ll be tested on my ability to conduct many clinical tests on patients before I’m sent into the real world. After this semester I will be starting my rotations.
Next big hurdle: Rotations
During rotations I’ll be doing shifts in surgery, pediatrics, OBGYN, family medicine and a variety of other disciplines. This is where I learn my real-life skills like delivering babies, scrubbing up for surgeries, and other awesome stuff. At this time, I will be the lowest man on the totem pole. I’ll be working for doctors and residents who have years and decades of medical experience. These are the people from whom I will be learning for the following 2 years. Rotations can take place anywhere in the United States, but I will not know for quite a while when and where these will be. After completion of my rotations, I will graduate from Ross University with an MD degree in medicine.
From Rotations to Residency
After two full years of rotations I’ll be applying for my residency. This is when I will get to work as a doctor in a hospital or a clinic. Residency can take several additional years working under another “attending” physician. The attending will basically oversee everything I do. So I’ll be working on my own, but all of my actions need approval from my boss, “the attending physician.” A residency can be done in any branch of medicine (similar to my rotations), but the largest difference is that when I do my residency, it will be the type of medicine I practice for the majority of my life from that point forward. Residency is the final stepping-stone before I am able to practice medicine on my own.
What it All Means for Us
To put it simply, everything I have said above are the only things that are certain. Sarah and I will likely be doing a lot of moving in the next 2 years depending on where my rotations take me. Some students from my school have the opportunity to complete a “track” program. A track program means that half of my required rotations will be done at the same hospital. In the event that I obtain a track program, Sarah and I will be in the same place for about a year’s time. For the rest of my rotations, I will be traveling from place to place for a few months at a time. Unfortunately, nothing is for certain yet, so I will update everyone as I find out more.
And that’s Nick’s update! Our uncertain future timeline and location will be making our wedding planning very interesting indeed. Bring it on =)