Med School Diaries: Block 5 gone virtual

Lockdown has dramatically changed my life in the last 40 days. I have lost my only source of income, my parents have been in the same situation too. University had been cancelled and all the students have gone home to do online classes instead. An (almost) empty campus is a weird place to be but I have settled into a routine and am slowly getting used to what will be my life for the significant future. 

Block Five has begun as a virtual block. It is online lectures and our usual CBL sessions, done over Microsoft teams. We also have ‘tea parties’ and drop in sessions where we can jump into a meeting with our lecturers if we have any questions. Whilst it’s definitely fulfilling the teaching criteria there has been a lot lacking due to social distancing. 

CBL’s new online format has been interesting development. I have been struggling with CBL all year, finding it hard to manage as a re-sitter. The cases are exactly the same so I know each outcome and the cheeky surprises. It made it really hard because I would say things forgetting that this year we hadn’t got to that yet; it lead to some unhappy students and teachers. So I would stop contributing, and get pulled aside for that too. It became a lose lose situation, I had to be at the sessions, but I wasn’t learning anything from the sessions and I was get more and more stressed and anxious about attending the sessions. 

CBL via teams is great. It is allowing us to get together with each other and chat; fulfilling the need for social interaction. Though I haven’t found it incredibly useful for my learning especially for block five related topics, its just not engaging and it is really hard to go over topics we are unsure about. However, it has been difficult interacting; I find it incredibly hard making comments anyway during the sessions. It’s harder online, I can’t read the room and the anxiety circles.

Our online lectures are both good and bad, the same with any physical lectures. The more tech savvy lecturers are coping great, but I am defiantly missing the physical aspects of teaching; the anatomy labs especially. Whilst I am definitely getting good anatomy teaching, its hard to learn from just pictures and videos even if they are of the plastinates we would usually see. 

Whilst is is nice to be back in teaching, I am defiantly struggling with the levels of procrastination is am afflicted with. Getting into the groove at the beginning of the day is the hardest. Sitting at the desk is the easy part, but finding the motivation to get the workload done when its been so mentally draining has been the hard part. I am defiantly going to have to try and re-teach myself how to learn, learning at home has never been easy. I prefer a dedicated location to studying ie. library but you can’t go out and do that. That’s why its so tricky; need to find an alternative method of getting in the zone. 

“A day can slip by when you’re deliberately avoiding what you’re supposed to do.”

Bill Watterson

We finally got some more solid information regarding our exams, which had previously been put on hold indefinitely. I think this was a big part of the procrastination, but I think it just wasn’t helping my mental wellbeing. There was this constant level of stress and anxiety about the exam (which resitting the year is my final chance) and I was getting sleepless, and it became a bit of a self destructive spiral. Yesterdays email has given me a bit of solidity; I like this because it means I can plan; a plan makes me feel calmer and in control. Knowing now that my exam is to be in October (unless there are some more drastic changes to the curriculum), has given me a little boost in my motivation to get some work done, But more importantly, I have been able to just breathe. Taking that breath has let me focus in on medicine and all the other things I want to do, gain a better perspective and put my head back into the right place.

It will be interesting to see what the outcome of the next few weeks and months is, but I am trying to take a more positive view of medicine, and regain the enjoyment from it now that I am not surrounded by the anxiety and pressure I was putting on myself. Getting back into the little bit of clinical practice I am doing with the trust’s medical student clinical skills worker program, has given me a bit of motivation to get work done and gotten me busy enough to sleep better and schedule myself. 

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