In late September we had our Barrier exams, marking the end of third year. They consisted of three 80-question multiple choice papers, held over two days.
Third year focuses on the clinical application of what we learnt during first and second year - diagnosis, differential diagnosis, management, side effects of treatment, etc. It was expected that the third year exams would reflect this clinical focus.
I studied very hard for these exams (despite having the long case in the back of my mind). I had a strict study schedule, which I stuck to. I did a lot of past papers and other exams, and was pleased with how I went.
So I was feeling quite good about these exams - certainly much better than I felt last year!
The first paper on day 1 was a doozy. Instead of the clinical focus, there were obscure anatomy, physiology, histology, and pathology questions. It felt like we were being tested on the minutaie of first and second year, instead of the practical stuff we'd focused on in third year. It was a massive shock. Still, I took my time with the first paper, and tried my best.
I had lunch with some friends (including Yay), and we said that it was impossible to know how we'd gone in the exam, because there was too much guessing of answers. Like everyone else, we were quite frustrated.
The other two papers were more of the same: long clinical scenarios that take ages to read through, followed by obscure questions about Na+ channels and cell types, for example.
My final analysis:
- I knew about 20% of the answers
- I guessed about 20% of the answers
- For the other 60%, I could narrow down the five possible answers to two possible answers, but then I had to guess between the two.
Unfortunately that wasn't the case. The results came through at the end of last week - I failed. AGAIN.
I was in Mudgee for the long weekend, doing wine tasting with (non-med) friends. A fellow med student sent me a text on Friday, saying that the results were out. My earliest chance to get online was Saturday evening, after a day of wine tasting. I checked my email in a room by myself. I covered my eyes as the page loaded, then peered through my fingers to see "Not Satisfactory". I was numb. I didn't get upset; I just sighed, shut down my computer, and sat there for a while. Eventually my friends came looking for me, and that's when I got upset - telling them that I'd failed again.
Luckily we were heading out to dinner and I didn't have time to dwell on it. In fact the rest of the weekend was wonderful, and I refused to let the news ruin it. (Alcohol definitely helped!)
I called my Mum when I returned to Sydney. She was in tears - very upset. I've slowly told other friends and family, because it will be impossible to hide this from anyone.
That's because the implications of failing the third year Barrier are significant:
- I'm not allowed to start fourth year with my colleagues next Monday
- I have to re-sit the exams in the last week of November
- Assuming I pass the re-sit (big assumption?), I can start fourth year in December/January with my elective term - this means I don't miss out on Vietnam
- After the elective term, I rejoin my colleagues for rotations 2, 3, and 4
- While my colleagues are doing their pre-internship term (PrINT) at the end of 2009, I have to do rotation 1 (which I'm missing this year)
- When my colleagues commence their internship in January 2010, I have to complete my PrINT term
- I have to join the June 2010 intake of interns.
I'm so frustrated, because I truly think that I could have done no study and ended up with the same result. What a waste of time doing all that study!
And if I fail the re-sit? That means repeating third year. To be honest, I don't think I have it in me. I'm not one of those people who always wanted to be a doctor, who would do anything to get into medicine. I love it and I want to be a doctor, but the prospect of repeating a year at age 34 does not interest me in the slightest. So this re-sit in November is very, very important.
I find myself wondering whether I'm cut out for this career. Maybe I don't want it enough - maybe that's why I'm struggling (even though I didn't think I was struggling this year!). And it's not going to get any easier! My non-med friends are always full of praise, saying that I'm such an inspiration, changing my career and pursuing my dream. That's really lovely, but I feel like a bit of a fraud. I feel as though I'm letting my family and friends down - all these people who have supported me in my return to student life.
I've had great support from my family and friends, and also from my third year PBL tutor, who is amazing. She's offered to help me with any revision I need to do. I'm meeting with the head honchos of my clinical school on Monday, and I'm already on the back foot, anticipating what they'll say to me. They're nice people and they mean well, but I suspect tears will be shed during that meeting.
So, for the next seven weeks I'll be studying yet again. I have the time to focus on specific areas, such as physiology and anatomy. I'm working on a study plan this weekend.
I'm so jealous of my colleagues who are starting fourth year on Monday, but I'm trying not to think about it. From now until the end of November, it's all about me. And let's hope I don't need to make a difficult decision about my future...