After 3-4 weeks of winter break, term 2 started up with full speed ahead. Personally, I didn’t think term two was going to be as hard as term one, because I knew what to expect and I knew I could do this. With that being said, it was definitely harder for me. I told myself I was going to study cardio over break, but I definitely found myself enjoying the luxuries of America and all the wonderful family and boyfriend time, which wasn’t the worst idea. I never understood why upper termers would say not to study over break, until I had my first break and realized just how precious that time with them was.
When I am in Grenada, I have a goal in mind — no family, no distractions. The friends that you do have on the island, are on the same mission as you. When I arrived to the island, it felt like a fresh start. Term 2 was split into three different modules and five exams — Endocrine and Reproductive, Digestion and Metabolism, and Nervous System and Behavioral Sciences, which was split into three tests. We also had two cadaver anatomy lab practicals, an OSCE, and the dreaded BSCE (Basic and Clinical Sciences Education Exam — 200 question retention test for your first year). This was my first term tackling leading an AEP cohort with Gabe, as well.
ER (endocrine and reproductive — worth 10% of your grade) went by so fast! It was not a difficult module, you just had to grind it out for three weeks right from the get go. You learn the anatomy of male and female genitalia, all the hormones, and more. We had four lectures a day, but SGU is currently making a switch where we have two lectures a day, and more small groups and online learning (we just experienced this in term 3). Digestion and Metabolism (13% of your grade) was a very well organized module (everyone loves the biochemistry department — Dr. Trotz and Dr. Upadhya are amazing!!). This test was the most dense (in terms of quantity of lectures) we had had yet, and the module duration was 5 weeks. Typically a test would cover anywhere from 34-44 lectures, but this test was close to 66 lectures, and so so so many biochemistry pathways. It was overwhelming, but I really enjoyed this module, and it ended up being one of my higher scoring tests. If you just keep at it, and grind hard, it’s no problem. This test was an accurate and fair assessment of the material, just make sure and know your inhibitors and activators for every pathway.
Nervous System and Behavioral Sciences took up the majority of the term (10 weeks). It was split into three different parts — Anatomical, pathways, and behavioral. The first module was very frustrating for a lot of students, because they kept giving us bits and pieces of the anatomy without giving us the big picture. The whole module was suppose to be centered around the cranial nerves, however, they didn’t teach us the cranial nerves until the lectures right before the test. I remember crying at one point, because it literally felt like they took 30 lectures, put the order in a blender, and let the pieces fall where they may. We were learning muscles without learning what nerves controlled them. Or we would learn branches of the nerves, without learning the whole nerve first. It was insanely frustrating. If I could give any human a piece of advice before starting term two, it would be to learn the cranial nerves during your break. Another tricky part to this test, was that the first Neuro test had 24 cumulative questions on it. Then the second test had 27 cumulative questions on it, as well. I think SGU did this to help us prepare for the cumulative BSCE that was creeping up. The last module was all behavioral sciences. It was really well organized, and I used the last two-three weeks to study for BSCE instead of studying for behavioral sciences test. However, be careful if you choose to do this, because behavioral sciences are definitely on the BSCE. Two weeks before all my final tests (OSCE, neuro #5, and BSCE) I got some sort of GI illness. I was miserable. My stomach was cramping, and I had the worst diarrhea. I was put on an Antibiotic and buscopan, and was surviving off of oatmeal and gatorade. I lost precious time to study, but somehow pulled through.
Preparing for the BSCE — it was worth 15% of our grade, and contained 200 questions from term one and two. I used two resources — USMLE First Aid Step prep book and an app called Pastest (shout out to Olivia!). Each day I would try to review a section, such as pulmonary, and then do the corresponding questions to make sure I understood the concepts. I would also meet up with Olivia and review the sections during the evening. Teaching AEP definitely helped with my retention of the material, as well. I would definitely recommend teaching DES or AEP to challenge yourself to teach and understand the content and help with retention. BSCE was the longest test we had taken yet. Four hours and 200 questions. They split us up into a morning group and an afternoon group for the day of the test. I was put in the afternoon group and I was soooo tired about 100 questions in, but it all worked out and if you don’t cram every test, you will do great.
OSCE was worth about 7% of our grade, and we were responsible for all the physical exam skills we had learned for the term, which included specific neuro exams, ultrasounds of the liver, spleen, subclavian and more, and a Mini Mental exam. This OSCE went so much better for me, than the first one from term one. During term one OSCE, I was soooo nervous and did the wrong arm at one of my stations. However, I felt so much more comfortable examining my patients, so I felt much more confident. My only advice, is that you make the most of every small group by seeking clarity from the clinical tutors and practice your skills during small groups. Oh and please don’t forget that you are practicing on real human beings, not dummies.
School was not the most challenging part of term two; I was definitely more challenged when my personal life would interfere or when I got sick. My first week back to school I got the news that my grandpa had passed away in his sleep. I had school to focus on, however, not being able to be there or attend his funeral, also sucked. You don’t really understand how much you are not able to be there, until something like this happens, and you are just stuck on this rock while life goes on. However, sacrifices must be made. Also, its hard to be sick on this island, and it happens to me a lot, but it just proves how important it is that you take care of yourself and make your health a priority.
Highlights of term two — My friend Laura and I spent a day off going to welcome stone, which is on the other end of the island, and that was definitely worth checking out. It’s easy to forget that we actually live on a beautiful island, so if you have the time, definitely check it out, you get amazing views of the countryside and we got to see the old airport and rum factory. After a neuro exam a group of us went to see the Leatherback turtles lay eggs, and that is hands down the coolest thing I have done on this island. If you are here, you have to experience it. If you’d like to read more about that, I have a separate blog — Levera National Park
Final words — Term two, just like any term, has its own challenges and is different from term one, because the foundations have already been learned. It was very enjoyable learning about systems, instead of foundations (but foundations to medicine is very important and will come back up in the future). Work hard and learn those cranial nerves and you will be sitting pretty. Best of luck, and please contact me if you have any questions.