30 Jun 2015

six month check in with my planner from seeso

I've now used my planner for six months and considering it's been several years since I last used a bound planner, it has been quite an adjustment. Previously, I was used to rings getting in the way, the page size being too small and the ridiculous weight. Now? Well, you'll have to read on to see what my thoughts are.

The Basics: Weight, Paper, Size

The one thing I'm definitely liking is the weight of this planner. It is considerably lighter than a binder and is also thinner in terms of thickness. Furthermore, the A5 page size means that I'm no longer restricted with regards to what I write down. There is now ample space for daily planning, shopping lists and to-do lists.

The one gripe I have with the planner is the paper quality. Fountain pen doesn't suit it and neither does my Kuretake Zig Cocoiro.

You might notice that the elastic fastening that was originally present is no longer there - that's because it broke off. It would've been nice for it to still be fully functional but I'm not missing it that much either.

The Vertical Layout

The vertical layout is one I've not used full-time before but I'm really liking it. The time slots mean that planning my days is a simple process but the days tend to end a bit too short for my liking - 7pm, really?

Monthly Planner Pages

I never used the monthly pages much whenever I had them in my binder. However, I've found myself using them as a blog planner instead and that seems to work pretty well. I can plan out when each post goes live and also ensure that I'm never out of ideas. The boxes are more than big enough for each day and the space at the side for random notes are great for jotting down anything and everything.

Note Pages and their Different Layouts

The different layouts on offer in this planner are just ridiculous. Ruled, plain, grid, half ruled and half plain - it seems all possibilities are present at the back of it.


I've really enjoyed these six months with this bound planner and I think that's the sort of style I'll be heading for again in 2016. Although the flexibility (in terms of set-up) isn't present, everything else weighs in its favour.

28 Jun 2015

my week #167

This week, I was flat-sitting for my sister and had some girl-friends over for dinner on Thursday evening. It was lovely to just have a laugh with some food and without any boys around (won't say good food as I'm not that great a chef!). Although I do have some close guy friends too, a girly chat just isn't the same with them (trust me, I've tried!) Nothing like some great company to cheer you up when times haven't been the greatest over the last few weeks! 

In terms of university stuff, I've just been getting on with my project which is essentially an audit and have also started studying some stuff in preparation for the next academic year. Next year is beastly - it's my penultimate year at medical school but we're expected to know what we should know by the time we finish medical school! However, I'm really enjoying everything I learn on this course so it doesn't feel like a chore.

How has your week been?

25 Jun 2015

relaxing during the exam period

Exams are always stressful and the time just before them (a.k.a. revision time) is even more so. Although I am a bit of a workaholic, it was important to ensure that breaks were scheduled in from time to time. Here are ten things I did to keep sane during exams...

1) Have dedicated 'me time'.

Everyday, I ensure that there is at least half an hour in each half of the day where I can have some time to myself. What I mean by this is thirty minutes in the morning and thirty minutes in the afternoon where I just spend alone and try and clear my mind. On particularly busy days, this half an hour could just be the time I'm in the shower or even my journey home from uni. Plugging in my ear phones on the bus helps drown everyone else out!

2) Light a candle and close your eyes.

Pretty self-explanotory. Also, does anyone else like watching a candle flame flicker as much as I do?!

3) Netflix!

During revision time, House was my guilty pleasure. I like to think that it aided my revision a little but that's probably just wishful thinking. Netflix is a dangerous thing to have during exam time when procrastination rates are at its highest but I think I managed to restrain myself pretty well because I only got asked if I wanted to continue watching a handful of times.

4) Reading

As mentioned before on the blog, I do love to read and nothing better than reading something non-medicine related.

5) Exercise

When the weather allowed, I would take a twenty to thirty minute walk in my locality to clear my head and it probably helped top up my (possibly) exceedingly low levels of vitamin D.

6) Write in my journal.

I'll confess - I do get stressed quite easily because I've set myself pretty high academic goals for this year so my journal is pretty much essential for the maintenance of my mental health. It's somewhere where my darkest thoughts go but also my happiest and having read back my old ones, I can see which areas of my life have seen the most change.

7) Five minute yoga!

Youtube is amazing for yoga videos and five minute yoga is just about acceptable for someone (like me) who has a short attention span.

8) Discover some new music on Youtube.

But be careful with how much time you waste doing this - I once took a twenty minute break only to have spent an hour on Youtube 'by accident'!

9) Chores!

For some strange reason, I find doing the dishes/cleaning my room very therapeutic and I can't study in an environment that's messy. At least, that's what I've convinced myself to make my procrastination periods seem more productive...

10) Blogging!

I've been blogging for almost five years now (seriously?!) and I wouldn't still be doing it if I didn't enjoy it. Though I'm not as active on social media as I was in the past, I've still 'met' some amazing people through Twitter, Instagram and even through my short experience with Tumblr. I'm still amazed that so many of you read my ramblings!

* * *

Do you do anything to relax during exam time? Is there anything you find particularly good to take away the exam stress?

23 Jun 2015

my (first) study week #1

Back in March, I decided to start a Tumblr but it didn't last long. There were too many issues of people re-posting my photos without any credit and though they may have done it innocently (or not), this doesn't make me feel better. It's basic etiquette to credit others if you get an idea or use something that isn't your own and well, it seems the Tumblr staff don't agree with me on that. They were thoroughly unhelpful in removing a post that had one of my photos without any credit and were unbelievably rude in their emails.

Anyway, rant over!

This is the first instalment of 'my study week' and you'll find it under the 'studyblr' tag. Although I'd rather do away with any connection to Tumblr, I think that's the best tag to use.

These next two images are ones you may have seen before but I thought I'd post them here and with a bit more text explaining them.

Stationery: Martha Stewart x Avery x Staples post-it notes, Artbox A5 notebook, Iconic double ended pens and a Pilot Kakuno fountain pen.
In the picture above, you can see some notes I made for the twice-weekly group work sessions I had. This academic year, the term was split so that half was spent on group work and lectures and the other half on placement (so I had three sessions of group work and three placements in total). I like to write my notes using bullet points only with headings singled out in a coloured pen.

You can see more from this notebook here; where I also explain more about how I take notes from textual resources.

Stationery from L-R: Pantone squared A5 spiral bound notebook, Pilot Kakuno fountain pen, The Planner by Seeso Graphics, A5 Artbox notebook, Muji gel pens and Iconic double ended pens.
In the picture above, I was planning out my week in terms of my group work objectives. During group work, we devise our own learning objectives that we all do and then feed back in the second session of the week. As our learning centres around weekly cases where a simulated patient will have a condition or a certain presenting complaint, we have to work out how much and what we need to know to fully understand the case.

I did enjoy group work last year (when it was still new) but having had a taste of medicine placement (where there are real patients!), I did find this whole process a bit tedious. Patients can tell us so much more as no one presents with the typical symptoms and moreover, conditions affect everyone differently and this can only be gained through patient interaction (at least for me anyway).

Saying that, my first and last groups were really quite awesome and there was enough banter to make these sessions more bearable. Quite a few of my friendships were formed through these group allocations and this year was no exception.

I'm hoping to post the next instalment of this in a few weeks' or so (depending on how busy I am) so sit tight!

Let me know if there's anything you'd like to see more or less of - I won't be offended and will try and do my best to fulfil them. However, I won't be posting these more often because I just don't have the time for that :)

21 Jun 2015

my week #166

This week has been a crazy one for sure. It made me realise that although I have an overwhelming desire to make a difference (hence why I chose to embark on a medicine degree), there was a reason why I didn't choose politics instead. Whenever politics come into play, lies enter the foray and I dislike lying intensely. Why stab someone in the back or tell untruths to gain the trust of your voters? You'll only get found out in the end and it's entirely disrespectful to everyone else. Based on this, you can probably guess that my team weren't successful in the student elections, we did not tell a single lie or cheat and for that, we can hold our heads high. We don't mind losing fairly (and we were the underdogs from the beginning anyway!) but at the same time, this result gives us each more time to study and get involved in research projects.

In other news - I bought an iPod Shuffle for £6 this week (new!) thanks to Tesco Clubcard vouchers! And on Wednesday, I accidentally ate a gluten bun (I ordered a burger for the first time since starting a gluten free diet in December 2014 and totally forgot to ask for a gluten-free bun) and am still paying for the effects today. The bloating, abdominal cramps and lethargy is unbearable and I wouldn't have believed this intolerance were it not for a professional medical opinion. Not to mention that these symptoms aren't present when adhering to a gluten-free, dairy-free diet.

How has your week been? Is there anything you'd like to see on this blog in the coming months? Currently drawing up my editorial calendar for the next six months! :-)

18 Jun 2015

what's in my pencil case

During the post-Christmas sales, I came across this adorable make-up bag by Paul and Joe. It came as part of a set where there was a small tub of hand cream and a sachet of cleanser inside but I had no intention of putting any beauty products in it. Instead, I'd purchased it for the sole purpose of using it as a pencil case and that's exactly what I've done with it.

I love the satin feel of the exterior, the nude colour of the interior and the adorable gold-coloured zip. The size is generous too - it can hold a lot of pens (I think I had about twenty five pens in there at one stage and it zipped up with ease) and is more than big enough for my needs.

From top left, clockwise: my iPhone charger, a Muji gel 0.5mm in blue, Pilot Coleto, Lamy Safari, Pilot Kakuno, Zebra mechanical pencil, three Zebra Mildliner pens and three Pilot Juice gel pens.
I try and carry my phone charger everywhere as you never know when your battery might drop and this was especially true for the ageing iPhone 5 I was using up until a few months ago!

I carry a blue gel pen that is used in lectures (I like gel pens in lectures as they can be left uncapped for an hour and it won't dry up; plus, they start writing immediately unlike some other pens), fountain pens for note taking outside of lectures (I usually only carry one but these two are my current favourites) and also a variety of coloured gel pens as I do like to write some phrases and words in a different colour. Finally, a variety of Zebra Mildliners also make an appearance because they highlight words without being too fluorescent and harsh on the eyes.

Keeping the number of pens I cart around with me everyday mean that my bag won't be as heavy and also, I've found that the more pens I carry around, the harder it is to make a choice as to which one to use (the phrase 'spoilt for choice' comes to mind!).

16 Jun 2015

five pretty things

In this materialistic world, a good design can make all the difference: the only proof we need is the Apple brand. Critics continuously praise the design of their products and also their usability. In this post, I thought I'd be a bit materialistic and show off five pretty things currently in my life.

1) Tinned Scented Candles

Muji candles are my new scented obsession (thanks to my sister). Though possibility not the most environmentally-friendly, they give off a scent even when not burning and I don't know of many candles that do this. They come at £3.50 and I like how they are in tins so that they can be transported easily. Elderflower is my personal favourite with its mellow and relaxing tones.

2) A plushie Totoro my sister made for me

Earlier this year, my sister made me a mini Totoro using some felt and thread. It sits on my desk, propped up against my computer monitor. My Neighbour Totoro is a film that really stuck in my mind for some reason but the same can be said for most of Studio Ghibli's films!

3) A fully-filled pen pot

Is there anything better than this?

4) Floaty Summer Skirts

Now that summer is kind of here, I can finally unleash my summer wardrobe again. This includes floaty skirts and a pair of Rayban Wayfarers.

5) Midori Brass Number Clips

I purchased these just before revision time and they were perfect for prioritising what I needed to revise. Another thing they could be used for is to mark the start of a new month in your planner (there are twelve of them... Coincidence? Probably not!).

Now that summer is here, I can appreciate the prettier things currently in my life. Pretty things don't always need to be expensive either - as shown by the Totoro plushie that my sister made me which is cute but also has sentimental value.

14 Jun 2015

my week #165

This week marked the start of campaign week. As mentioned last week, myself and three others are running as a team for next year's year representatives. We had to do a presentation on Tuesday evening and it was hard - both because I was nervous but also because I'd received some bad news in the morning. A family bereavement is never easy, even when it's not completely unexpected. The only thought pulling me through at the moment is that they would have been super proud of me: both running in elections (I never like putting myself at the centre of attention) and also my project.

So my project: it is in relation to a condition that holds a lot of personal significance and the fact that I may make a difference to others in similar situations in the future has also helped me concentrate on these things for the time being. As a result, I'm trying not to think too much about everything until next weekend when elections will be over.

It's not the easiest time for me at the moment but everyone has their personal life issues and I won't let that affect my university/work life. This blog has taken a back seat at the moment but I've got posts scheduled for the next three weeks so don't worry!

How has your week been?

11 Jun 2015

medschool: learning whilst on placement (third year)

I've spent half of this academic year on placement and learning on placement is very different to sitting in lectures/tutorials. I thought I'd share a few things I did that have helped me get the most out of placement and also learn as much as I can. I'm not an expert and I'm only sharing my personal experience, and I'm sure as I progress through medical school, I'll only pick up new ways to learn. This post is more applicable to third year students rather than more senior ones.

Medicine Placement

On medicine placement, I was lucky that there was a lot of structured teaching from the consultants within the specialty I was allocated to. I had tutorials based around the core specialties (such as cardiology, gastroenterology, etc), history-taking and also things like reading ECGs and chest x-rays.

Learning on the wards was another story. I was placed on a very busy ward where a number of patients had been there for quite some time with some others who were acute admissions who would probably be in for a week or less. This meant that finding a patient to clerk was never an issue (in most cases, the longer a patient had been in, the more willing they were to talk) and I would definitely recommend that you try and clerk at least one per day. I managed this and it meant towards the end, I was pretty confident when taking a full history from a patient and examining them too.

After clerking, think of the top three differential diagnoses the patient may have (and if they've already told you, think of the other things it could've been that have a similar presentation) and then think up a management plan. Next, look at their drug chart and patient notes to see how close your plan matched their actual one.

Another thing to do is to present these patients you've clerked to doctors and even friends who are medical students. I definitely didn't do this enough (once a week on average for me) and I sorely regret that. Ward round is a great place to present patients and it also means you're less bored than if you just traipsed around aimlessly after the team.

Finally, medicine placement is an excellent time to do some practical skills such as venepuncture and cannulation. Ask the junior doctors what jobs need doing and then ask if you can help them. Attending ward round definitely helps with this; especially if you have a consultant who is super eager to teach.

General Practice

Unfortunately, I never got the opportunity to see any patients on my own but I did get a few opportunities to do a few consultations while the GP was in the room observing. General practice was a super chilled out placement for me but I learnt a lot. Ask questions - look up anything you don't understand and remember: common things are common! If you can, try and sit in with a variety of GPs - I did a physiotherapist clinic, a few diabetes clinics and saw a variety of conditions in the normal clinics.

Surgery Placement

My tips for this placement isn't that much different from the ones for medicine placement. Clerking patients on surgery placement is very different as, for example, you have to ask other questions specific to anaesthesia and relevant co-morbidities.

When you go to theatre lists, don't just stand and watch the surgeries. Seek out the anaesthetist on an occasion or two - I did this and learnt a lot about drugs commonly used and also about the monitors used during surgery. Try and find the list the day before so you can look up the procedures and patient's notes.

Finally, be enthusiastic and open-minded! I went into each placement thinking that there was a possibility I might enjoy it enough to consider it as a genuine career move in the future and this meant I asked questions, read up on conditions relevant to the specialties I was allocated to and just kept a log book of each patient clerked and condition seen. Don't go into a placement thinking you'll hate it - you might be surprised! And be respectful to everyone: patients, doctors, nurses, HCAs - remember, medicine is about team work and these people are the ones who will can give you a hard time if you're rude or never on time. A smile goes a long way!

Placement is much better than sitting in lectures all day so make the most of it. After all, once you graduate, you'll never be able to use that brilliant phrase that gets you out of everything ever again: "I'm sorry, I'm only a medical student!".

Just an aside - although I've written this post in reference to third year placements, I am technically in my second year of medical school of the accelerated four-year graduate-entry course, hence why when it comes to OSCEs and formalities, I am a 'third year'.

9 Jun 2015

introducing the kaweco skyline classic sport mint EF

So, a few weeks' ago, I talked about the Pilot Kakuno and Lamy Safari and now, I want to talk about another fountain pen: the Kaweco Skyline Classic Sport. I'll confess, I was never the biggest fountain pen fan but the Lamy Safari changed that in early-2013. The Pilot Kakuno only reinforced this new-found love of fountain pens.

The Kaweco Skyline Classic Sport was a pen that had been on my want list for a long time and when revision time came around, I decided to treat myself to it (and because I'd just finished a super stressful surgery placement). I'm glad I did - Tiger Pens' service has been nothing short of excellent as the first pen I received had a nib that didn't write very well and they offered me a prompt exchange.

I chose the extra fine nib because I've grown an affinity to a fine line over the last two years. My Lamy Safari also has an extra fine nib but it is still a bit too thick for me (although it is ideal for those high speed revision scrawlings) but my Pilot Kakuno fine is perfect. Having done some research online, I've since found out that Japanese fountain pens do tend to have finer nibs which explains why a fine Kakuno writes finer than an extra fine Lamy.

As a fairly new user of fountain pens, I only use cartridges supplied by the respective companies because I can't be doing with converters and bottled ink at the moment - I just don't have the funds or time (read: patience) at the moment.

So, onto the business end of this blog post: the actual review. The Kaweco is a lovely petite pen that is light and well designed. I opted to purchase the pen clip too and chose the silver version. Because of it's size, I find it easier to use when it has its cap on. This not only adds some much needed length, it also helps balances out the pen's (minuscule) weight.

My nib writes perfectly and the ink doesn't skip. It is smooth and glides wonderfully over even the roughest of paper without any hint of scratchiness. In terms of price, I paid £17.99 for this pen and I think that's perfectly reasonable for an entry-level fountain pen although it isn't as cheap as the Pilot Kakuno (which I think writes a fair bit smoother). Also, I find that the cartridges don't last as long as the Lamy or Pilot ones.

Overall, I would give this pen a 7.5/10 based on its affordability, design and nib. I'm still not a total fountain pen convert but these entry level ones suit me so well that I can't ever imagine myself paying more than £20 for a fountain pen in the future.

And just as a side note, I paid for this pen myself.

7 Jun 2015

my week #164

This week was filled with a teaching session, a meeting and a clinic followed by a day of data analysis and then a day of admin. Three colleagues and I have formed a team for the upcoming student union elections because we've decided to run for next year's 'year representatives'. We're going up against another strong team but what we've got on our side is diversity. Obviously, my obsession with meticulous planning means we have a plan of attack (not against them mind you - we won't stoop that low!) all set out for campaign week which starts tomorrow. I may even blog about this process in the future because I actually found it all quite enjoyable and here's hoping it all pays off!

Aside from that, I spent yesterday cleaning the house and today baking. I used to think I was quite extroverted but maybe I'm more introverted than I'd like to admit. Sometimes, there's nothing better than spending the day in solitude with some flour, sugar and butter :)

How has your week been?

4 Jun 2015

pharmacology learning: tackling one drug at a time

Pharmacology is a huge and important topic for medical students. There are just so many subtitles within it: indications, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, contraindications, side effects... and these are the only sections I can think of off the top of my head and it doesn't even include dosage and mode of administration which are just as important!

I'll admit that how I've gone about learning pharmacology has been somewhat unorthodox. I enjoy learning about medicines and chemical agents that have a physiological effect on the body (see what I did there? I bypassed the use of the word 'drugs' ;) ) so, in a way, it has come a bit easier and possibly a bit more naturally to me due to my biochemistry background.

Nonetheless, here are the stages I took to learn pharmacology.

1) Write out the brief details for each commonly prescribed drug.

Using a combination of various textbooks and lecture notes, I'll write out the drug class, indications, side effects, contraindications, interactions and other special points. I usually leave mechanism of action out unless I'm really struggling to remember it (as I'm okay with the mechanism of most medicines that we needed to know for exams this year).

2) Flashcards are amazing for pharm learning!

They can enable you to make piles of them: 'drugs I'm confident with', 'drugs I'm a bit fuzzy on' and 'drugs I definitely need to dedicate more time to' are just three piles I use myself. Plus, they are useful for learning in pairs where you can ask a friend to quiz you and vice versa! I get my sister to quiz me usually because she's not a medic so she can't judge me if I get an obvious thing wrong!

Pictured below are the Rang and Dale Pharmacology Flashcards and some I made myself.

3) Draw things out, over and over!

I learn by doing and also by using pictures/visual aids so for me, this is essential. I use colour, boxes, arrows and try to strip everything down as much as possible. 

4) Integrate pharm learning with clinical medicine!

One thing I did was draw out a table of the conditions I needed to know for exams this year and then try and remember the 1st line, 2nd line and 3rd line drugs for them all from memory. This helped me identify gaps and areas of confusion so that I could give them more attention during revision.

5) Test yourself when on the wards with drug charts!

Get hold of a patient's chart and test yourself. What class of drug is it? Why was it prescribed? What else is the patient on - are there any drug interactions? Look at the dose and then compare this with the British National Formulary (there's a phone app for it now - super handy!). Is the drug chart filled in correctly? When was each medication given - is there a particular reason for the timings? Etc, etc.

Furthermore, relating a drug to a patient you've seen makes it that much easier to remember what the drug is, why it was prescribed and the effect it had on them.

Ultimately, pharmacology is a balance between memorisation and understanding the mechanism of action of the drugs. I personally enjoy pharmacology learning and I can't, for the life of me, tell you why - I think it's just one of those weird things about me. My memory has always been pretty good so maybe that's why?

Do you have any tips? I'm always looking for ways to improve my pharm knowledge!

2 Jun 2015

my top five tips for reading with a busy life

Even though I'm not at home between 7:20am and 7pm (sometimes even 8pm or later) most days, I still make time to read, on average, one book every ten to fourteen days. I really enjoy reading and my 'to-be-read' list/shelf just gets longer and longer and at a ridiculous pace too. Anyway, I thought I'd share how I manage to read so much when I also, usually, have copious amounts of study to do.

1) Break your 'to-be-read' list down to a manageable level.

I do this by picking out three or four books that I want to read next and sometimes, books are replaced on a whim depending on what mood I'm in. An example is the picture below where I went on a book-buying spree on Amazon (well, to be fair, I was taking advantage of a 3 for £10 deal - it would've been rude not to) and so these books were bumped to the top of my pile. Later on, I moved Persuasion lower down the list as my thinking was that I'd want to read something more modern after The Book Thief - but then I found myself putting down The Book Thief after a few chapters because it was just too heavy for my brain at the time (it was revision time!).

By breaking down your list into 'immediate reads', 'want to read soon' and 'will read when I feel like it', these mini-lists can make reading less daunting. And also more exciting too if you put a book you've been super eager to read in your 'immediate reads' pile!

2) Budget some time for reading.

Every morning, I read for half an hour while I'm eating breakfast (this is a kind of 'me time'). It doesn't take me half an hour to eat my breakfast but this allows me a chunk of the day where I will definitely have a chance to read. I also try and read at least one chapter (or two/three if the book is shorter) before bed as a way to unwind. 

3) Invest in a Kindle/phone which has an eReader app.

My parents gifted me a Kindle when I graduated from my first degree, way back in June 2012 and it has seen so much use. It is super light, durable and I can't believe I've almost had it for three years. Ever since getting it, the number of books I've read each year has increased exponentially. Electronic versions of books aren't the same, I'll concede that, but the portability and ease of use is unrivalled. 

The next best thing is an eReader app for your iPad/tablet/phone!

4) Read a variety of books from different genres.

I'm a chick-lit/young adult book reader at heart but that doesn't mean I don't move out of my comfort zone from time to time. Non-fiction can be educating (my favourite non-fiction book is Mutants - a book on genetic mutations and other interesting things) and doesn't have to be boring! 

5) Don't feel guilty for taking an hour or two out of your daily schedule to read.

This one is easier said than done - especially during times of high stress, such as exam time or deadline time! However, reading is a great way to relax and lose yourself from this world for a small portion of your time. And put it this way - nothing is more important than your health, and this includes your mental health. No one can work for 24 hours a day, seven days a week without going a bit crazy so whether you read/exercise/watch TV for that hour or two every day, it's definitely not wasted time!

To finish off, here's a picture of my copy of Fangirl. I couldn't help myself and bought the special edition cover because I just loved the book so much (I'd only had the Kindle version previously!).

Do you have any tips for reading? :)