28 Feb 2016

my week #202

This week, I was on palliative care - a bit weird to put it in the middle of a ten week surgical block! Emotionally, it was a rollercoaster of a week and on Friday night, I slept for nine hours (I usually get between 6 and 7.5) which kind of says it all. It was nice to be able to have a lie in this weekend too - I now go onto five weeks of general surgery, rotating through various specialties, and I have to be in at 8am most days so goodbye sleep...

It was also nice to see Scotland win against Italy yesterday in the Six Nations :)

How has your week been?

25 Feb 2016

my study week #9 - neurology notebook

It's hard to believe that my neuro placement was half a year ago now...! Back then, I used this Foray notebook to write up all my learning objectives. The main pens used in it were a cheap black gel pen, my Lamy Safari, a Pilot Vanishing Point and a Faber Castell Ambition fountain pen.

You may spot a fair bit of doodling and illustrating in it and thats usually when lectures get a bit dry and I'm trying to stay awake. I'll let the pictures do all the talking in this blog post.


23 Feb 2016

in search of the perfect blue-black ink #3: diamine twilight

The third ink in this series in my quest for my perfect blue-black ink. In all honesty, I'm not quite sure what kind of blue-black shade I'm looking for but I'm searching on the pretence that I'll know once I find it. My gut feeling for most things in life is pretty accurate so I'll carry that onto this ink quest.

Previously tried blue-black inks: Platinum blue-black cartridges and Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite.

And how the ink looks in my notes:

Twilight is a shade that I actually quite like (despite its name) but I'm not quite sure it's my perfect shade of blue-black. 

21 Feb 2016

my week #201

This week was a bit disappointing. I was on trauma but didn't see much in theatres or in clinics unfortunately. As a student, this wasn't great for my learning. Trauma was one of those specialties that has interested me as a potential career path (right from the start of medical school) so it was a bit gutting that this week didn't quite feed this interest.

Because my timetable was a bit lighter than usual this week, I took the chance to catch up with as many friends as possible :)

How has your week been?

18 Feb 2016

a hobonichi techo as my placement log book

Almost five years ago, I did a summer of work experience with a hospital consultant (the equivalent of an Attending in the States) and back then, I kept a log of the conditions I'd seen each day, the interesting patients encountered and anything else that I learnt (even things such as names of surgical instruments and things like that). Then, when I started medical school, this all stopped. Last year on placement, I did something similar but to a very minor degree so I made it this year's goal to be more thorough with my record keeping. I found it super useful to be so detailed whilst on work experience and can't believe I didn't carry it on when I become a proper medical student!

To combat this, I splashed out and ordered a Hobonichi and cover from Foyles. The student discount lessened the dent made on my bank balance but it was still a pricey purchase. Hopefully it'll mean that I now have a daily diary which can withstand fountain pen ink!

The monthly pages will be used as an overview to my days on placement. I'll write in where I'm meant to be each morning and afternoon so that the actual day pages can be utilised for things seen in clinic/theatre/on the wards.

I have no idea what to use these vertical month spreads for if I'm honest! (Any ideas?)

The dot note pages are perfect for random notes that I may need to refer to from time to time. Examples include contact details of placement co-ordinators, things I still need signed off and elements of the AMTS (Abbreviated Mental Test Score).

I love how there are some information pages about Japanese cuisine and dinner table etiquette. A lot of it is quite similar to my own culture too so it was quite an interesting read.

Before the start of each month, there is a ruled page and I've not decided what to use this for. Possibly for notes taken when I clerk a patient or something? The weekend pages are already earmarked for patient clerkings (anonymised of course) so these will probably serve the same purpose.

This leaflet that came with the Hobonichi is a nice touch too.

Finally, a picture of a day page before it is all filled in. I'll post again in the near future with how the pages look when all filled in and in use :)

All in all, it's exciting to keep track of the things seen and done on placement. A lot of medicine is about experience and my Hobonichi will allow me to keep a record of surgeries where I've scrubbed in and what I did, things seen and done in clinic and also interesting cases on ward round. Let's hope it makes me a better student (and also doctor!) in the future.

16 Feb 2016

introducing my pelikan m400 tortoiseshell white in extra fine

Last October, I turned 25 and I wanted to get something to celebrate this milestone and what better present than a luxury fountain pen? I was originally eyeing up the Pelikan M600 Pink but it was almost double the price of this beauty here so I couldn't justify plonking down the extra dollar just because it was pink.

Instead of buying it as soon as I turned twenty-five, I waited about two weeks for Fountain Pen Day and ordered it from Cult Pens. It arrived the day after and it was love at first sight. The cream colour is offset nicely by the tortoiseshell detail and the gold accenting gives it a nice luxurious air. It definitely feels like a pen for a girl who's all grown-up and that's exactly what I'm trying to portray now that I've hit this milestone ;)

The nib is also beautiful - please excuse the ink on it as I didn't clean it before taking this photo. I opted for an extra fine as I know that my handwriting is more on the small side and though it is thicker than I would've liked, the fact that it writes so well is enough for me to be happy enough with it. The ink flow is amazing and the pen is weighted ideally for long periods of note-taking - trust me on this, I've used this pen for a two hour note-taking session and my hand had no trace of cramp!

Now, before I bought this pen, I was definitely more of a cartridge kind of girl. Cartridges are great because you know where you stand with them - out of ink? Not a problem, stick a new one in. You can even refill them if you have syringes and needles - something we seem to have an abundance of (maybe its a medical household thing). However, I wanted to give a piston filler a whirl and I'm glad I did. It holds a lot more than a cartridge does and cleaning it every so often is so satisfying. It's also started an obsession with bottled ink but I've been quite good so far and have only stuck to blue and blue-blacks with only one or two bottles of other colours!

Overall, this pen has definitely rocketed up to being one of my favourites and go-to pens when at home doing a study burst. Because of it's value, it rarely accompanies me to university because I know how painful losing it would be. On placement, I've only ever lost two biros (which I think is pretty good going) but I still would rather not risk it.

The best things about this pen? It is lightweight, writes superbly and is absolutely beautiful. It's also nice to commemorate a milestone birthday with something that I can have for years to come and have it remind me of a special event in my life. My next big milestone will probably be graduation and that will likely be a stationery item of some kind too!

14 Feb 2016

my week #200

Happy Chinese new year to you all :)

It's been a scary week for all doctors and NHS workers here in the UK and it looks like it'll be stormy times ahead for the next few years at least. As a penultimate year medical student and having spoken to fellow students and junior doctors, many of us share the same emotion: fear. Fear that the NHS will no longer exist, fear that we won't be working within safe conditions and fear that all the years we've put in so far have gone to waste because being a doctor is no longer emotionally, socially or financially viable.

Going into this profession, the majority of us are aware of the sacrifices we will make: socially because we'll be working long hours, evenings, nights and weekends; financially because our salary is pretty poor as a junior doctor (see here if you don't believe me) and physically (shift work can have negative effects on health!). To take away the current safeguards (which, in my opinion, aren't all that great anyway) and compensation for unsocial hours is an insult - both to the workers but also to the patients.

How was your week?

11 Feb 2016

the Leuchtturm 1917 A5 ruled notebook: fountain pens, gel pens and brush pens

Last year, I used this beautiful turquoise Leuchtturm 1917 A5 ruled notebook (shown here and again here) for my notes and I don't think I ever showed how well the paper takes to all kinds of pens. I've used fountain pen, gel pens and a Kuretake Cocoiro brush pen in it and none of them feathered or bled or showed through significantly on the other side. Today, I thought I'd show you all the proof (and also rave a bit about how amazing Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks are).

First of all, I love that all the pages come numbered and that there are designated contents pages! This is a dream and I wish more notebooks did this. You can also see how gel pens take to the paper - no bleeding or feathering!

Next up: fountain pen. This was written with a Pilot Kakuno with a fine nib and was inked with a blue Pilot cartridge. I've shown both sides of the paper - both of which are written with fountain pen - and you can see there is no show through and again, no bleeding or feathering.

Finally, I do like to draw illustrations from time to time and this one was drawn with a Kuretake Zig Cocoiro brush pen and again, I've shown both sides of the paper. No bleeding, feathering and minimal show through!

Honestly, Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks are a no brainer if you like to use inky pens and they come in a wide variety of colours. Aside from it getting quite expensive if you go through them quickly, I can see no flaw with this brand of notebooks.

What's your experience with Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks? Have you found a brand similar to this in design, quality and price? :)

9 Feb 2016

in search of the perfect blue-black ink #2: pelikan edelstein tanzanite

So part two (of possibility infinity) of my search for the perfect blue-black ink... This time, it's the turn of Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite. The bottle design is absolutely gorgeous and it definitely gives of a more premium air. I'll let the pictures do the talking for this one (as the review is pretty much in the scan below!).

Previously reviewed in this quest for the perfect blue-black ink: Platinum blue-black cartridges.

Here is how it looks in use...

7 Feb 2016

my week #199

This was a light week (as you can see) which was a nice change. It meant I got to catch up on some revision (mainly anatomy revision) in preparation for next week. I also caught up on a load of TV too but let's forget I said that.

Yesterday was the start of Scotland's 2016 Six Nations campaign and it was another disappointing start. For those of you who don't know, I was born in Scotland and most of my childhood was spent there. I definitely feel more Scottish than anything else and all I can say is that it's definitely not an easy ride being a Scotland fan! A positive was that the under-20s team won their game on Friday evening so the future looks bright!

How has your week been?

4 Feb 2016

healthy eating with a busy lifestyle (& a little recipe!)

Sometimes, after a long day, the last thing you want to do is cook dinner. This can lead to skipping meals and in the long run, this isn't good for the human body. I'm lucky in that, living at home, my mum doesn't mind cooking for me but when she's at work (which she does part-time), I'm responsible for my own dinner. As a result, I've become a bit of an expert in cooking quick meals that require minimal prep time and even less cook time. 

One of my specialties is a potato salad and I've shared my 'recipe' for it at the end of this post. I've called it a recipe but it's so brief and simple, I'm not sure it deserves that title.

For me, the key to quick meals are to have a certain few ingredients in your fridge, freezer and cupboards at all times. These include:

cupboard: rice noodles, spaghetti and pasta, rice, eggs, chilli flakes, paprika, fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, dried basil, oregano, salt and pepper and sugar.

fridge: garlic, spring onions, tomato puree, tomatoes, lettuce (it can keep for over a week!) and chinese leaf.

freezer: prawns, sweetcorn, peas, frozen veg, Quorn mince and fish (usually salmon or sea bass).

My list is very South East Asian (with a bit of Italian thrown in!) but you can adapt yours to your own tastebuds. I'm a fan of spice and minimal salt (I tend to use herbs to flavour instead!). With the basic ingredients shown above, I can whip up a meal in less than fifteen minutes. I'd also recommend getting a rice cooker: you can honestly put all ingredients for a meal in there and then leave it to cook. I used to do that during exam time and the meals didn't taste that bad either! You won't gain any Michelin stars but at least you'll be eating fresh food without resorting to ready meals.

Examples of quick meals using these ingredients are:

Rice noodle soup: rice noodles, fish sauce, sesame oil, chilli flakes, sugar, chinese leaf, spring onions and prawns.

Vegetarian spaghetti bolognase: spaghetti, garlic, tomato puree, tomatoes, salt and pepper, oregano, basil, Quorn mince.

Fried rice: eggs, rice, ground pepper, sweetcorn and peas.

Omelette with boiled rice: rice, peas, eggs, ground pepper.

Other things you can do is batch cook things such as chilli con carne, bolognase, paella, etc. and freeze portions for those times where you don't even feel like whipping up something quick from scratch. 

And as promised, here's the recipe to a quick and simple potato salad!

Just a little prelude - I've gone gluten free due to medical advice (and have been for fifteen months now) so lunch is a bit of an issue for me. Hospital canteens are really good at lacing their food with gluten and I've had to bring lunch with me everyday. I try and ensure my lunch is made the night before and quite often, this equates to a super quick potato salad. How much you decide to spend on each ingredient is up to you but this can be a cheap and fast recipe for those on a budget and who don't have the time to spend on making elaborate lunches that require rinsing and rinsing (quinoa, I'm looking at you!).


Potatoes (baby potatoes work best but you can use baking ones and then chop them up once cooked)
Rocket salad
Other salad leaves of your choice (spinach and lettuce work great here)
Ham/prosciutto/bacon/a meat of your choosing (or not if you're vegetarian)
Mayonnaise (I tend to use the lowest fat one I can find)
Black pepper
Salt (I don't usually add salt and it tastes fine)

1. Wash the rocket, salad leaves and potatoes.
2. Microwave the potatoes until they are cooked to your liking.
3. Chop up the ham/meat. Once the potatoes are done, chop them up too.
4. Put all of the washed leaves into a bowl and add the potatoes once they've cooled down.
5. Add mayonnaise, grind some pepper and salt and then mix!
6. Put in a tupperware box, refrigerate and then remember to take it with you when you leave the house in the morning.

2 Feb 2016

a more in-depth look at how I take notes

So this isn't a set-by-step guide but it's kind of a more detailed look at how I take notes. As I've mentioned on a few other occasions, my notes are quite structured in that we're given the 'final year learning objectives' and the university basically assume we plough through those at our own leisurely pace. As a result, a lot of my learning focuses around these objectives rather than on a certain chapter in textbook x or y.

The first step of any note-taking session is to make sure your desk is set up to your liking. I like to have plenty of pens to hand, the learning objectives in one corner (top left on this occasion), a textbook to the left, my notebook usually in the middle, my computer at the back of the desk so I can do an emergency Google for things if necessary and a few post-it notes nearby. My desk can end up quite messy during these sessions so I always tidy everything away at the end of each day.

The pens I like to have to hand are some form of colour (either Staedtler Fineliners or Muji gel pens), a decent fountain pen (shown below is a Pilot Vanishing Point Raden on the left and Platinum 3776 Century Nice in the middle and a Lamy Safari on the right). Post-it notes are invaluable also for the tiny bits of niche knowledge that may be the difference between being in the top 20% and the top 10% (I use my own judgement for this!).

When it comes to the layout of my notes, I try and keep it simple. Colour is kept to a minimum (much different to how my notes were last year) and there is a bit more underlining and highlighting in the form of boxes around key words. I try and keep each section as short as possible because a consultant once told me that medicine is all about knowing a little about a lot. I also write them with the thought that if someone else at a similar stage to me in their training were to pick them up, they'd be able to learn from them and understand them straight away.

This is essentially the process I go through each time I take notes. I first skim-read the info I need to know. This is then broken down in my head where I think about how I want the relevant information to appear in my notebook and that's when I make it a reality. I use colour pretty sparingly now though I do go back and highlight things from time to time.

I know a few of you have asked me to write a post similar to this (such as a step-by-step of how my notes are made) but each time I do a study session, I'm concentrating so hard, it makes it hard to make sensible notes and take photos for a blog post at the same time.