Post-Psychiatry Rotation Update: On Studying and the Shelf

4 weeks is not a lot of time to study for a shelf exam.  I had been told by my classmates who’d gone through the rotation before that I would have “so much time” to study and would often leave the psych hospital early.  I don’t know what they meant by “early,” but I was definitely leaving around 5pm most of the time and not getting much downtime to study during the day.  This might have been due to the fact that I was a bit slow at writing my notes, or because I the team frequently “put me to work” calling patients or doing other things, or because I always tried to see my patients one-on-one at some point after rounds; honestly, I have no clue.

Thankfully, much of the teaching we received from the house-staff on this rotation was both applicable to our clinical experience and fair game for the test.  We were also given access to multiple online resources such as past lectures from faculty members and clinical skills modules developed specifically for third-year medical students who may or may not see specific diagnoses on their rotations in psych at various institutions.  I feel that the informal lectures and these resources helped us make the best of limited time.

In addition to all of this, I did a bit of studying on my own; I again had grandiose plans of finishing multiple books and doing tons of questions, but I wasn’t as stressed about not getting everything done this time.  I’ve also sort of resigned myself to “not being social until 2015” when my clerkships are over, with the occasional exception–brunch with a few friends today after church, for example–and because of this I’ve been less frustrated about what the rest of my classmates seem to be able to do with their time.  I’m still trying to figure out how to stay on track with my studies while still getting enough sleep to be functional, but I’m trying to walk the line between “figuring it out” and “worrying about it”; I learned in one of my study resources (confirmed, really) that worrying about one’s sleep schedule can contribute to poor sleep.

In any case, here are the books I used or intended to use.  all of them were a bit older, so they still referred to the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), which was updated again last year.  However, this wasn’t much of a problem, as there are resources online that tell you what the important changes were between editions.

  • First Aid for Psych: this book was a lot shorter than others in the FA series, but it still took me forever to get through it.  It was a good resource, though.  Bullet point form seems to work well for me.
  • Blueprints for Psych: started this one right after finishing FA.  Got to about chapter 3.  In general, I find the Blueprints series useful, but it seems to take me ages to get through, even though I’ve only completed one book in the series (Peds).  I’m already a slow reader, and prone to sleeping while trying to study, and the prose format just makes things worse.
  • Casefiles for Psych: planned to do it because I liked the Surgery and Peds books in the series…didn’t have time to even crack this one open, though.
  • UWorld QBank: there are only 150 psych questions on UWorld.  I went through them all once and did the incorrect ones after that.
  • Pretest for Psych: I started this 1 or 2 days before the test.  Didn’t get very far because I was still trying to finish the resources provided by the clerkship director, and by that point I also was super distracted and not studying efficiently.
  • Lange Q&A for Psych: heard people liked this book because the questions are quite difficult…but I didn’t have time to see for myself.

I have no idea when I’ll get word back about how I did in this rotation; they did give us mid-rotation feedback, which was fairly positive, but that’s all I have to go on for now.  I haven’t even heard back about Peds yet, so I know it might be a while for this rotation too.

I start my 4-week Neurology rotation tomorrow.  I’m a little nervous about it, because I feel like I don’t have any background in the subject; the “Brain and Behavior” class we took before starting clerkships was difficult for me.  I guess we’ll see what happens!

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