Exams!

A week of study’s gone by so fast
but at last we’re past the point where the die is cast.
Tommorow the first exam’s looming
we’re expecting the worst but everyone plans assuming
even if they can’t nail it, it’s not as if a whole class could fail it
thanks to the beautiful bell curve (we all hail it
as our guarantee that the questions will be,
if not easy, at least written reasonably).

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Things Med Students and Ninjas Have in Common

I know most of you won’t percieve the connection
so I’m offering this collection as a correction to your misconceptions.

The first point of likeness comes from the uniform,
sure they have different names, but to the uninformed
the difference between scrubs and a ninja costume’s small when
both are pyjamas for professional use, whatever you call them.

Secondary to the strikingly similar outfits
is the fact that both groups carry diverse tool kits
filled with arcane equipment they can use in a fight
(if you disagree, perhaps you’ve never been blinded by penlight)

You know what else is a major part of ninjitsu?
Stabbing people. And maybe you’ve heard of this thing that we do
called IM injection – it’s just stabbing by another name,
one more way in which students and ninjas are actually the same.

Finally, let’s mention the ninja’s main ability –
moving around so as to almost attain invisibility –
but compared to med students confronted with a tough task
their ability to melt away doesn’t even come close to us.

So although no-one’s cooler than ninjas
and med students are mostly just nerdy whingers,
I’m sure this entry will prompt you to re-evaluate
the many other ways in which they actually do relate.

Image from here

And Then I Realised I’m Basically Unrobbable…

So the other day I was looking for my wallet
I couldn’t find it and thought ‘Hey, maybe someone stole it’.
A few days earlier I put it in my bag while riding the bus
and this dodgy looking fellow saw me do it and I think that he must
have picked it out when I had my back turned
to be fair it was my own fault as I really should’ve learned
to observe better security concerning my personal possessions
but let’s move on – that isn’t today’s lesson.

See at first I was upset about it, as most people would be,
then I paused to think about it carefully
and I just couldn’t see why it should be
a concern that my wallet had been taken from me.

First off, I’m a medical student so I don’t have any cash
and the little I do I always make sure to stash
in my pockets so the balance remains steady there,
likewise my cards for ATMs, driving and Medicare.
Even the wallet itself was about ten years old
riddled with holes, starting to culture mould
and in the end, when all’s said and done,
I can’t help but feel the pick-pocket’s the one
who got the real bum end of this deal
I mean, what did he actually manage to steal?

But it got me asking myself on a bigger scale
was it just luck that this robbery failed?
And I’m lead to think maybe it’s not
if I tally up all the tangible possessions I’ve got
the entire lot comes to less than a grand
and understand that most of that’s rather bland
textbooks on obscure points of medicine or pharmacology
and not even I’m nerdy enough to mourn losing texts on biology.

Thus my conclusion that for this brief moment in time
perhaps I’m inadvertently immune to this common crime.
Now all I have to worry about is assault, fraud, kidnaps,
murders, mugging, drugging and other such mishaps 🙂

Review: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey)

After the success of my first book review
I’ve decided now’s time for number two.
This time it’s something on a quasi-medical theme
one which comments on the nature of conformity and power as seen
throught the lense of psychiatric care and remnants of the asylum system
an area which most doctors try to avoid based on conventional wisdom.

First a little about the author – Ken Kesey-
he graduated UO in 1957 then says he
became an orderly at a veterans hospital in Menlo Park
which along with MKULTRA gave him the creative spark
to complete the manuscript for a novel which would go on to drive
the creation of a succesful play in ’63 and a movie in ’75.

The story’s set on a psych ward run like a Stalinist state
where the head nurse uses her authority to insistently manipulate
her powerless patients and cowed staff to create a
culture which serves to magnify and inflate her
claims of beneficience to suppress patient rights
while maintaining ward-wide obedience at cult-like heights.

Into this mix comes the protagonist, McMurphy.
Upon entering the nurse’s tightly controlled turf he
starts encouraging inmates to take their lives into their own hands,
become empowered, address the future and make plans.
This modus operandi puts him in direct defiance
of the nurse’s strategy of tearing patients down to ensure their compliance.

The passive-aggressive conflict which subsequently results
sees the two threatening and charming each others allies and trading insults.
The battle of wills escalates as the book goes on,
with every freedom won by the patients receiving increasingly strong
retaliation and counter-measures until finally both reap the whirlwind they sowed
the nurse is choked ‘til she loses her larynx and costs McMurphy his frontal lobe.

There’s two main readings (though really they’re one and the same).
The monolithic institution vs the individual portrayed again and again
Indians and the government, mentally ill vs the asylum, man against society, but all across this range
the process never really alters, it’s only the names that change.
Because even if the individual wins a while it never lasts too long
they always slip, always lose, for the collective is just too strong.

The second reading’s just a more superficial version of the first:
the gross imbalance of power with which psychiatry is inherently cursed.
The implication is that the head nurse with her oppressive punitive measures
is just the natural consequence of attitudes that the system treasures.
The outlook of psychiatry in the ‘50s and society as a whole
meant they would always need someone like her to step into such a role.

Obviously this story paints a pretty grim portrait.
In the last 50 years have we improved this poor state?
Having worked in a psych hospital here for a year
I can only answer yes, but still I fear
modern medicine’s left psychiatry far behind
with a different paradigm being applied to the theory of mind.

There are various other themes to be seen
but I take the fact I’ve reached 500 words to mean
it’s time to wrap this up and get back to reading medical stuff
so it looks like this review’ll just have to pass as good enough.

They banned these the year before I started work (though drugs made them obsolete long before then).

One component of an old-school ECT machine at our hospital's museum.