Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Walls Are Closing IN

Two weeks away from the end of my first D-2 semester, and less than three weeks from my board exam..things are a bit hectic. Board review is beginning to get clumsy, massively unproductive, and mind-numbing. I almost feel like taking several days off to reboot. Unfortunately, I have already been fairly lazy this last week or so which means I really ought to be more focused. Once you go through the dental decks and most of the old exams, it just becomes hard to figure out HOW to study. I am zeroing in on problem areas (namely virology, bacteriology, and biochem as a whole). I am pretty satisfied with my current anatomy/histo and dental anatomy scores but am truly struggling with biochem/physio and micro/path. It is hard to master material while juggling finals and random projects. I luckily have about a week left after my last final to really iron out the crap.

But enough on that, I will do a good board post after I have finished. I have decided that this semester is almost too different from the first two to really even compare. I really have only studied for classes at two intervals (midterms and now for finals). Last semester I was studying almost daily for the barrage of exams. However, this statement leads one to believe that things were easy – they most certainly are not. I am actually IN the school a lot more than I was as a D-1. There is no free time or early dismissal and we do a TON of pre-clinic and lab work. The positive is that I actually enjoy this aspect. Granted, I usually suck at something the first few tries, but I gradually become decent enough to satisfy my own perfectionist attitude. The negative is that the school seems to have forgotten that we have a board exam to study for. So I come home drained from an entire day of cutting preps, making temps, or soldering wires to bands and am somehow expected to come home and master all of the material covered over an entire year. It is an impossible task but I am trying my best.

The only reason I get excited for weekends is because I know it gives me entire days of time to catch up on board review and not have class work to do. Perhaps the most annoying busy work we are doing this semester is getting teeth selected for endo. Let’s just say I need more…A LOT more. I am really not freaking out about it too much though because there is no reason at this point and really nothing I can do about it. The teeth I get are the teeth I get. I have already resigned to not doing well in the class either so I don’t really give a shit. It is a true pity that a lot of your grade is essentially decided by complete luck and not your work ethic.

But ranting aside, this is the first semester that I feel like a DENTAL student. Aside from pathology II, all of the coursework is relative to dentistry and mostly important to know. Last Friday was my first experience as the sole provider of anesthesia to a patient. Buccal infiltration on #1 and a mandibular block on the right side. I was nervous when the D-4 began drilling on the mandibular teeth, because I still haven’t really developed confidence in my ‘accuracy’ namely because this was my SECOND Inferior alveolar block. But I must have nailed it, because ½ a carp of lidocaine had the patient comfortable for the duration of the procedure. These types of experiences are fun and rewarding. Unfortunately, I sit through a lot of boring-time-wasted stuff as well. But you always need to find the positives in order to get yourself out of bed every morning.

These next two weeks are essentially finals and performance exams. I am not too stressed because I feel comfortable with most of the classes and am just relieved to get a break from the endless assault of lab assignments. Tests feel like a vacation at this point. I am getting antsy and freaked about the board exam looming ever nearer, yet quite glad I decided to take it early and be done with the whole mess.

I just wanted to squeeze this post in before taking another hiatus while I prepare for the biggest test of my existence.

Good luck to the incoming D-1’s. I could have volunteered to give you all a campus tour, but opted to drink copious amounts of alcohol instead. Please don’t take it personally.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

NBDE I = Good Times: Vol 1

I promised to address the first national board exam in a sort of log-esque fashion so that is what I am attempting to do. In all honesty, it seems passing this test is not that hard if you simply get the ‘Dental Decks’ and review them twice over. As I have mentioned time and time again, I have no idea if I will end up specializing or not. There is no dynasty waiting for me after I graduate, so the path I choose will be my own making. I currently plan on that path leading to general dentistry – but the only specialty I have been exposed to in school is periodontics. So the bottom line is that I don’t currently plan to specialize, BUT – I do not wish to burn the bridge while I am here. So in other words, I would like to do well in school and on this hopelessly pointless standardized test.

For those unaware, the National Board Dental Exam I (NBDE) is the first major hurdle for dental students to pass that is not run by their own school. The test encompasses all of the basic sciences that students should have taken before entering the clinics. Anatomical Sciences (anatomy/histology), Microbiology/Path, Biochem/Physio, and Dental Anatomy/Occlusion are the four major areas. The test used to be divided strictly into these four sections with 100 question batteries. In the last year (maybe 2) they changed the format. There are still 400 questions total, but now they are mixed up and there is no definitive ‘anatomy section’ which I feel makes the test more difficult. Not going to complain though, the questions are still the same in will just be tougher to jump from topic to topic. One MUST pass this test to continue with their dental education. One MUST do VERY well on this test to specialize. Like the DAT, it is the only way to ‘level’ the playing field of post-doc applicants. But this is going to change in the 2010. The NBDE is being changed to pass/fail which will render it worthless for post-doc applications. Specialties will probably end up creating their own standardized test for potential anyone interested in specializing will have to prepare for ANOTHER giant exam during their third year. Nothing is written in stone yet, but I am quite glad to be in the old format still.

Here at UIC, we are eligible to take the exam from August of our D-2 year, until the following January. I believe you aren’t technically supposed to get your own patients until it is passed. We are given no extra time off outside of our break between semesters so the only logical time I can find to take this test is between summer and fall, or fall and spring (we get 2 weeks). I think I will enjoy my fall semester loads more with this monster out of the way so I am aiming for a mid-August test date (August 14th to be exact). I envy the schools that get the first summer off. Granted, we have gotten a whopping 5 Friday afternoons off for ‘board review’ this semester, but that really isn’t enough. Not even close.

I started looking at the dental decks in mid-may, and I hope to be completely through them in the next week. These cards seem to be the best study tool I have purchased thus far with the exception of practice exams.

Review material:
Dental Decks
Mosby’s Review
First Aid
Kaplan: Dent Essentials
Released exams
Class notes and books

While I began some light reading at the end of my D-1 year, I really didn’t hit the books regularly and with scheduled time frames until mid-may.

The routine so far has been to bounce between various topics in the dental decks. I tried using the text books at first, but realized that this is a bit inefficient given how much info we have to get through. I now use all the review books as simple references or to clarify topics I am extremely weak in (ahem..bacteriology and virology).

For those unaware, the dental decks are a series of flash cards (about 1300) that cover all the major sections of the NBDE. The front side of each card has a multiple choice question. The back side has the answer along with an often lengthy explanation that covers everything the card was attempting to convey. So getting through these cards takes some time if you read the backs which I am doing. I will go through the decks again as well (but will only read the backs if I get the question wrong).

Once I roll through them the first time, I plan on doing a ton of practice exams to just get a better idea of timing and adapting my brain (and ass) to sitting for long sums of time doing question after question. The real challenge is working all of this into my schedule while maintaining some vestiges of sanity. It is, after all, the middle of the summer, and I can think of MANY things I would much rather be doing.

So that is all for now..speaking of decks…

Acromegaly is a chronic metabolic disorder of adults caused by an excessive amount of:
-Thyroid hormone
-Growth hormone
-Parathyroid hormone

(Easy enough right? None of the questions are ‘hard’ is simply the volume of information tested on that makes things tricky.)

Off I go.