Could Narrative Medicine Lower Doctor Burnout Rates?

Narrative Medicine

Doctors and current medical students are at the highest risk of mental illness and suicide when compared to other fields. These stem directly from doctor burnout, which is when a medical practitioner or student is over-taxed emotionally, physically, mentally, and sometimes even spiritually.

It has been an ongoing process to find something that could help to lower the rates at which doctors suffer burnout. By decreasing burnout, the rates at which current and prospective physicians suffer mental illness and commit suicide are thought to also decrease.

The latest hope in this ongoing research process is Narrative Medicine. New research has shown that this little-known field of study could prove highly beneficial to physicians.

What is “Narrative Medicine”?

Narrative Medicine may not be a term many people (even within the medical community) are familiar with. This is because it’s a fairly new area of interest, which was first written about in the 1990’s. At least, in its most modern sense. The concept from which the study area stems is absolutely ancient.

Narrative Medicine is an idea that doctors should treat the whole person versus a set of symptoms or diseases. It incorporates mental and emotional health with the physical, to provide a more effective set of treatments.

Narrative Medicine can be taken much further than this, however. In fact, it can prove to be a highly useful and effective tool for doctors.

How Does Narrative Medicine Help Prevent Doctor Burnout?

The idea of narrative medicine is to look at the whole picture. This allows physicians to see their patients as real, living people who have stories. Results, information, and patient demographical information all creates a story, which the physician writes with what they have been given.

While this is a useful diagnostic tool which can help to identify patterns in treatment and illness, it is also much more than that. It is useful for the doctor’s health also.

When creating this narrative, the doctor has an ability to place their own feelings into perspective. If, for example, a longtime patient has died, the issue could prove traumatic. When so much of a person’s lifetime has been placed into the health and care of another, there is a lot of personal investment. A narrative allows the doctor to express their sadness.

In effect, narrative medicine is medical journaling. The mental health benefits of journaling have been extensively researched and proven. Using this knowledge, narrative medicine aims to pair this therapeutic technique with medical treatment and diagnostics to help doctors avoid burnout.

How Serious is the Doctor Burnout Issue?

As discussed in the opening paragraph, burnout contributes highly to the levels of mental illness and suicide in the medical community. But just how serious is this issue?

The rate of doctors who suffer from depression is as high as 30 percent. It varies among different specialties, but is astoundingly high overall. The reason is well-known. Long hours, little sleep, high stress, and life-altering decision making all contribute. Often, doctors will work extended shifts without regard to their own personal health. In addition to lack of sleep, doctors might fail to eat regularly, hydrate, or enjoy any type of social life period.

 

Canadian Medical Students Can Get Credit for Marijuana Production Studies

Credit for Marijuana Production Studies

Beleave Kannabis Corporation is an Ontario marijuana company that wants to do more than just grow pot. Their goal is to build an empire of marijuana production specialists who know the science behind planting, regulation, and proper safety methods. The issue? A lack of experienced marijuana producers.

Since Canada legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes, the industry has literally exploded with a demand for both more untarnished marijuana and experienced people to help tend the plants. The North American country was the very first industrialized country to fully decriminalize the plant this past October.

Turning to Universities for Assistance

The answer to the industry’s labor shortage has an easy answer – the recruitment of university science and medical students. Beleave Kannabis Corporation has asked local universities to send them the top of their classes.

In response to the new industry’s request, around a dozen colleges around Canada have added or expanded upon current courses to help train a brand-new generation of marijuana production specialists. These schools even allow the classes to count towards student’s associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. Other schools have chosen to offer special certifications.

The Era of the “Green Rush”

Alison McMahon is the founder of a web recruitment site called Cannabis At Work. She has dubbed this sudden boom “The Green Rush,” and the term is remarkably appropriate. The rush to learn the marijuana production trade, coupled with the public’s desperate need to end marijuana shortage issues, is reminiscent of the American Gold Rush in the 1840’s and 1850’s.

Canada legalized medicinal marijuana nearly two decades ago, in 2001, but October marked the beginning of this new era with recreational now being legal, also. This full decriminalization has led to a hiring boom. Growers need more hands to help scale up production, while distributers need more people to help supply the public directly.

The hiring boom is so large that marijuana openings now account for 34 of every 10K jobs posted in Canada, according to Indeed.

McGill University Becomes First to Offer Degree

Although many schools have incorporated classes that will count towards credit in science, botany, or medicine, McGill University has decided to take things a step further. Starting in January of 2020, students at the school will be able to receive a graduate degree in marijuana cultivation and production.

To be entered into the graduate program, a student must have completed a bachelor’s degree in botany or a related field. This could include earth sciences, biology, chemistry, pharmaceuticals, or any number of other fields.

Many thinks that the strict requirements of the graduate program are a little insane. When you consider the extensive knowledge needed to grow, understand, harvest, and otherwise tend to marijuana plants, the requirements are pretty standard.

Others thought a graduate program in marijuana cultivation was a little unorthodox in its own right. McGill University fired back to these statements, saying that a lot of science and understanding of agriculture is required to grow the many different strains of marijuana.

 

3 Unconventional Studying Techniques that May Just Work

Unconventional Studying Techniques

When it comes to being a university student, one thing dominates all areas of study – studying. Students are always looking for new, better ways to study. This is especially true for medical students, who must sustain an admittedly ridiculous amount of knowledge in an extremely limited amount of time.

You’ve undoubtedly heard of the numerous basic studying techniques that dominate schooling. But how about trying some slightly unconventional techniques? Here we discuss a few that just might work for you.

1: Fifteen Minutes of Cramming Before Sleep

Science tells us that the brain processes its day backwards. In theory, this means whatever you did last will hold a stronger place in your memory. Using this idea, you can get the most effective studying done in the fifteen minutes before you go to bed.

This doesn’t entirely replace all other times of study. But, if you’re having difficulty remembering something in particular, take fifteen minutes just before you tuck in for the night to read as much information on that subject as possible.

Many people say that using this technique has helped them master the subject areas most difficult for them. If nothing else, it gives students an extra fifteen minutes of studying each day – which can never be a bad thing.

2: Make A Song

Songs get stuck in your head for a reason. They’re catchy, lyrical – all the things your brain is “hooked” on, so to speak. You can leverage this when studying for an upcoming test by turning your notes into a song which can be memorized.

If you look on YouTube, you’ll find that a lot of people have created study songs already. You could luck out and find one that pertains to the subject and/or test you’re already studying for. If not, just get creative and lay a few phrases over your favorite song’s rhythm.

Word of warning, however: don’t randomly burst into song during your test. Instead, sing it in your head and/or quietly (very, very quietly) hum it to yourself.

3: Make it a Game

The last unconventional method of studying is to turn the dull, boring act of studying into a game. This works especially well for people who have naturally competitive personalities. Compete against yourself or a study partner.

A few ideas for study games which will help you to memorize your coursework (while having fun at the same time) include:

  • Who can name the most anatomy parts in three minutes?
  • How many definitions can you accurately recite in five minutes or less?
  • How quickly can you complete a fill-in-the-blank sheet of pharmaceuticals and their definitions?
  • Who can complete a worksheet quickest, with the most accuracy? (Create your own worksheet or find one online)

There is a good chance that one or more of these unconventional studying techniques will work for you. Some students swear by these, while others prefer more conventional methods. The key is to figure out what works best for you.

15 Quick Tips for Better Studying in Medical School

medical student studying

Medical school is challenging, and not just because it’s time-intensive. The material students must memorize to pass the multitude of tests necessary for certification is extensive and difficult. With so much needing remembered it can seem like studying encompasses all a student’s free time.

But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. While studying should take a considerable amount of a student’s free time, it doesn’t have to take all of it. The idea is to “study smarter, not harder.” Here we offer 15 quick tips to help med students do just that.

  1. Space out studying, don’t binge. If you space your studying out throughout the weeks or months leading up to an exam you are more likely to retain the information versus suffering extreme burnout.
  2. Take a fifteen-minute break after 45 to 60 minutes of studying, depending on what works for you. During this time, you should do nothing but sit back and relax, to allow your mind to process information.
  3. Use a “smart studying” program like CanadaQBank.
  4. If you’ve memorized a section or topic area, don’t waste time repeating it. Focus effort on more difficult areas and do a quick once-over the day before your exam.
  5. Take a night off to socialize. This is good for mental and emotional health.
  6. Instead of staying up all night to study, focus on getting a solid eight hours whenever possible. This allows the brain to function adequately.
  7. Create an organizational method for your notes which works for you. It can take some trial and error but having all your notes and other studying tools organized can save a lot of time. It also makes the entire process significantly easier.
  8. Use a calendar to keep track of important upcoming dates, like exams. Pin it to the wall in a place you’ll see it every day.
  9. Get a study buddy. It will help keep you on track by providing both motivation and support.
  10. Before and after studying, take time to stretch. This will help keep good blood flow.
  11. Don’t forget to eat! Carbohydrates and protein are both great brain fuel. Snack often and eat a good breakfast the day before an exam.
  12. Don’t become discouraged if it takes a little extra time to nail a topic that is difficult for you. Stressing over it will actually make it more difficult to master!
  13. If you find yourself in a rut, go study in a new place. It could be on the lawn, in the library, or at a coffee shop. The change of scenery will help get your mind moving again.
  14. Figure out your learning style and leverage it to its fullest potential.
  15. Take ten minutes to go over your most difficult subject matter right before bed. Science shows this can help you memorize it, since the brain processes your day backwards!

If you incorporate the above tips into your normal studying routine, you’ll find that subject material is memorized quicker, and that the risks of burnout from over-studying are decreased.

How Medical Students Learn from Patients

Medical Students Learning

A recent article was published which stated most medical students learned more from their patients than they did through their actual schooling. This was found via a web-based tool called ‘Learning Moment’ in which patients recorded what, where, and when they learned certain things, so they could be shared with other medical students.

The article’s authors also noted that some medical students learning was accomplished at computer workstations, as well as resuscitation rooms meant for critically ill patients.

Commonly known as ‘bedside training,’ the learning experience revolves heavily around all patient-intimate items. This includes, among others:

  • Taking a patient’s medical history
  • Physical examination
  • Learning of proper bedside manners

These items are always accomplished under the watchful eye of a trained physician and includes physically laying hands on both physically and mentally ill patients.

Why Learning Moment?

Learning Moment was created because the developers predicted bedside education had diminished to an estimated 20 percent for current medical students. This would have been a drastic decrease from the 75 percent of training which took place bedside in the 1960’s.

Medical School Training

While bedside education is of the utmost importance, medical school training should not be underestimated. Without the fundamentals learned in medical school potential physicians would never be able to safely practice proper procedures and care on real, living patients.

The very first thing medical students learn is the medical vocabulary, followed by the underlying physiological processes contributing to both health and disease. Finally, you learn what interventions should be taken based on what is wrong with the patient. That is where bedside training typically comes in, to fill in a gaping void that the education system cannot fill with books or lessons.

The Importance of Bedside Training

A carpenter would not be able to practice without wood, and a welder without metal. A hair stylist must eventually work on real human hair, and a teacher must eventually practice in a real classroom. So, it is for medical students. To become truly proficient in the medical field, they must practice on real patients.

The old adage “practice makes perfect” holds true. Without the ability to practice on real patients, potential physicians would never be able to progress in their studies to a point of true proficiency. This is, of course, done under the watchful eye of a licensed physician. Each skill can, during this period of training, be practiced repeatedly until it is memorized. The possibility of life-threatening errors is removed by the attending physician, who double-checks the work of the student doctor.

Although the creators of this new application assumed bedside learning to have been greatly diminished, they have actually found the opposite to be true. The practice of bedside learning is still alive and well, and still accounts for a considerable portion of training received by medical students. What the new application did was increase the effectiveness of this part of learning by allowing medical students and practicing physicians to share their experiences with patients.

Are Canadian Medical Students Studying Abroad Finding Residencies More Difficult?

Canadian Medical Students Studying Abroad

A Supreme Court case has been filed, alleging that Canadian residents who have graduated from medical schools abroad (outside the US or Canada) are finding it difficult to obtain residencies. This, of course, places a large hurtle in the path of these students towards their chosen profession.

Since these students are unable to obtain residencies, they have been forced to work in other fields while pursuing potential programs. One court petitioner states he has had to work in construction, as well as an ICBC claims adjuster. Another petitioner says he has both had to walk dogs and foray in the film industry.

The Problem & The System

The issue does not lay in the fact that the two above-mentioned petitioners are any less qualified. Instead, they underwent their medical schooling abroad and the current system gives strict preference towards those graduated from Canadian medical schools.

The current system was set up with a great purpose in mind, as many things are. The idea was to ensure that Canadian school graduates weren’t unemployed after undertaking so many years of training. Unfortunately, that has backfired. While these graduates may not see unemployment, those Canadian residents who studied abroad are.

SCSMA Fights For The Rights of Canadians Studying Abroad

A group was formed to help protect the rights of these students, called Society of Canadians Studying Medicine Abroad (SCSMA). The group is led by Rosemary Pawliuk whose own daughter was forced to do a residency in the US after she graduated from an Irish medical school. The SCSMA argues that all Canadian citizens (and permanent residents) should be able to compete fairly for access to postgraduate training (like residencies) “on the basis of individual skills, knowledge, and attributes relevant to the practice of medicine.”

The Lawsuit

The leaders of the lawsuit are Dr. Oliver Kostanski and Harris Falconer. Kostanski is a native of Vancouver but attended medical school in Poland so he could live near his grandparents. Falconer has been attending medical school in Vancouver. The men’s lawsuit was filed against the Association of Faculties of Medicine in Canada, the British Columbia Ministry of Health, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Kostanski and Falconer argue that the numerous barriers facing them upon return to British Columbia are a violation of their rights, as laid out by the country’s constitution. The University of British Columbia, who only accepts 10% to 15% of all applicants, has even admitted that the odds are stacked against those native Canadians who decide to study abroad before returning to their home country to practice medicine.

Just how hard is it to get a residency? Overseas graduates are given only an arbitrary 58 residency positions in British Columbia during the first round of matching. Those students who graduated from the United States or Canada, however, are guaranteed exclusive access to 288 positions. This number is equivalent to the number of students accepted into the UBC’s medical school each year.

Tips on How to Survive Your First Year of Medical School

Medical Students Surviving

The first year of medical school can be frightening, but before we delve into some of the most common fears and how to handle them, congratulations! It takes a lot of hard work and determination to reach medical school, but you’ve done it. You are one step closer to becoming a doctor.

Now, the work ahead of you is grueling. You’ll feel overwhelmed – you probably already are. You will work hard and feel as though you have little time for anything else. But the following will help you to survive the difficult (yet completely worthwhile) years you spend in medical school.

Write A Letter to Yourself for Inspiration

During the next few years you will undoubtedly question whether your demanding work is worth it. That is why you need to write yourself this letter. In it, remind yourself why you wanted to become a doctor in the first place.

What is your drive or inspiration as a medical student? Where do you plan on going after medical school? What is it that makes everything worth it? Anytime you feel discouraged, pull that letter out and read it.

Find Some Time to Socialize

When you’re wrapped up in your studies it is easy to forgo socializing. Many people prefer to study alone. They study alone until they go to sleep, and when they wake up it’s time for classes. But this is very unhealthy and can actually have a negative impact on your schooling – as well as your mental health.

Make a little time for your friends and find new ones. Attend school socials and mixers. Even if you can only carve out an hour each week to socialize, do it. You owe it to yourself to have a little fun during these vital years.

Take Care of Yourself

Don’t lose sight of the most important person in your life: you. Go ahead and be selfish once in a while. Eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water, and pamper yourself when you have the chance. If you want that long shower, take it. If you feel you could nix your all-night studying this one time for a little fun or a full night’s rest, do it.

Speaking of rest, all-nighters aren’t healthy anyway. Aim for eight hours of sleep each night and skip the late-night studying. Oh, and remember to call your parents and siblings. As proud as they are of you, they miss you. A weekly phone call can help to keep you anchored and give you encouragement.

Practice Humility, Not Arrogance

It is a little-known fact that you will run into some very arrogant, narcissistic people in medical school. As inflated as your head might feel after acing that big test, pop it quick.

Pride in yourself is one thing. Feeling as though you are the be-all end-all is an entirely different thing. Not only will you be difficult to be around (and lose a lot of potential friends) but you’ll eventually dislike yourself, too.

Be Organized

In the first year of medical school alone you will be required to learn around thirteen THOUSAND unfamiliar terms. To handle all this information, you need to ensure you’re organized. Be efficient in your studies. Keep well-written notes. Have a system that works for the way you learn best. Test yourself often.

 

 

How Robots Are Training Doctors and Students

medical training robots

It is a well-known fact that this is the age of technological advancement. Not only are machines being created which are able to do more complex tasks, but artificial intelligence (AI) is continually being improved and reaching nearly unbelievable levels.

Sometimes we do not even realize just how far AI has come, but it effects our life daily. For example, think of automated phone systems. You can now speak in simple phrases such as “yes,” “no,” or listing out a number and the automated system understands you. This is just one of the smallest, simplest, yet most widely used ways AI is affecting our life.

An incredible breakthrough in artificial intelligence is now changing the way medical professionals are trained. While the new robot (we’re going to discuss specifics in a moment) is incredible, it’s also undeniably a little frightening – but so are all new things.

Meet Pediatric Hal

Pediatric Hal is an artificial intelligence robot with amazing, incredibly lifelike capabilities. He was made to look like a five-year-old male patient by Gaumard Scientific. Wondering just how lifelike he really is? Pediatric Hal can, in addition to many other things, do the following:

  • Imitate rapid breathing
  • Look scared, with wide eyes that dart around the room
  • Say “ow” when he is pricked with a needle
  • Answer basic questions relevant to what a normal human would be able to, aged five
  • Cry for his mom and dad
  • Mimic the symptoms of numerous illnesses, including cardiac arrest and arrythmia
  • Urinate on himself when frightened
  • Track a finger with his eyes upon request

As you can see, there is no wonder why pediatric Hal is being called “The World’s Most Advanced Pediatric Patient Simulator.”

Although initial prototypes were hyper-realistic, the creators did pull back just slightly. During test runs, the company decided there was such a thing as “too realistic” and held back from allowing the fake child bleed to death on the operating table.

Why A Lifelike Robot?

Many wonder why a lifelike robot is necessary in medical training. But the idea behind this invention is actually quite simple: it offers medical students the ability to practice working under pressure in a hands-on environment.

Once these pre-med and medical school students become doctors there is no room for error, because the cost of such is human life. While practicing on Pediatric Hal, however, errors are less serious and can be learned from before the price becomes so high.

The procedures which can be practiced on this robot are wide-ranging. They include everything from using a defibrillator, giving basic resuscitation (such as mouth-to-mouth), inserting tracheal tubes, or even performing complex surgical procedures.

In the past these things have been practiced on dummies. This is fine for learning the basic movements for certain procedures but lacked the “working under pressure” aspect that is so vital. Since Pediatric Hal responds in the way a human child might, those studying to become doctors are given a realistic taste of what they may face after graduation.

How Premed Students Balance Life

Pre Med Students

Pre-med is not for the faint of heart. Students studying medicine are under a constant amount of extreme pressure, which only becomes harder as they reach medical school. Besides being an incredibly competitive field, students are required to study for months without end, work well in high-pressure situations, and deal with a lot of emotional hardship.

Even during clinical practice, the emotions can be nearly debilitating. Compassion is a necessity, but it must be done while also keeping your emotions in check.

So how does one survive these grueling years? How can students not only ace their schooling but ensure it doesn’t completely take over their lives?

Here we look at a few proven ways pre-med students have learned to balance life. Many of these can also be applied to the next step on the journey to become a doctor – medical school.

Get Help if Necessary

High stress environments can wreak havoc on even the most resilient people’s mental health. A study from 2010 shows that 15% of pre-med students meet the strict guidelines for clinical depression. A 2016 study saw that this number only increases once students reach medical school, with the percentage with depression reaching 27%.

If you need help, get it. Never be afraid to speak up and tell someone you are feeling depressed…. And always remember that suicide is never the answer.

Become an Expert Studier

There is an adage that says the volume and depth of information a student is expected to learn in medical school is like drinking from a fire hose. To put it short: it can be very overwhelming. Therefore, it is vital to become an expert studier while still in pre-med, or else you will drown once you reach med.

A few quick study tips:

  • Avoid all-nighters. While it may seem like a promising idea, you aren’t as productive after a certain point – and it is much more valuable to get a full night’s sleep.
  • Find an organization system for notes, papers, books, etc. that works best for you.
  • Take regular breaks while studying to keep your mind fresh. Every 45 minutes you spend steadily studying, you should take 15 minutes to breath. Walk around the room, grab a snack, take a quick shower, or whatever you need to do to clear your mind.
  • Study smarter. If you have something down, skip over that and focus on the areas you need the most help with. There are some programs which allow you to do this in an organized, effective fashion – like CanadaQBank.

Take Care of Yourself

Do not neglect your physical health while in school, as this can haunt you well into the future. Even if it means having half an hour less time to study, it is vital that you prioritize your physical health as the most important thing. This includes getting thirty minutes of moderate exercise daily, eating a balanced diet, and drinking plenty of water. Also, don’t forget to get those eight hours of sleep each night.

Remember “Me Time”

Between school, clinicals, maintaining a social life, exercising, and possibly even working, your “me time” can disappear. Make every effort to ensure it doesn’t, however. At least once a week you should be spending a few moments caring for yourself. Do something you enjoy. Take a long, hot shower or read a book. Visit your family for the afternoon or catch up with your siblings. You’ll feel much better after.

Are Canadian Hospitals Scrambling from The Saudi Backlash?

Saudi Medical Students

Canadian hospitals are seeing some of their Saudi Arabian medical graduates withdrawing from their clinical duties ahead of an impending August 31st deadline. This has left hospitals scrambling to quickly fill in the gaps they are leaving behind.

These early departures are the latest in an overwhelmingly chaotic situation which have had (and will continue to have) a destabilizing effect on several vital parts of the healthcare system in Canada.

There isn’t (yet) an exact number on how many Saudi medical trainees are requesting leave ahead of the deadline. What is certain, however, is that many more will be leaving their positions, so they can prepare to return to their country.

Over a thousand medical graduates from Saudi Arabi have been working at Canadian teaching hospitals for their post-schooling internships. They will all need to leave the country now by the end of August. This quickly approaching, and life altering decision is a result between diplomatic disputes occurring between Canada and the Middle East.

The Saudi Arabian-Canada Training Program

A training program has long been in place which allowed these same Saudi Arabian graduates to train in teaching hospitals throughout Canada. The hospitals are given around $100K in fees for each medical trainee. In return, Canada gets medical practitioners to provide tax-free care to residents while the trainees get valuable experience.

What Happened?

The Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, publicly called out the Middle East in early August. The call out was a request to released human rights advocates who had been jailed for their efforts. It did not take long to get a response.

Saudi Arabia responded to the request by suspending all diplomatic relationships with Canada. Freeland was expelled, and all direct flights between the two nations were cancelled. Saudi Arabia also publicly ended the medical program and has said it will no longer purchase neither wheat or barley from Canada.

These are not definite, however, because negotiations are still ongoing. There is a small chance that the medical trainees will be allowed to stay and finish their residencies in Canadian training hospitals – even if future students are not allowed to participate.

The Real Impact – By Numbers

The Saudi Arabia residents make up a considerable amount of the workforce in many training hospitals throughout Canada. The numbers listed in the paragraphs below represent the number of these resident’s pre-disagreement. Since disputes began between the two countries, numbers have continued to drop as residents make plans to return home.

In Toronto hospitals, 216 residents from Saudi Arabia made up roughly six percent of the city’s total residents. An incredible fifteen percent of Hamilton’s medical workforce was comprised of these residents. In certain areas these trainees make up a third to half of entire wards. Most notably these include the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units (NICU).

As of right now, the only way for hospitals to move forward is to find which areas now lack personnel and work towards filling in those gaps.