Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Week 2.0

Thought I'd do a quick mid-week post on my mid-week break! And by "break" I mean day off from classes to do research and get caught up. The pace of the program is pretty fast, and I'm told it only gets more so as the terms go by. I think part of why it feels so hectic at the moment is that I have yet to find my groove... how to pace things, when are good times to do library research vs. reading texts at home, when's a good time in my schedule for writing or organizing, etc. Plus, with the PBL it's very difficult to get the hang of it. We really are given a LOT of free rein and very little structure or guidance. For instance, my group got a problem scenario dealing with a senior who has osteoarthritis and needs to do prehab in preparation for a full-hip arthoplasty. Then they just kind of say "Go!", and all of us are looking at each other like "go where?!" lol. In response to the uncertainty I, and it seems like many other students, try to research EVERYthing. When you're not sure what you need to know, it's hard to know when to stop. You also end up researching a lot of things that are interesting, but irrelevant to what an OT will do. And finally, you end up missing some important stuff because it didn't blip on your radar as "need to know."
The good news is that (I'm told) it's all part of the learning process. Every student feels lost on the first attempt at PBL. Every student spins their wheels and learns inefficiently. But you learn from the mistakes and get better. Next time (I'm told) I'll be more efficient, I won't waste time on needless information and I will remember to look at the relevant theory (a huge oversight in my first attempt). Then I'll make other mistakes and miss other important details, lol.
In the end it's left me feeling pretty disoriented, but I'm hopeful. I AM new at this. If I was expert then I wouldn't need the schoolin'!
All things in time, I keep reminding myself.
All things in time.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Term One - Week One

First week down!

It’s funny because I imagine that the first weeks of our program will be the lightest… nothing is yet due, we’re still doing a lot of introductory stuff… but for me it felt HUGE. It’s a lot to take in at first, plus we had a number of extra sessions scheduled, like CPR and library orientations, and we’re doing all of that first of the year settling in type stuff, like getting OSAP and trying to get OGS applications together. It’s all very new and very busy! Coming from an undergrad program that had few in-class hours and a lot of independent research, plus a very limited social life (I really focused on academics in undergrad, practically to the exclusion of all else), this new schedule for school and life is a big adjustment.

The other thing that’s a big adjustment for me is the McMaster culture… both in regard to the problem-based learning (PBL) and just the OT department’s culture in general. Group learning is a new challenge in the sense that you’re learning on two fronts… the content of whatever topic you’re dealing with, plus adjusting to the group dynamic. It takes a lot of self-awareness to see not just what you need to get out of the class, but to also see how you are affecting the participation and/or development of others. And at first, while you’re just getting to know one another, it’s really hard. Other than that I can’t really say much about problem-based learning because I’m still so new to it myself! I will try to talk about it more as time goes on though… I know people who are not in the program are curious about how it all works.

The other culture kind of thing that I’m trying to wrap my head around has to do with grades, and I’m really conflicted about this one. We have basically been told that students who meet all the expectations of the program will get B-grades… that B’s are perfectly acceptable and that we should not be motivated by the need to get A’s any longer. Now, part of me is freakin’ out about this revelation. I’ve been so driven for the last three years in order to get the grades that would make me a competitive candidate for grad school and scholarships that I’m not sure I can turn that instinct off right away. Plus, there’s a part of me that thrives on the external validation that grades provide. But on the other hand, the more time I have to sit with the idea of focusing on my own process and not just the end goal, the more there is a piece of my self that unclenches and starts to breathe. I’m not a competitive person by nature and I’m only now starting to really appreciate the internal burden I was carrying around in order to throw myself into the rat-race and succeed. So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m actually glad that the culture in my program is more focused on the process rather than solely on the product. In both cases I will arrive at the same end… a MSc in Occupational Therapy… but with the Mac way I might also get to have a balanced life while I’m doing it! I simply need to convince the little voice in my head that is really unsure about this whole “grades don’t matter” thing that it will all be okay.

All things in time, I suppose. :)SweetPea

Saturday, September 12, 2009

McMaster OT Orientation Week!

Well, o-week just wrapped up and WOW what a whirlwind it's been! Days filled with welcome sessions, training sessions and paperwork... nights filled with great social events with some of the most awesome people in the world. It really is true that when you show up for o-week you feel as though you've just been introduced to 64 of your closest friends. I'd heard that was the case, but I honestly didn't expect to actually feel it. Now I know... and it's awesome! :D
The second year students who planned our o-week social events were great. They put us all at ease, answered our myriad questions, and organized some great evenings out. Stuff we did included a brewery tour (though "tour" is really a euphemism for all you can drink beers, lol), bowling followed by drinks, a scavenger hunt followed by drinks with the PT students, and a night out at a local pub with appetizers and drinks (drinking always being optional, of course). They also hosted a pizza lunch for us one day, where they gave us some inside tips about what to expect from the program and placements etc... I hope that everyone has a great team of second years to guide them like my class has had. They're wonderful.
Other daytime stuff was hit and miss. The low of the week was probably the grad student "lunch"... where we unexpectedly spent an hour drumming (I know... random, right?!) and listening to speeches with our stomachs growling before seeing any food. And the food, when it arrived, was disappointingly soggy :( That was a let down... but a very small one in the scheme of things. And in hindsight I think I could have really gotten into the drumming if not for the low blood sugar, lol. Highlights of the week were WHMIS, Fire & Safety, and Infection Control training... along with Mask Fit Training and Testing. The mask training/fitting was for the N95 masks that are used to help protect health care workers from airborne diseases, and with the worry about H1N1 swine flu this year they spent a LOT of time making sure we were clear on how to use them. Plus, there are different sizes and styles of masks... hence the fitting session to ensure you know which mask will protect you before you actually need the protection. The way it works is you try a mask on and they put a big haz.mat-style hood over your head. Then they spray either a bitter or sweet aerosol into the hood and ask you to breathe with your mouth open. If the mask works you taste nothing. If there's a gap because it doesn't fit, you get either a strong bitter or sweet taste in the back of your throat... neither of which is very nice. The pic I posted above is of me during my mask fitting so that you can see how silly it all looks. So, while it sounds quite serious (and it is), they find a way to make it fun. But, I think the biggest highlight of the week was the anatomy lab tour. If you've read my previous posts then you know I was very impressed with the anatomy lab at Queen's... well, I was equally impressed with the lab at Mac. Plus, it was a different kind of experience for me! In this lab most of the samples had not been plastinated and they definitely felt different. It was so cool to me that I could tell the difference between a vein, artery and nerve just by feeling the structure! I'm fascinated by this stuff.
Last night was our big pub night out and everyone who could attend (we have some students who commute in the class so it's not always feasible for them) really let their hair down. It was a great time! And it was funny to me how on Tuesday it seemed so overwhelming to be meeting so many new people, but by the time Friday rolled around we were all very comfortable with each other... even though we don't know each other all that well yet. It just doesn't seem overwhelming anymore. Instead, it feels like we're all one big family and, for better or worse, we're in this together! I'm really looking forward to getting started next week.
Well, I need to call it a night... but I wanted to just note two other things really quickly before I do. First of all, one of my classmates had a compound fracture of her ankle a few years back and she SET IT BACK IN PLACE HERSELF! I don't care if you were in shock Jen... that's still seriously hard core in my book (some would even say heroic! lol). The second thing is, I mentioned in a previous post that I'm a zombie-genre fan and that I was so excited to have the lead actress from Dawn of the Dead speak at my convocation ceremony... well, it turns out that one of my classmates was a zombie-extra in that film!!! Isn't life interesting? Everyone has such great stories to tell.
Enough out of me for one night. I'll post again soon about my student OT experiences and about applying for the Ontario Graduate Scholarships (OGS)!