Hello, long time no speak! Today is the 1st of September, so I have exactly one month left of my gap year before FINALLY starting medical school *mind explodes*. I’m really sad I didn’t write more blog posts during this year, but I guess since starting my full-time job as a Healthcare Assistant in March, my time became very busy and my mental (and physical!) health took a huge toll from the job. I have loads of half-written blog posts on my computer about this tumultuous time working as a HCA on a COVID ward, but they’ve all felt too rambly/too much/oversharing and I never ended up finishing them. To get myself out of the blog post writing slump, I thought I would tell you how I plan to spend my final month of my life before med school!
I am proud of how many books I’ve managed to read this year, but I still have quite a few on my bookshelf begging for me to finally pick them up. I’ve found alternating the books I’m reading between fiction and non-fiction really helps me keep momentum – so I’ll read a fairly heavy going book about medicine, or productivity, or self-help etc and then I’ll follow it with a really light-hearted, juicy, cannot-put-this-down fiction book. I’m not one for juggling more than one book at a time, so I make sure I finish a book before moving on to the next (unless the book is absolutely awful – there are so many amazing books in the world for you to waste your time finishing a bad one. This is something I still find difficult, but I do it a fair bit now! I say read at least a third of the book, if it’s really not grabbing you – say goodbye)
Go on holiday and spend quality time with family and friends
I’ve got a week in Lake District booked with my parents, which I am SO excited about. Hikes, mountains, beautiful scenery, quaint towns… and we’ve booked a cottage to ourselves on the outskirts of Lake District so plenty of time to relax and read in the evenings too.
My best friend and I are also going to go away somewhere…. we haven’t booked anywhere yet, but we will! We haven’t seen that much of each other recently so it will be a good chance to catch up and spend some final time together before we both go back to uni.
Do a social media detox
My screen time has slowly been creeping up, and I hate it. I managed to complete a four-week social media detox when revising for my chemistry A-level last year *remembers awful time…shudders*, and I really didn’t miss it. I’ve watched a few Youtube videos where people are swapping their screen time for reading, and I think I’m going to try that out. Rather than reach for my phone and mindlessly scroll through Instagram when I’m bored, I’ll reach for a book.
I also would like to “detox” my actual phone before starting university, too. My emails have gone out of control meaning I’m missing important ones (I used to be the keep-below-ten-unread sort of person, now it says 999+ …), my camera roll is full of useless screenshots and blurry photos from days out, and I have a bazillion apps I no longer use.
Work on my stress/anxiety management
More to come on this in future posts, but long-story-short, I have an anxiety disorder. And I’m worried (there it is) that it’s going to ruin my time at university, if I don’t get it under control. I’ve realised that my anxiety and overall my general mood was so much better when I used to meditate and do yoga regularly. This is so cliché, and I am in no way saying that yoga will cure a mental illness. But in terms of dealing with my stress load, it was these little habits that only since I’ve abandoned them have I realised how helpful they really were.
I came across a very good Instagram post the other day from a doctor (@drclaireashley) who talks about stress, burnout and mental health amongst healthcare professionals, which spoke about the concept of the ‘capacity cup’. Stress load from your life will inevitably fill your cup up to the point where it will almost overflow, but little positive habits like taking time to meet with your friends/exercise/meditate/do something you love, can act as little holes in the cup that funnel water out, to prevent it from ever reaching capacity. I love that analogy, and it’s these habits I want to create and carry with me through my first term at university.
Clear out my entire bedroom + wardrobe
This will be a task and a half, but I seriously need to minimise my wardrobe so I actually know what clothes I own, before deciding which ones I wish to take with me to uni. I’ve already sold a lot of my unwanted clothes on sites like Vinted (my favourite!), Depop or Ebay, or I took them to the charity shop. I want to leave my bedroom a relatively empty place so I don’t feel like I have loads of my stuff still at home.
Following on from my last point about getting rid of stuff… I also wish to buy more stuff! But things I actually need, like kitchenware and storage and some techy bits. I am waiting to find out which accommodation hall I’ll be living in (early-mid September is when I’ll find out!) before buying kitchenware, as Imperial gives you the details of your flatmates so you can agree beforehand who’s bringing big things like a toaster…rather than end up with five toasters if everyone brought one each.
Do some bank shifts as a HCA
Now I’ve officially left my full-time job as a HCA on my designated ward as of last week, I applied to stay with the Bank Partners for my NHS trust. The Bank Partners is essentially a separate organisation who aims to fill staff shortages in hospitals from its bank of staff. I have an app on my phone which shows me all the shifts on wards across all the hospitals within my NHS trust where they need a HCA, and I can book a shift whenever I want. Which is PRETTY COOL, and the IDEAL job for a student.
I told myself I wouldn’t do any bank shifts for a couple of weeks after I’ve left my contractual job for a break, but I’m already missing the buzz of the hospital and the satisfaction the job gave me. I also have the privilege of being able to work on any ward that needs staff, not just the one I worked full-time on, including A&E, paediatrics and surgical wards. This excites me and scares me at the same time; each ward does things differently, and as a bank worker on a new ward, no one knows you and it may be a bit nerve-wracking trying to work out where things are and always feel like you need to ask the other staff… and then they’ll end up hating you… This is probably just my anxiety talking and it’ll be totally fine.
I especially feel this fear because the ward I’ve been working on used to be the private ward of the hospital, so it only has side rooms and no bays and therefore feels very different to a typical NHS ward. I feel a bit out of place on any other ward simply because I’m not used to it! I need to get over this fear of going on other wards though, so I’m setting myself the challenge to do at least two shifts before I go to uni on different wards that I’ve never worked on before!
Finish, and write new blog posts about my time as a HCA
I felt as though I needed to survive my time being a HCA before I could write about it, so now I’ve had a chance to step back and acknowledge that that was the hardest but also most life-changing thing I’ve ever had to do, I want to share my experiences. I also would love to write tips for new HCAs, as it’s a scary time and there are some things I’d want you to know, for your benefit but also for your patients.
Do some final gardening
I have, in the space of the last six months, aged 60 years and have become gardening-obsessed. I now even look forward to watching Monty Don’s Gardener’s World on BBC with my parents. I have potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, chillies, onions, carrots, runner beans, spinach, lettuce, radishes and too many courgettes to even count (if ya know, ya know…) and it’s been so much fun. But also way more work than I realised and, in my opinion, not worth the extra effort compared to popping to Tescos and buying the vegetables there! Shoot me, Monty Don!
Jokes aside, gardening has been a very cathartic pastime for me, and to be able to eat the fruits (and vegetables) of my labour, and admire the beautiful flowers I’ve grown from seed, is incredibly rewarding. Now I’m moving out, I’m passing the gardening responsibilities onto my dad, so I’ll have to teach him about some techniques and which plants to grow over winter.
Complete the pre-term work Imperial is setting
To ensure everyone is up to the same level before starting the course, Imperial sets a 10 hour refresher course at the end of September. Which I’m incredibly grateful for, especially as I’ve just spent a year with no biology or chemistry text book from A-level open whatsoever. Wish me luck!
Countdown to medical school…
This blog post has really helped me identify what I would like to accomplish in my last stretch of FREEDOM! No, just kidding, I CANNOT wait to begin medical school. If you have a couple of weeks left of your summer break, I recommend writing a list like mine, if anything it will keep you accountable so you make sure you complete some things that you wanted to before life gets crazy again.
Thank you for reading!
the conscious medic xx