Tuesday, August 27, 2013

CCNM Survival Guide

I was logging onto my blogger account and glancing at my stats - the part where it tells you what words or phrases people use to visit my blog with. One of the ones that caught my eye was "CCNM survival guide." With the new school year coming up, my first reaction was: Awww, that's so cute. And then quickly realized that there's not much of a survival guide out there for new first year students, or the 2nd and 3rd year ones that are entering the thick of it.

So here is a short version of my "Guide to surviving Naturopathic Medical School"

1) Get an intern and start going to the clinic as a patient.
  • Trust me, this is one of the best things you can do for yourself to help with self-care. 
  • You get to try out all of the modalities on yourself before prescribing them to patients
  • You'll be more prepared for acupuncture tutorials if you've already become familiar with the process and have had it done to you before. 
  • Your intern will be full of knowledge and have lots of resources for you - especially with stress management. 
  • Want a massage during exams? Get an intern. 
  • Visits are covered through your student health plan (up to a maximum amount).
2) Stay ahead with all assignments.  The sooner you get them completed, the less you will freak out when midterms are coming up and everything is due.

3) SELF CARE! Get outside, walk around, go sit in the botanical garden, use the meditation room; whatever it is that you need to take a break from the classroom, do it.

4) Give yourself at least 2 weeks to study for exams. Not going to lie, you'll be cramming for a few of them regardless, but starting sooner will help reduce the number of exams you cram for.

5) If you're a heat person, go use the sauna room in the basement and do your own hydrotherapy. I used to go down there after the last class of the day and just sit in the heat and sweat out everything. There is also the gym if you prefer.... and the Don River trail across the street if you're feeling adventurous.

6) Prepare your friends and family for the fact that you are now in a graduate medical program and your social life - although still there - will not be as available as in undergrad.

7) Take advantage of school events to get to know your classmates better. This isn't undergrad where you're in competition with everyone. Your class in naturopathic med school is more like a family. You will see each other every single day. You will massage your classmates' bottoms. You will help them out of a tub of water in bikinis (not a bathtub, but an actual round bin that you can easily get stuck in). You will be putting an acupuncture needle under their eyeball. It's time to get friendly, earn trust and invest in your CCNM relationships.

8) Carry lots of snacks with you and drink lots of water. The days are long. You need food. The cafeteria closes at 5pm and the BMS store can often run out of rice chips and hummus. I recommend carrying "emergency chocolate" with you at all times.
  • Emergency chocolate is a staple for any potential hypoglycemic events. When you're stuck at the school on a Monday until 7pm and common time seems like a distant dream you had, you will be happy to reach into your bag for a snack that will allow your brain to continue to function. For me, that is dark chocolate.
9) The cafeteria, although delicious and gluten-free, is also a tad expensive for the medical student. Bring a lunch. And bring an extra in case you get hungry later. Welcome to the 4-year marathon.

10) Talk to upper years about what textbooks to actually buy. You'll save money in the long run. For example, everyone should have access to Netter's Anatomy. But not everyone needs the Organon (sorry Hahnemann) - it's online... for free!

11) Get a laptop for class. Having the internet at your fingertips is a must... even if there's the potential for "too many connections" on the internet server.

12) Dress in layers.  Classroom #4 is known as the "menopause" room because the temperature fluctuates so much and about every 10 minutes. There were many times I found myself wearing my winter coat, mittens and scarf during class.

13) Need to get off of campus and go for a walk? Walk over the bridge to North York General Hospital. They have Starbucks, Subway and some other stuff that makes a great excuse to leave the building while you're on break.

14) In reference to #11, visit seventyequalsnd.tumblr.com frequently for a good laugh and the honest truth.

15) Go to all of the classes that you really need to go to, and when it comes time (you'll know when that is), you can start skipping the classes that you can afford to in order to get more sleep in the morning. Sleep is key. I'll say it again, make sure you are getting enough sleep.

16) For all of you new first years, go to Unity Summit! You'll appreciate this piece of advice after you've gone and have heard the amazing inspirational speakers they bring in. Truly a key experience in this program and a great way to get to know your classmates.
For all of you 2nd and 3rd years, volunteer at Unity Summit! It's a nice break from the classroom for 2 days and it'll remind you why you're working as hard as you are through this program. Play games, enjoy free food, get to know your fellow students.

Take a deep breath. The next 4 years will fly by. It's hard work, but the best part is knowing that you are never alone. There is no real competition. Just a family of people who want to help others and be healthy. Good luck and feel free to approach me around the school if you have any questions.