My people!! I came to you sooner than I expected; after publishing the blog post on Alcohol Dependence Syndrome.
A primary examination is a step required for entry into a residency program in a country of your choice. Many doctors have questioned the best route to use for passing their primary examinations for a step to their residency. This post is to give you my account of exactly how I passed my exams and outline steps you could effectively use to pass your examinations if you plan to take one soon enough. So, take a seat, grab a box of popcorn and a glass of coke, as you watch this movie of my life in your 3D glasses.
Why do I want to be a psychiatrist? First question I get asked every time. “Why Psychiatry? You are a genius. Do Internal medicine or Neurosurgery. Or a specialty that fetches you adequate income because psychiatry does not pay a lot, and mental illnesses are heavily stigmatized in Ghana.
The reason drops down to the reason why I took the Hippocratic Oath almost 3 years ago. “I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick. I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.’’
It goes down and states ‘’ If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter.’’
It is my intention to prevent and treat varying mental disorders which typically present with symptoms of suicidal tendencies, various forms of addiction and childhood intellectual disability. Because a happy patient is a happy home.
To be honest, I was not duly prepared for my examinations. Especially when the initial intended date for the examination was postponed on account of the emergence of COVID-19. Senior colleagues had advised I read through Examination Notes in Basic Sciences, but reading this book felt like punching a concrete wall with the hope of breaking it down. Things in them were so abstract that it literally felt difficult to appreciate and understand them. But in the world in medicine; Understanding is everything!
News came out we had about a month to prepare for the primaries. This meant reading and revising the 265 paged book we found so arduous to read. It’s a natural tendency for people to procrastinate until adrenaline shoots in just before they take their book to read. So I procrastinated until it was safe enough to attribute not studying to ‘stress at the workplace’
A few days before the examinations, I noticed I had become very forgetful and was unable to register and retrieve most of the information I had studied. The mechanism I employed was to stay up the whole night a day before the examination and burn the midnight candle just to cover nine schedule topics I had envisioned would drop. This included Neurochemistry, Neurophysiology and Social psychology which encapsulate a lot of abstract things. By abstract, you know what I mean.
I completed these topics in the nick of time to make it for my flight which was scheduled to take off at 09:55am but I was oblivious of the cunning and streetwise taxi drivers In Accra, in addition, measures to employ just in case your network provider gives up on you when you are stranded at Kotoka International Airport and the only means you have of getting to your destination is via a marked location on your Uber or Bolt App.
It was not my intention of spending a month in Accra just because I had sailed out of a very stressful experience. So I packed a few things I needed for a day or two’s stay in Accra just to rejuvenate and recuperate from the stressful experience.
A directed ride using a requested chauffeur service could have lasted 45 minutes to an hour but this driver being aware of how oblivious of the knowledge of Accra decided to drive me in circles literally until we had spent 2 hours with no destination in his mind. How confident he appeared to be was what infuriated me the most! But just because I had to be on time and write my paper, I had to keep my composure until I got to the Promised Land – Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons (GCPS).
I skipped breakfast that morning because the knowledge of settling for a heavy meal might have rendered me to miss my flight but this would have been deleterious to my physical and mental health during the day. I was torn between deciding which would have worked best for me but then I still skipped it.
As I got to the premises of the GCPS, I had to settle in a security room just to revise for the 45 minutes left by deciding to cover 265 handwritten words in my jotter in 45 minutes. Record time.
I was called in and I felt all sort of emotions. Hungry, Angry, Frustrated, Tired and Broke but I was as calm as a feather because that was what God expected me to do. “Stay Calm in the Midst of a Storm” and not to lean on my own understanding as stated in the book of Proverbs. Just trust Him!
An hour into the paper, It hit me – I could take it no longer, I was hungry and this hunger was preventing me from leaving the examination room just because I was broke. This cunning driver had outsmarted me by taking all my money for the purposes of passing a paper. But that is where sacrifice comes in. Giving what you love for what you want and the fuel for this is Passion.
I alerted Dr. Akwasi Osei, the CEO of the Mental Health Authority, Ghana who surprisingly enough was our invigilator for the day that I could continue no longer just because I was hungry. And I tendered in my paper an hour after writing the exam. But all God said in a calm voice was ‘trust Eliezer trust’ I had pushed myself to the limit where my human strength could take it no longer so all I could do was to rely on Him. Divine Strength for Physical Strength. “The battle is the Lord’s!”
The paper had case scenarios predominantly where instances were given for a diagnosis to be made spot on. This was interspersed with a mix of Neuroanatomy and the Mental Health Act. Just where God had directed me to focus on.
Surprisingly enough, my network came back on after the paper for which I requested a ride home, dropping a friend off at Circle before heading off to Awudome Estate.
Upon reaching home, all I could think about was food; just like the asphyxiated drowning man gasping for air.
Fast forward >> Next two days. The Pass List is released and my name sits on the number 5 of the tenth page. I was happy, but not surprised because I knew what God was capable of doing; creating a pathway in the middle of the Nile River and doing wondrous things. That is who is He is!
Through Godly wisdom, God taught me that the fine margin in life as I kept my trust in Him was not zero but close to zero; that is by passing my exam! As you get involved with God, he gets involved with you!
Life can be difficult. But it is paramount you face life in hardships with courage and show up on the other side with success.
It is important you let go off the loins of your horse and let God lead it in his predetermined direction.
As a colleague doctor, it is essential you prepare adequately by consulting senior colleagues who have already sat for the paper and passed. With their experience, you could structure a mechanism that would aid you in preparing adequately for the paper. Get the necessary reading material for your required course and constantly try your hands on past questions because that is how memory is consolidated.
Some just like me like to depend solely on their adrenaline. That might not work for you. Others would like to plan and start months ahead before they get a grip of how prepared they might be. But the essential component is to trust in God and rely solely on Him. I mean Let Go!
Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Proverbs 21:31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.
Thanks to all the people who kept me going and motivated me to give my best. Your generosity would be repaid with blessings.
Anyway! I am in Accra for a short period so if you would want to meet up. Just drop a comment in the Comment Section.
Have a lovely Sunday!