To the pre-med that is scared of passing out in anatomy lab...do not fear!

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Mar 5, 2014
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Hey all,

I know this is a point of stress for a lot of pre-meds, it was definitely a point of stress for me and I want to give those of you thinking this may break your career in medicine a sigh of relief...you will be fine.

I had a lot of anxiety about anatomy lab ever since an unfortunate experience in an undergrad anatomy course where I passed out. It was the middle of the semester, we were looking at the posterior back, and I'm not sure what got me that day but I hit the floor. I was able to get through the rest of the semester with some hesitation, and did not sign up for anatomy lab the following semester.

After applying/interviewing/getting accepted to medical school, I knew this would be something I would have to intimately face in the looming future, but chose to suppress the fear of anatomy lab until the day I walked into the cadaver lab in the middle of September.

What followed was one of the most surprising shifts in thought I have experienced.

The first day in lab we flipped over the cadaver from supine and posterior, and were allowed to leave as the first round of medical students began their dissections-- I was thankful to be placed in the latter group that would dissect next.

The next dissection day I rolled in with my high knee socks to keep the blood from pooling in my legs & passing out, essential peppermint oil to mask the smell, and my fresh scrubs to keep the scent off my clothes. I then took the scalpel to make my first cut.

The thing about anatomy lab that is different from a prosected undergrad course is that you are in no way a bystander-- you are an active participant in the learning from the moment you make that cut. The next 2 hours were filled with cutting, scissoring, reflecting, identifying, asking for clarification, and in the end, leaving a detailed dissection to teach my colleagues in the next class. I did not once feel the need to leave the room, or take a break in the hall.

I still have some anxiety about shadowing a surgery in a month, but as for anatomy lab, I do not doubt my stomach in its ability to hold it together for the 3 hours of dissection. I was certain day one of medical school cadaver lab would be a huge adjustment, but I am thankful it took so much as reflecting the erector spinae muscles to prove to myself I could not only do this, but I could find so much enjoyment and intellectual stimulation from it. Cadaver lab is definitely one of the highlights of medical school for me now, and I want to encourage all you nervous pre-meds out there that you are not alone, and that you can and will get through this.

Good luck with applications all! I am confident that just like myself, you will overcome this. And while everyone around you may be saying how excited they are for lab, you are not alone in your anxiety. You will get through this.
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Jul 16, 2012
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essential peppermint oil to mask the smell, and my fresh scrubs to keep the scent off my clothes

So you put the peppermint oil on the area under your nose?

And you changed into "fresh" scrubs beforehand and took them off afterwards? Isn't that what everyone does?