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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The things we do to succeed

I didn’t want to do it again, but here I go retaking my Pediatric Boards. I can list all of the reasons why I was unsuccessful at my first attempt: I was working too much (50-60 hours per week, getting paid to work 32), I was too stressed (issues with my former boss that I can’t discuss), I wasn’t sleeping enough, I have testing issues but my boss told me she couldn’t adjust my schedule so that I could study more. So here I am hundreds of miles away from home spending close to $2000 to take a 6-day intensive board preparation course. I am doing all that I can to succeed this time. And I refuse to allow the posttraumatic stress of retaking this test overshadow all that I am doing to succeed.


I have met so many outstanding doctors, most of them mothers, who have their own stories of failing their general boards or their specialty boards. These women are some of the best doctors I have ever met and provide exemplary care but they each failed the exam the first time. The stories read just like mine: working too much, stressed, not sleeping enough, family obligations, poor work-life balance. Some have a history of failing other board exams (USMLE or their specialty boards) but others don’t. Why does the cycle repeat? Why don’t we shake our little doctor sisters and say “wake up girl! There is no way you can balance all of this! Cut something back. Cut something out. Or else!”. “You can’t go on like this!”. “You either sacrifice now and focus primarily on passing or you’ll be forced to retake the test after failing!”. “Girl! Don’t do what I did. Let me tell you how I didn’t rock this test!!!!”. Or “Friend! Let me help you pass this test!”.

That’s how I want to recreate my narrative. I’m going to pass this test even if it’s by the skin of my teeth and then I’m going to mentor little sister docs so that they don’t make the same mistakes I did in post-residency auto-pilot mode thinking “well 60 hours is so much less than my resident’s 80 hour work week”. Let me tell you something - it’s not better after all of the years of sacrifice and don’t even pretend like you are not exhausted and burned out. And trying to work that much on top of passing this exam if you have even a hint of testing challenges is a major no-no.

So yeah, please Mothers in Medicine, send me some good vibes because I’m away from my family in this cold hotel room wrapped in blankets giving my all in order to succeed.

SIDE NOTE: In other random news, I just learned that the Peds Boards may become an open book test in 2017. Mwomp mwomp mwomp for me! If I could sit this round out, I would, but my new position depends on me passing this year. I hope the open book re-certification exam doesn’t cost more. Alright, I’m going to block all of that out and keep my nose to the grindstone.

EDIT: I removed the part about the salaries of the American Board of Peds folks because I cannot figure out how to fact-check it so it could be very untrue.

13 comments:

  1. If the American Board of Pediatrics folks really make $1M that is disgusting.

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    1. I removed that point. I was having anxiety about writing that when I don't know if it was true or not. I am really conderned about the salaries some of the hospital CEOs and other folks make. I don't want to dig all into that as I am not trying to start anything major. I just want to pass this exam and put it behind me. I don't even want to know what the ABP folks make. Seriously - if they are reading this. I ain't in it!!!

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  2. For the most recent year I could find (2013), the executive director made 540,644. Not quite 1 million, but still a pretty insane amount of money.

    Maybe even more amazingly, in just one year, the AAP made 24 million dollars in membership revenue, and 7 million dollars from continuing medical education. It's just...a shocking amount of money being exchanged.

    Information from the 990 tax form on the AAP website.

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  3. Good luck Mommabee you can do it!! I failed my driver's test twice. I failed the pelvic gross anatomy test. I failed the GRE to get into PhD school before I even knew I wanted to go to med school. Everything happens for a reason. As I told my son today: failure sucks, but we learn more from it than our success. So here's a toast to failure, and to your success.

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    1. Thanks Gizabeth! Failure sure does suck, but you're right! I'm learning so much about myself and others through this process. I have more studying to do so I will toast with my water bottle :-)

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  4. lol that you thought that 60h per week should be fine when you were working 80 before. Such classic MD logic and a trap I've fallen into myself many many many times before. Not laughing at you, more crying with you. Good luck on your test!

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    1. It IS such crazy Doctor logic. Have you read "Stop Physician Burn Out"? Dr. Drummond talks about it so much! I resigned from that position since it is pretty incompatible with the quality of life I want.

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  5. Long time reader, first time comment: You will pass! Speaking as a pediatrician who failed my boards the first time in 2010. I thought I was superwoman. I had 2 pregnancies during residency: gave birth to my first son during 2nd year of residency, only taking 5 weeks of maternity leave. I took and passed Step 3 while on that maternity leave without difficulty.

    Then 19 months later, I gave birth to my 2nd son that July after graduation. Yes, I graduated on-time because I sacrificed all my vacation time combined in my maternity leave.

    My son was in the NICU for a week due to IUGR and hypothermia! We moved and I started a new job, working crazy hours, breastfeeding, and studying; BUT I failed my 4 points. I was humbling, and it forced me to slow down. Who was I racing all those years?!?

    Anyway, the second time around, I took the $2000 Medstudy Course separated from my husband and 2 toddlers for a whole week. I even took the boards the second time in my home state (instead of my current state) to spend time with my Mom and sisters. I passed, and so will you.

    Be encouraged:-)

    with love from a Georgia Pediatrician

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    1. Many thanks for sharing your story. Yes, failing was very humbling, but it further solidified the fact that I deserve to work in a supportive environment. I love my patients so much but 60 hours a week was just unsustainable for me. Loving my new job and the support I am receiving from my new team; it allowed me to take this course (called Pass Machine). The course is intense. What did you do when you got home? Did you review your Med Study information? Do questions?

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    2. When I got home, I reviewed my MedStudy Info and took their full-length practice test. Also, we had a coach and study team; so, I also e-mailed back and forth with them. Hope this helps.

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  6. It will be wine soon. I've faith in you I've met you you are Superwoman.

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  7. I kind of loathe the boards despite passing the first round with an average score (internal medicine); I'll probably have to take more (heme AND onc, bleh) in the future. Seems to me if the goal was really to make sure physicians had a base body of knowledge it would be a test with a published set of "facts to know" that one could retake indefinitely without extra charge or penalty (or minimal charges) until passing.
    Medicine evolves so fast and has so much knowledge now I frequently look things up in clinic or after clinic; yes it's important to know some things off the top of one's head but the boards seems like a obtuse, expensive, pointless process in the modern medicine setting.
    But good luck! If you are like me, the best thing you can do is STOP studying a day or two before the test and relax. The thing that really lowered my Step 1 score was I burned myself out and couldn't focus during the test itself. Scores got much better after I made sure to take it easy a day or two before a big test.

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