Block 3 – Respiratory

Today’s inane image of the day:

Yes, yes, I know I’m recycling images since this originally appeared in an earlier entry,  however, I think it’s the most appropriate photo to depict our Respiratory block so I’m sticking to it!

As with our last two blocks (Neuroscience and Cardiovascular), I thought it might be helpful to write about how things went during our last block of the M1 year: Respiratory. Now that we’ve completed a couple of these organ system courses, I realize that I need to go into each new block with an open mind about how it will run — there are definitely some uniformity between each system [e.g. Anatomy, NBME exams], however due to the fact that each course is organized and run by a different faculty member in addition to the inherent differences in the subject matter, there are bound to be differences. This being said, Respiratory had it’s pros and cons but overall I thought it put up a pretty good fight.

Course Overview
This block was 6 weeks like the Cardiovascular one. Each week we had a graded Moodle quiz that consisted of 20 questions that opened on Friday and was due by the end of the day Sunday. As always, we had TBLs, Anatomy labs and lectures. Additionally, we had a couple of Microbiology labs and a ventilator one. There were no clinical case studies. Our grades were determined by performance on the weekly quizzes, TBLs, Anatomy practical and final exam.

What I loved
Microbiology lab. Since the Respiratory system is so open to the environment we live in, it makes sense that there would be an emphasis on microbes. This being said, one of my favorite faculty members, Dr. Harriott, made sure that we really understood all the clinically significant information in lecture and through two fun, hands-on, laboratory exercises. We cultured our own throats and went through various stations associated with clinical vignettes to determine the causative agent. Through these stations, we performed catalase tests and tried to identify gram positives/negatives through the microscope [and more… I’m just drawing a blank now]. Basically, she did a wonderful job making Respiratory Microbiology fun and easier to remember.

Ventilator lab. I was a bit skeptical about this lab, but it ended up being a really interesting experience. The gist of it was to learn about the different settings that ventilators can be set to [e.g. volume vs pressure control] and experiencing how it feels to breathe on one. I was definitely apprehensive about trying out a ventilator, but it helped me understand why it can be such an unpleasant experience for patients. Furthermore, we got to play with the controls and become familiar with the device which will undoubtedly come in handy later on.

More study time. Dr. Rodenbaugh [our faculty course director] really pushed for carving out more white space for us and I really appreciated it. Although we still had a ton of lecture, just a couple hours each week really made a huge difference in being able to digest the material being thrown at us.

Final exam. As with the Cardiovascular block, our final exam was an NBME one, which made it more fair and straightforward.

What could be improved
Textbooks/course pack. The course required two textbooks by Dr. John B. West [one of which is featured in the photo above]. I really tried to give these books a chance, but I was not a fan of them. Additionally, Dr. Rodenbaugh compiled an iBook course pack [it was also available in PDF for the students without an iPad] that followed his lectures really closely. Although I thought the iBook had a lot of potential for making learning the material more interactive, I didn’t find it very helpful [keep in mind that I used the PDF version]. Maybe if I had used the iPad version I would have found more utility. Regardless, any textbook in its first edition is bound to have some flaws and I’m sure that Dr. Rodenbaugh will be integrating our feedback into improving the resource for future classes.

Quizzes. Although I found the quizzes to be helpful in the Cardiovascular course, this was not the case for Respiratory. I attribute this primarily to the fact that they were just too long… 10 questions is pretty reasonable to work at during the weekend, but 20 made it more of a burden than a learning tool. I just remember spending hours trying to bump my score above the 70% mark and feeling frustrated by the questions [they were a mixture of professor-generated and USMLEasy ones].

TBLs. I personally liked the Clinical Case Studies in Cardiovascular… however, I still maintain that the team-based learning exercise has the potential to be a great learning and assessment tool if it is designed to be more clinically-oriented. For some reason, the Respiratory TBLs didn’t quite meet my expectations — I thought that the background reading and the assessment questions needed some improvement.

Final thoughts
Overall, I thought the course was above average but that it could use some work to bump it up to exceptional. Dr. Rodenbaugh worked really hard with what he had and I applaud him for his dedication to making the course as successful as possible.

4 thoughts on “Block 3 – Respiratory

  • June 11, 2012 at 12:09 am

    do you have to buy text books or are the books provided by the school as part of your tuition? are books required or is the note packet enough?

  • June 11, 2012 at 1:00 am

    All textbooks need to be purchased – they are not included as part of tuition. How required they are is dependent on your learning style – those of us that really learn from them tend to buy them while others stick to lecture notes or purchasing review books [in reality, all of us have a bunch of review books such as First Aid since we are taking NBME exams and they point out high yield information].

  • September 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Amanda, as Pulmonary Critical care attending who works with med students (Mich. State Osteopathic Medicine) I appreciated your thoughts on learning Respiratory Physiology, yeah, I agree the West text can be a bit dry.
    I also really like your blog! I also have a blog myself, and am on twitter @caduceusblogger. Look forward to your future posts.

  • September 3, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Glad you found the entry helpful!

    I thought your blog was amusing – it’s great to see more Michigan physicians blogging.

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