Monday, July 9, 2012

Oral Exams

We’re in the thick of reviewing for the big oral exams this week…

This annual exam is one of the big requirements for promotion. The big challenge is to ace it…and basically, that ensures you the 1/3 of your grade that you need to move on to the next level. 


So naturally, I and my co-residents are working overtime on it.

We just spent time at the conference room an hour earlier, Trina and I, overseeing Mia (a junior) interviewing a psychotic patient from our own ward downstairs. We, Trina and I, are currently in our second year of residency, so as Seniors with a little more experience in the field, we had to give tips and teach our juniors how the interviews for the oral exams were supposed to go about. 

First year students are usually given psychotic patients to interview, because it’s the easiest there is. Not that many transference issues to handle, its shorter and less tedious, among other things. You just basically have to have the control of the interview, know what to look for, have a comprehensive treatment plan for your patient, and then you’re good to go.

Its 40 minutes to do the psychiatric interview, do a physical exam (including full neurological exam) and then they give you 10 minutes to frame your data (and compose yourself, of course, haha) and then 5 minutes to present your patient’s case. And then you’re expected to hold your own when they grill you for about twenty minutes about your patient and what you intended to do about him or her. Depending on how you did with your five-minute presentation, the grilling could take longer. The longest twenty minutes of your life, possibly.


I failed my first oral exams, by the way. It broke my heart, but not really…

Like with everything else, I got over it (and it helped that the first person who made me feel better about it was a really good friend who understood me. Who had the prettiest eyes ever. haha)


I didn’t get to enumerate the DSM-IV Criteria for substance abuse…and besides that, my 
Tagalog pretty much…sucked.  I wasn’t a native speaker, and I had a bit of trouble doing the interview in full Tagalog. I used to have this tendency to think the question up in English and then think of Tagalog words to translate… as with everything that’s new, it takes a little getting used to. J I sometimes laugh at myself, because when I was younger, the mere thought of speaking in Filipino was enough to fill me with unending dread.

Anyway…now, its not so much as dreading talking to a new patient, it’s more of getting scared about being watched while doing it.

It’s all part of the process, and in second year, its not just about engaging the patient…it’s also about getting enough data to get a diagnosis. J

(I still love my job.)

Sometimes I cheat… I usually check out the patient’s birthplace or place of origin, and then it’s easier because I can interview in my native dialect of Cebuano, or in Hiligaynon, or in English…when it should just be Tagalog...

 I thoroughly enjoy talking to people, they are simply interesting. My problem usually is writing it all down right away. L

Anyway, when I was screening, one of my favorite practices of “connecting” with the patient was 
when I would get them comfortable enough to cry about what their problems were, or what was 
bothering them, in my presence. I felt that I was being helpful in catharsis. And once they’ve identified what their real problems were, then it was a promising start for psychotherapy. J
My big day is on Thursday…wish me luck.




  1. Go Ma'am. God bless you and may you continue to help psych patients here in the Philippines. =) A mental advocate here, as well. =)

    1. Thank You, that is very kind of you. My best wishes to you in your career, as well. have a nice day!



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