Sydney: Hyde Park Inn

May 4-5, 2014

In conjunction with my last post, I stayed at Hyde Park Inn during my brief stay in Sydney to write my MCCEE.

I made the booking through Agoda and chose this place for a number of reasons: 

  1. Cheaper than other comparable 4-star hotels in the area, but looked very nice, bright, and clean
  2. Lots of positive reviews
  3. Free wifi in room, which is surprisingly not easy to come by – definitely needed this for my studying.
  4. Extremely close to the train station but more importantly, only a few minutes walk away from my test centre
  5. Continental breakfast included

I landed in Sydney around 10am, so I wasn’t expecting to be able to check in when I arrived at Hyde Park Inn. I was simply expecting to drop off my carry-on luggage and find a nearby cafe to study. It was a pleasant surprise that not only was I told my room was ready for me on early arrival, but that I had been given a complimentary upgrade from a Budget Standard Room to a Standard Studio… how lovely! 

From a “Small Compact Budget Standard Room with frosted windows which allow natural light into the room but with no view. This room offers one Queen Bed, with LCD TV and DVD player.” to a studio featuring “one queen and one single bed, kitchenette facilities with a microwave, en suite bathroom with shower facilities, air-conditioning and a window view overlooking Hyde Park.”

Was this a lucky sign for my exam? 😉

I loved that it was extremely bright and spacious. And so much room, too bad I was by myself! 

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It doesn’t look like it in this photo, but the bathroom had some of the best lighting I’ve come across in hotels… you know, the kind where you can actually use to apply makeup properly. Toiletries (except shower gel/shampoo) weren’t included but didn’t matter to me as I always bring my own.

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Hallway with large closet to the left and bathroom on the right. Iron and board were available in case you needed it.And a cute little kitchenette that contained everything you needed. Even a convection microwave oven.

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When I came into my room, there was already some uncovered sliced bread in the fridge, which made me think to myself, “This better not be the continental breakfast.” Fortunately, I was proven wrong when a staff member came by later to drop off breakfast, which consisted of sliced bread, Weet-Bix, cornflakes, fruit cups, milk, orange juice, butter and condiments for the toast. And because I was the only occupant, I got to eat for 2 or 3, who’s complaining?

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The one thing I did not appreciate, which I have seen others complain about in reviews, is the sliced bread. No joke, this was how it was left in the fridge for me. Some was wrapped up, some was not wrapped up at all, and some was very poorly wrapped. What the heck! Who wants dried out AND unsanitary toast? Also, the bread that was already sitting in the fridge? It wasn’t taken away and replaced with this bread… it was left for me. Not cool!

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However, the bread was literally my only complaint of the stay. The staff were extremely pleasant, the beds were super comfortable, everything was clean. Very quiet, which was really important to me in order to study and have a good rest before my exam. Checking out was not an issue and there was no problem with me leaving my luggage until later in the day. 

Would I stay again or recommend to my friends? Most definitely! 

MCCEE in Sydney

May 05, 2014

If you are a regular reader, you might remember that since the beginning of this year, I had been studying for the Medical Council of Canada Evaluating Exam, more commonly referred to as the MCCEE.

As a Canadian studying to be a doctor in Australia, writing the MCCEE is the first of a few steps if I ever want to complete a residency (training after graduating) back home.

I flew down from Brisbane to Sydney the day before to write my exam on May 5, 2014 from 9am to 1pm at ITIC PTY LTD LEVEL 3, 321 Pitt St. It is only a few minutes walk away from Museum train station and therefore easily accessible.

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Note: I’m going to be a little detailed with my experience, in case it can help anyone feel a little more comfortable going into their exam. 🙂

What did I bring?

I brought 2 pieces of ID, although they only looked at one, and my test confirmation email. Make sure that the name on your ID matches the name you registered with! I definitely wore a jacket in case it got cold and brought snacks and a bottled drink. There was water provided at my test centre. I also had other belongings with me like a purse, watch, study material, which was fine but must be locked up and access to them is not allowed during the duration of the test.

What was my experience like?

The test centre in Sydney, like all the others I assume, is very straight forward. You sign in and are given a key to store your belongings in a locker and taken to a separate testing area. You are not allowed to bring anything into the testing room except your ID and your key but you are allowed to have access to your locker during breaks. You will be seated at one of the cubicles where you have access to a computer, some paper and pencils to take note, and some headphones to drown out noise. The room I was in was small, approximately 5 cubicles, and got very warm – good thing there was a standing fan.

The computer is set up for you once you’re seated and you first have a 10 minute tutorial on how to navigate the exam (ie. moving through questions, how to highlight/strike out, how to mark questions for review, etc).

The exam is 4 hours long, which begins when you hit start and the first question is loaded. During these 4 hours, there are no scheduled breaks, however, you may take them whenever you want, for however long you want, it is up to you. The timer never stops, so your breaks are part of the allotted 4 hours. I have to say, 4 hours is plenty of time for this exam. After completing all the questions, I signed out for a break to go to the bathroom and to have a snack before going back in to review my questions, and still finished the exam with around half an hour to spare.

If you leave for breaks, you must sign in and out each time.

How was the actual exam?

The test consists of 180 questions total, however, only 150 of them are actually counted towards your score. The other 30 questions are used for quality control or even to test out newly developed questions. The questions revolve around the following 5 subjects: Child Health, Maternal Health, Adult Health, Mental Health, and Population Health and Ethics. Yes, I did find the distribution of questions equal amongst all topics. 

You don’t have to be concerned about knowing normal values or ranges. Any number given to you will be followed by the normal range in brackets, so you don’t even need to open a separate page. There were a few questions with images, which were displayed for you on the screen and the quality was completely fine to answer the question.

Unfortunately, I can’t give examples of questions but I did find all the questions to be fair, there were no impossible questions. The ones I struggled with, it was because I didn’t cover that topic enough during my studying, not because it was overly difficult.

The time passed quickly, although I never felt rushed and completed the questions at a steady pace. The relief and happiness after completing the exam is great, although I always find it hard to gauge how well I did on standardised exams. It takes about 2 months to receive your mark, so I have a long way to go!

What did I use to prepare for this exam?

I used mostly CanadaQBank questions and supplemented whatever question/topic not adequately explained with additional reading. I started ‘studying’ in January, however, with 2 busy rotations (Paediatrics and Obstetrics & Gynaecology), I simply did not have time to read additional textbooks. I found the CanadaQBank questions to be very representative of the MCCEE, both in terms of question style as well level of knowledge and difficulty – with even a few extremely similar questions on the actual exam.

CanadaQBank had a total of 3868 questions, of which I did approximately 80%. I didn’t have enough time to prepare for this exam as well as I would have wanted, but it is definitely possible to complete all questions multiple times if you have a good study schedule.

I also tried some USMLEWorld Step 2CK questions but stopped because the style was too different than the MCCEE. You will not have such long stems and style of question on the MCCEE.

Fees?

The cost of the exam is $1695 USD along with the expenses of flying down to Sydney, food and accommodation. It’s not a cheap exam and I suggest to be fully committed to passing it if you are going to write it. I had initially scheduled to write my MCCEE on February 28, 2014 with Michael in Melbourne. However, at the last minute I rescheduled it to May 5th ($50 USD fee) because I felt underprepared and uncomfortable with the possible notion of failing. Looking back now, with an extra 2 months, I did not get much additional studying done and probably would’ve performed similarly if I had written it earlier.

What next?

The next step is to complete the NAC OSCE… which I am not planning to complete anytime this year, so I will save that for a future post. 😉

Phew, long post! Thanks for reading if you are still here and of course, feel free to ask any questions! All the best if you are studying for your MCCEE!

Easter lunch date at Thyme²

April 19, 2014

Wow this post is long overdue but better late than never, right?

Michael and I booked a 50% off Dimmi Special to enjoy an Easter lunch date together at Thyme², a buffet restaurant within Sofitel Brisbane Hotel.

From the description on their website, we were looking forward to a promising lunch:

“The interactive kitchen has set a benchmark for innovative dining. The theatre of chefs cooking live to an audience provides a stimulating, visual tableau and an international dining experience that will ensure you come back for more.

Challenge your tastebuds with 150 different dishes weekly and delight in 15 international themes including French, Mediterranean dishes in wood-fired ovens, Indian fare in our authentic Tandoor Ovens or watch as Asian cuisines come alive in our Chinese woks.”

With reservations for 12:30pm, the first thoughts we had upon entering were, “Wow, is it because it’s Easter weekend or is it always this busy?” Many tables, all full of patrons. The second thought we had was, “Nice decor, good ambiance and the service from staff here is absolutely lovely.”

We were seated beside the window with a view of Anzac Square and offered sparkling wine. Yes, free flow sparkling wine is included during breakfast and lunch dining times. 😉 Hungry and eager to see what the buffet had to offer, we headed towards the food.

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The variety at the salad bar was decent and tasty.

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Of course, the seafood – 3 items. Very tiny, but but fresh oysters. The mussles were plump and quite tasty, and I normally don’t like mussles! Large prawns, although tough and rubbery.

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We found the selection of hot foods very lacking, with mostly Indian curries, some pastas and vegetable options. Also, the only interactive aspect of the buffet was a person manning the roast meat station, carving for guests. A little lame for an interactive buffet.

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My lovely date!

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Shrimp smile!

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We hoped for a better dessert selection and was pleasantly surprised with the variety of pastries and sweets, with even some gluten free options.

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I was disappointed that there were no strawberries or any fruit at the chocolate fountain.

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There was also a cart with a number of nice cheeses, dried fruits, nuts, breads, and crackers.

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Overall, we enjoyed our lunch at Thyme2, mostly because we were able to spend time together as opposed to the food.

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The selection and quality, especially hot foods, simply did not live up to expectations. And I assume there is already a better selection on the weekends compared to weekdays, although I could be wrong. I’m glad we dined for 50% off because the regular price of $76 per person is exorbitant. However, the staff were great the entire time we dined. Extremely friendly and pleasant and quick to refill our glasses and clear our tables.

Would we return? With such average food, no because it’s simply not worth it. Unfortunately, for the price, we would definitely be able to treat ourselves to a great quantity of much better food!

Thyme² Interactive Restaurant on Urbanspoon

With happy bellies and such a beautiful day, we stayed in Anzac Square after lunch and… took a nap. It was glorious!

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The view from where we lying, which was also the view from our table in the restaurant.

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DHAL: May 19, 2014

So this will be my first, of hopefully many, Daily Highlights & Lowlights (DHAL) blog posts.

In case you didn’t see in an earlier post, I’ve decided to start this series because I was finding it difficult not only to keep up with blogging but also to find interesting things to write about during busy and full-on rotations. I thought this would be a good way to remember the happy moments, as well as the more difficult ones of each day. Hopefully when I look back at these posts, I will be able to see how I’ve grown from the positive and negative experiences on a daily basis.

Highlights:

  • The excitement of starting a new rotation! I’m currently doing my first of 4 weeks in the Emergency Department (ED) at a big tertiary hospital. The best part is, as opposed to the last hospital I was working at (1.5hrs away each direction), this hospital is only 5-10 minutes away by bus!
  • Meeting new people. Not only did I have a chance to meet some lovely classmates, the doctors and nurses I’ve met in ED were also extremely pleasant. Some are very keen to teach and for that I am very grateful.
  • I did a few cannulations, and I’m happy to say… all of mine were successful on first attempt! I’m always a little nervous (especially in a new environment and on the first day) and never want the patient to have be pricked multiple times, so yay!

  • The patients I met and the things I learned from them:
  1. We had a few patients come in with chest pain, some very typical of cardiac pain but there was a lady with such unspecific pain and symptoms that we had to quickly rule out a life threatening aortic dissection.
  2. Met a man who was also having chest pain and syncope on a background of kidney failure needing dialysis 3 times a week. He had the most amazing arteriovenous (AV) fistula that anyone had ever seen – huge with a proximal pulse and a distal buzz/hum.
  3. There was a trauma alert for a man who fell off his motorbike going 30-40km/hr having to suddenly brake and swerve to avoid a collision. Luckily he was completely fine except for some abrasions and a broken L clavicle.
  4. A man who had a pneumothorax two weeks ago and fed up with his pain and shortness of breath. His CXRs were impressive, with most likely over 80% of his left lung collapsed. He initially wanted to manage it expectantly because he didn’t want an ICC. The doctors used a central venous line through his anterior chest and sucked out over 2L of air with instant relief.
  • Talking to Michael. Although only via text, I was happy he didn’t run into any issues during his flight back to Canada. Poor guy was exhausted but there were no issues with his flights and the additional 4-5 hours of driving went well! He shared some gorgeous views of his drive and look, mountain view just outside the place he’s staying at.

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Lowlights:

  • Getting to orientation at 9am to be told that my first ED shift would be from 1-11pm in the Resuscitation/Trauma area. I was so nervous! An evening shift on my first day where I’ll be working with the sickest people that come through the emergency.
  • The constant feeling of not knowing enough. There is always more to learn and things to review!
  • The feeling of exhaustion when I finally got home around 11:30pm. My legs and feet were incredibly sore from standing the better part of a 10 hour shift. Not to mention it was quite busy so I didn’t even take a break! I also need to make sure I stay hydrated as a headache started creeping on in the last hours of my shift.
  • Coming home to an empty house and not seeing Michael. I’m so used to his company so it is awfully lonely when you don’t have anyone to talk to!