31 Mar 2012

The results

I scored 60%.

That equates to full marks for parts B and C, and 45 out of 85 for my essay. I got full marks on the writing skills elements.

I am a bit disappointed, I cannot lie. I nearly cried when I read my score, like a prick.

It's a pass 3, which is a C according to OU classification. I probably shouldn't be so disappointed. I can see exactly where I went 'wrong', even without feedback, and I need to try and work out how to fix it for next time.

My next essay is due on May 3rd. I'm halfway through the reading for it. I think this time I might try more formally planning it, rather than just mind-vomiting all over my laptop. I think I'll take my time, panic less and not be in such a massive anxious haste to submit.

In better news, I got 100% on my first iCMA. So in a surreal turn of events, I did better at maths than english!

28 Mar 2012

For my next trick...

It's been a week since the TMA submission deadline passed and I wait.
And wait.
And wait.
Everytime I see I have an email on my phone, my pulse quickens. Then I remember that I only checked StudentHome twenty minutes before and my results weren't up then.

This week, registration for 2012/13 courses opened, so I've registered for my next course. K203 - Working For Health is 60 credits and level 2.

I'm also considering doing another level 2 course, of 30 credits concurrently. That one starts in February. I qualify for transitional funding and I want to get this degree. It's the most motivated I've been to do anything EVER.

See, times are a-changing. My eldest son has just turned three and will start preschool in September (if I can find him a place) and my baby is close to being one and steadily turning into a Real Boy. In a few months, he'll be old enough to stay overnight at his dad's.
I have more time on my hands than I did even two months ago when this course started.
I am coping fine with the current workload; even with the kids being ill and me having weekly dentist trips, I'm still two weeks ahead. I LOVE it, I'd recommend it to anyone in a similar(ly bored) boat.

But I really want my TMA results so I can see how dreadful I am.

16 Mar 2012

The God delusion

I've been ruminating on the nature of faith recently. Partly because, although I identify as Christian, I'm not a very good one and I've been getting cross with various christian churches for taking issue with matters to do with love and sex. Also, because my boyfriend is an atheist, we have various debates about religion in general and this makes me question myself.
Although I was raised Anglican, and confirmed young, I have been questioning the existence of God since I was old enough to understand not everyone believed what I did. I went through a phase, at around 16 (when my incredibly devout grandmother died rather horribly) of wondering if there really was a God. This coincided with an AS level course in philosophy and ethics. I started to understand that if God existed, we couldn't compare Him to us. He was on a whole other plane, ethically, morally and physically. He was not human and to try and give Him human attributes to explain the suffering on Earth was ludicrous.
Can I explain the problem of evil? No, can anyone? If God exists, we were created by something which is happy to let us suffer. Some people believe we have to suffer to earn a place in Heaven. I believe we suffer because we have autonomy, the freedom to choose whether we hurt people or not. We have to die, it's population control. We're not perfect, or immortal. Natural disasters, I can't explain them. There is an argument that God, if he exists, could have created a perfect world. I can't argue with that.
But what we have is pretty fucking miraculous.
For example, reproduction. When I think of pregnancy and birth, in any creature, I can't explain how it's so perfect. Two people have sex and 40 weeks later (ish), out comes another human, completely different to any that has gone before. From two cells comes a baby, with a mind and a personality and a spark in it's eyes that tells you it is an intelligent being. That's a real miracle. And yes, science tells us how it works, and how the mother nourishes the foetus, and how the foetus develops and learns to breathe, to sleep and to eat before it ever comes out. But when you see a newborn baby, still covered in womb-yack and pale and screaming, you can think of the billions of tiny things that could have gone wrong in the last 40 weeks, and wonder how healthy children are ever born at all.

But that's all irrelevant, because I'm not expecting anyone to look at the nearest child and shout "EGAD! GOD EXISTS" and run and be baptised.
It seems faith is something you either have or do not have. You can find it, you can lose it, but you can't have 'a bit' of faith.
But faith is just a feeling. A feeling you cannot justify. You cannot PROVE what you feel and you cannot explain it. People expect you to - you tell an atheist that you believe in God and some will tell you to prove it. But you can't. Others just RUN AWAY from the crazy bible-basher. It seems incredibly unpopular to admit faith at the moment, like you're admitting to every crime people have ever done in the name of God, or sanctioning all the hateful bullshit the churches spout in His name.

It's like being in love. Nobody can tell you you're in love, nobody can expect you to prove that you're in love, and yet you are.

I feel God all the time. If I lost my faith, I would feel empty. Is this just a delusion? Some would say yes, but they could equally say all emotions are delusional. I don't need to go to church to feel close to God, I don't need a priest to intercede for me. Do I think my faith excuses me from every bad thought or deed? Hell no. Quite the opposite - my faith inspires me to be tolerant, and forgiving.

15 Mar 2012

Attachment theory and attachment parenting

I've been doing some work on attachment theory as part of my course. It's particularly interesting as I have deliberately used the attachment parenting model for my children.
In brief, attachment parenting is being a giant hippy-mother. You breastfeed, co-sleep, baby-wear, focusing everything on nurturing the child. The idea is that a secure child is a happy child. It is the absolute polar opposite of that babynazi Gina Ford.

Every pregnant woman, and many women who haven't got that far, have ideas about how they will raise their child. With my eldest, I knew I would breastfeed, but that was it. I'd read up on the AP ethos and it didn't suit my way of thinking back then. I was going to have a natural labour, I was going to adore him from first sight, I was going to cope fine when I got back from hospital. He wouldn't need a dummy. I would never sleep in the same bed as my baby. I'd wean him at six months. Blah blah blah.

In the event, I had a natural labour, and a giant (9lb 1oz) baby a few days past my due date. He split me like I was a banana. I didn't feel anything much for him. The giant baby fed well twice and then went to sleep and refused to wake up. The paediatrician panicked because he hadn't established feeding and I didn't escape from hospital for 16 hours. I got home, and giant baby woke up and devoured me every half hour, all night.
My giant baby then developed awful reflux from his umbilical hernia. So, he would feed for 20 minutes, vomit up the whole feed and feed again for another 20 minutes. The health visitor assured me this was 'normal' and he was 'overeating'. HA! The paediatrician we later saw about his hernia told us that it was definitely the hernia causing the sick. In the mean time, I'd resorted to a dummy because I'd been convinced he wasn't actually hungry. At 10 weeks old, I cracked and started co-sleeping and a miracle occured: I started getting some real sleep.
However, the damage was done and I had moderate/severe postnatal depression. A traumatically fast delivery, sicky, hungry, clingy baby and periodically absent (through work) husband took it's toll and daily, I wished to jump out of the window and run far away. I didn't feel like he was my son, but that I was looking after him for someone else and they would come back and get him soon. Eventually I got help, but my eldest remained an insecure, screamy little boy until he was about two years old. I breastfed him until he was 22 months old (I stopped coz I was 7 months pregnant and my boobs were killing me) and co-slept until he was 2 and a half. He still gets in my bed at night, but I don't mind. He'll grow out of it.

With baby two, I vowed things would be different. Until my husband buggered, and then I didn't think about the baby much at all until he was about ready to come out. It didn't seem important. I had him at home, for minimum interference, and he was born in under two hours. When he was born, I felt nothing but love. That first rush actually happened and took my breath away. The first picture I have of him is him feeding, holding my boob with his little claw-hands staring at me like I am the GODDESS. I've co-slept since day 1, despite my mother trying to persuade me otherwise. I also babywear, which I didn't do with my eldest. It makes life much easier for a non-driving single mother; I just lob him in the sling and we're off. And he is a hilarious, social, happy child.

No two children are the same, but for me, attachment parenting has saved my sanity and produced at least one secure baby. I wish I'd done it from the start with my eldest. But, you live and learn.

12 Mar 2012

On gay marriage

So, the Roman Catholic church is banging on about gay marriage and this is filling the newspapers.

I am at a loss as to why this is news.

The RC church is not exactly renowned for it's tolerance of homosexuality. I cannot understand why celibate clerics like dictating everyone's sexual practice to such an alarming degree, be it through with whom you're allowed to have sex, when or whether you're allowed to avoid STDs doing so. This is a church that demonises masturbation based on a wilful misinterpretation of a Bible story. Sex is shame. That's no way to live.
The RC church is a minority in this country - 13.5% of the total population, according to the 2001 census. That's roughly the population of London.
Even if the church had ultimate sway over government legislation, it wouldn't be up to the RC church to sway it. This country is Church of England. It went to great pains to rid us of papal rule several hundred years ago. Even now, to be Roman Catholic and royal is to forfeit your place in the succession. There is nothing in law to stop a non-Anglican MP becoming Prime Minister, but it hasn't happened yet.

The main thrust of the argument appears to be that marriage is an institution for the bearing of children, and that this underpins society as a whole. Only, you know, it doesn't. Bastard children no longer bear the stigma they did even as recently as 20 years ago. I may be a single parent now, but I got married long before I started a family. Marriage didn't stop my husband being an adulterous swine. Shotgun weddings are a thing of the past - women are now allowed to decide for themselves when, with whom and in what marital state they bear their children.
So, if people getting married are doing so for love, rather than to ensure their children aren't stigmatised bastards, what bearing does sexuality have on it? None.

Civil partnership is marriage without the name - it confers the same benefits and rights as a heterosexual marriage. It's just not allowed to be called what it is. This is an argument about semantics. But NO CHURCH owns the word, concept or actuality of marriage.

It's not as if ALL the homosexual couples in the UK are demanding to be married BY THE POPE. It is up to individual churches to decide whether to allow their ministers to perform the marriage. If I decide to marry again, not all churches will let me, as an Evil Shameful Divorcee, but I don't really care because it's the marriage that counts, not the venue.
Christianity has it's roots in love - love for God, love for each other.
And marriage is nothing to do with sex - marriage is the ultimate expression of love.

How to write a TMA (or not)

So, I submitted my first TMA. The writing process went thusly:

I looked at the question a few times in the week of the last unit of the block.
I thought about it a lot, and pulled a lot of vexed faces about it.
I jotted a few ideas down when they came to me.
I woke up one morning with the essay introduction formed in my head, and the part of the text I was going to analyse.

I sorted the kids out, sat down and got writing.
I wrote the introduction. It was far too long.
I sat and looked at the introduction for some time.
I procrastinated trying to work out Harvard referencing. For what it's worth, Harvard referencing is annoying. It alters depending on which institution you're writing for. There must be a simpler way, but the Open Uni rules compel me to Harvard.
I started writing the body of my essay.
I wrote a conclusion. This was all over a couple of hours.
I checked the word count - 50% over the wordlimit. Oops.
I did some cutting, but as is the norm with an essay you JUST wrote, couldn't see anywhere I could possibly trim my precious words.
I sent it to my word-count-slave sister (she's a journalist) for some help and grammar checking. She returned it with some ideas.
I sat and edited it.
I edited it again.
And again.
And finally I was left with an essay that hit the word count.

I ignored it for two days.

I then re-read the essay question and um...realised I hadn't answered it in my essay.

So I rewrote huge swathes of it, to actually answer the question, and trimmed the conclusion a bit.

Then I took it out of Works and into Open Office. Open Office is free and I shouldn't expect so much of it, but my god! Everything is so damnably complicated. It took me ages to work out how to put a page number in the footer! I miss Word. I must locate a copy.

I fretted about it.

I fretted some more.

I submitted it.

And thusly did my first TMA essay come to be pass. Strange how unconcerned I used to be about submitting essays in school, doing them the night before, half asleep/drunk. And now, they fill my every waking MOMENT! I don't expect my marks til around my birthday on the 3rd. That'll be a lovely birthday present...sigh...

This week, I've also done my first iCMA. It was easy, even for a dyscalculic dunce like me. I don't get my score for that yet either.

On with Block 2!

7 Mar 2012

Defender of faith

I am religious. I know I don't seem religious. If there is one thing I cannot abide, with my British stiff-upper lip, it is evangelical fervour. So you think God has saved you. Good, I'm glad, please stop trying to convert me to something I ALREADY BELIEVE IN.
I think faith is something so intensely personal, that no two people believe in exactly the same thing. Organised worship doesn't really appeal to me. I don't think I will only be allowed into heaven if I go to church every sunday. I think we will be judged on more than our actions for 52 hours a year.

I believe in the Holy Trinity. However, I swear, I blaspheme, technically I commit adultery, I have had sex before marriage, I use contraception, I support the legality and free availability of abortion. I don't believe anyone, least of all a celibate priest, has the right to tell people what they are allowed to do in bed. I believe in marriage for all, regardless of gender or sexuality. I don't believe God cares that much about people's sex lives. I don't take the Bible literally. I don't believe in original sin, I don't believe in hell, I believe science and religion aren't opposite. I don't believe in creationism. I believe schools should teach world religion, affording no significance to one religion over any other. I don't believe religion has any place in politics and this trend in the US for politicians to alienate women to win fundamentalist votes scares me.

All fundamentalism scares me, regardless of belief. Wars have been fought in the name of God that were actually fought over the greed of man. Any man or woman who does something abhorrent in the name of God revolts me. It is an abuse of belief, a dreadful blasphemy. It is to equate oneself with God, to assume that one is more than a mere animal.
It is not Christian to judge, to scorn, to hurt or to hold a grudge, and yet millions of allegedly good Christians do it every day just because someone believes something that they do not.

I will debate religion with anyone, on the understanding that I will never change their mind and they will never change mine, and it is not the purpose of the debate to do so. Respect is the key, and there is so little respect left in such emotive topics.

4 Mar 2012

My first TMA

Ah, TMA, how you haunt my every waking moment, with your words and your need for objectivity and your ridiculous word count.

Basically, I hadn't thought about it much at all until I went to the dentist on Friday. I have a dental phobia. Instead of kicking the dentist in the face and leaping out of the window, I take valium and zone out for the duration. However, this was a root canal, and in an attempt to fight the panic that rose at my brain being drain-rodded via my gum, I thought about my first TMA essay.
Well, I didn't think about it much, truth be told, because I was so very off my face, but clearly some idea took root (mayhaps through the hole inserted by the dentist) because I woke up yesterday morning with my essay fully formed in my brain.

So, seizing the day, I leapt from my bed and, once the kids were fed and dressed, I sat and wrote the beast.

It took me two and a half hours, with breaks to try and fathom Harvard referencing, and sat, proud, at my eventual effort.

Until I checked the bloody word count. Permitted word count: 1200. My word count: 1800.

So, the mad pruning began. I'm really not sure how I went so mentally over. And every time I reviewed what I'd written, I hated it more and more. It sounded juvenile, subjective and badly argued. I haven't written an essay for years and I don't tend to edit my blogs, because I end up HATING every word I've written.

This morning, with some advice from my journalist, word-count-obeying sister, I have trimmed and pruned and cut and re-worded 550 words off the beast. It still makes sense, it's still well argued, but I wish I had space to reference every point I make.

The cutoff date for submission is the 22nd, so I've got a bit of time yet. I'll probably go through it one or two more times before submission (not too many times, there comes a time when tweaking can make everything fall apart).
I'd just quite like to do WELL. Not AMAZINGLY well, but I'd really like a B.

What have I learnt from this mad dash of essay writing? Not a lot; my essay technique has become lazy and too personal. I need to learn to be more precise and less waffley. I'm interested to see what my tutor says about it though.

1 Mar 2012

The Evil Receptionist

I was a GP receptionist for eight long years. Even when I was doing mainly other admin work, the only time I was rota'd off reception completely was when I was heavily pregnant.

Receptionists: the most hated group of staff in primary care. We can do no right for doing wrong.
It's our fault there's no appointments, that the doctor is sick or on holiday, that the doctor is booked up for three weeks, and won't do home visits and doesn't want to phone you. It's our fault our available appointments only go four weeks ahead. It's our fault that all emergency appointments are gone at 8:35am. It's our fault that the doctor hasn't put your medication through, our fault that your hospital letter hasn't arrived yet and our fault that the hospital has delayed your referral. It's our fault that you don't like the locum, our fault you were misdiagnosed last time, our fault the new nurse is a bit brusque. And how dare we ask for personal information over the phone? We're not clinicians, we don't need to know, we're just being nosy. We're miserable, we're sour and we're grumpy. We think we're doctors, we're all power-mad, and we think you're scum.
These are all fairly standard complaints and voiced opinions, every day. People are oddly fine with telling receptionists how objectionable and loathsome they are.

It is some people's view that receptionists hate sick people and want to block their access to GPs every step of the way. It is their view that since all receptionists do is answer the phone (ha, I wish), they should bloody well be able to give out a million appointments a day.
And why does a receptionist need to know what's wrong with a patient anyway?

Well, mainly because we're minions of GPs. GPs vary in their working relationships between lovely, bending-over-backwards to help to absolute dictatorship. I've worked for both and all shades of grey in between. GPs, generally, own (at least partially) their surgery and are a receptionist's direct employer. They take all liability for our actions, and we do as we're bloody well told. If we don't, it's our job.

So, when the GP bellows 'no more phone calls', we receptionists must obey. When they tell us to find out as much information as we can before listing a callback, we have to do so. When the GP tells us to cancel an appointment, we have to do so.

And then, when the patient (who feels blocked, ill and frustrated) finally sees or speaks to the GP, the GP is lovely and accommodating.

So, again, receptionists get the blame. For we actually run the practice, and are in no way at the bottom of the ladder, trying to operate between a rock and a hard place.

I used to hate being on the desk when the surgery first opened and the mad rush for appointments began, because they'd all be gone in five minutes and then the incredulity in patient's voices on receiving this information would turn to contempt. And when we have to face anything up to ten hours being bellowed at by disgruntled patients, we get a bit grumpy.
You can say what you like to us, and it may get you struck off our patient list, but we aren't allowed to retaliate. Can you imagine any other sector where you might get a 6ft tall man bending over you (as you're sat down), threatening in demeanour, yelling for an appointment that you can't give them? Can you imagine being forced to stay calm and polite in that situation, when what you want to do is run away? Patients can be remarkably persistent if they take a shine to you. I was followed around by an amorous patient for some months at one point, and it's not unusual. Again, our only recourse is to ask for a troublesome patient to be removed from our list.

And our job may have no clinical responsibility, but we still get faced with life or death situations on a frequent basis. I've had patients come and bleed all over 'my' waiting room, collapse at reception, give birth in the treatment room and other dramas. And that's with plenty of clinical staff on hand to help.
A phone call can come at any time, where the patient is having a suspected stroke or, more often, a heart attack. Elderly patients are, if you'll pardon the language, a bugger for this. They're on their own, with chest pain, and they are too terrified to ring an ambulance. They think they'll go to hospital and not come out. They think it'll be a waste of time and they'll be charged for ringing the ambulance (not true, at all). They think it can wait. So, they ring us and ask for an appointment, underplaying the situation, only telling us they have chest pain after we've offered an appointment in a week or so. And then they refuse to ring an ambulance, so we do it for them. They think if we do it, we can take the blame if it's a waste of time. I've rung ambulances and sent them to patient's homes many times because when a patient dies after ringing us, it's very upsetting.

Being a GP receptionist is a seriously challenging job, considering it's an entry level admin role. And I loved it. I miss it every day, vile patients aside. I miss seeing the same people throughout the week, miss the banter, miss seeing people have a happy ending.
Be kind to your GP receptionist. They're not just answering the phone and blocking you for no reason. If they hated people as much as it's generally surmised, they wouldn't be doing the job!