Posts Tagged: med school tips

Using Dropbox from Public Computers

This tip is a little too techy for my “Third Year at UNMSOM series,” but to be honest it’s pretty relevant for my UNMSOM peers.

Why Dropbox

The hospital firewall hasn’t blocked Dropbox like it has Cloudapp and I think Google Docs and other file storage sites, so I am constantly putting files in my Dropbox at home that I want to be able to open on a hospital computer. Documents that I’d like to keep working on, presentations I’d like to display, handouts I want to print… Dropbox is the perfect tool for easily transferring these documents from my home computer to a computer at school or the hospital.

I keep tons of stuff in my Dropbox. Some of it is relatively important information… not like credit card numbers and especially not HIPAA sensitive material, but old school projects, sentimental letters, and a ton of other stuff that I want access to on all my devices as well as cloud-based backups of those files. Things that Dropbox is excellent at.

The hospital computers don’t log you out.

For this reason, I would hate to get hacked or otherwise lose access to my Dropbox. Unfortunately, the hospital computers don’t automatically log you out of Dropbox when the window closes. This means that if you use Dropbox to access a file and close the window without clicking “log out of Dropbox,” the next person to use that computer could open a new window, go to Dropbox, and they’d have access to all your stuff. Not good.

Now I bet the hospital computers are pretty secure, but with any public computer you should also be wary that a “key logger” might be installed. These special hacker apps or viruses that can run in the background on a computer and record every key you type, thereby stealing your login information for various websites. You should keep this risk in mind anytime you log into a computer that is not your own.

Make a super password for your Dropbox.

I recommend that any heavy user of Dropbox change their password to something they have a hard time memorizing, since that implies that anyone that gets a glimpse of it will also have a hard time remembering it. Write it down or store it somewhere secure so you don’t forget it entirely, of course. I am a huge fan and heavy user of LastPass ($1 per month for a premium membership – one of the best deals and most used apps I’ve ever purchased), so I generated a 20-something character, completely random password, complete with capitals, lower case, symbols, numbers… the works. Luckily, I very rarely need to type in that password, since LastPass lets me just copy and paste it. As a matter of fact, this enhances the security in and of itself, since a rudimentary key logger might only see “copy” and “paste” instead of the actual password itself (although I imagine a it may also log the clipboard contents). Unfortunately, having such a secure password makes it a pain to log in from new computers.

The solution: Make a second Dropbox account and use shared folders.

Disclaimer: I tried to contact Dropbox support weeks ago to make sure that this doesn’t violate their terms of service, but I haven’t heard back. My understanding is that it’s okay to have multiple Dropbox accounts as long as your’e not trying to get extra free space with referral links or trying to run multiple instances of Dropbox simultaneously. That said, it’s possible that they could decide this is against the TOS and suspend or revoke your account, though I consider this highly unlikely. You’ve been warned.

So my solution… which has worked brilliantly for third year… was to create a secondary Dropbox account with one of my other email addresses. This second account uses a relatively simple password that I can remember easily. It doesn’t have much in it, so if it were compromised, it wouldn’t be such a huge deal. This second account is not synced to my computer or any of my devices (except Goodreader). Instead, I made a folder in my main account, then used Dropbox’s (excellent) folder sharing to invite my secondary account to that folder, logged into the secondary account, and accepted the sharing request. Done!

Now, I can drag-and-drop files into that particular shared folder from my home computer from my primary Dropbox account, then log in from anywhere into the secondary account to access them. This way, my main Dropbox account and my personal files are never put at risk, its password never used, and there is no extra inconvenience to having an ultra-secure password on that account. The other account is easy to log in to, and can still access anything I put in that particular folder. Reciprocally, if I find an interesting study or work on a document while at school, I can upload the file to that shared folder and later access it from my main Dropbox account at home. Problem solved.

Other Dropbox tips

I’ve written previously about how I use Noodlesoft’s Hazel (one of my all-time favorite Mac apps) along with Dropbox to automate stuff on my Mac. Here’s a few of them – hit me up if you’d like more in-depth instruction on how to get these running.

  • Remote control my Mac from my iPhone using Goodreader + Hazel + Dropbox
  • Use Dropvox for super-efficient voice memos that then get moved to my desktop and a Growl notification so I don’t forget them
  • Have Hazel move all contents of a specific Dropbox folder to my desktop to make sure I don’t forget them, share this folder to the secondary account
  • Have a folder that automatically launches an app when a particular filetype is added, perfect for torrents or .pdf files with my research organizer
  • Use ifttt to grab any Facebook photo I’m tagged in and upload to Dropbox
  • Have a folder with frequently used files like my favorite profile photo, so I can add it whenever I sign up for a new site or service

Those are just a few. What innovative uses for Dropbox have you discovered? Let me know in the comments section below.

Third Year at UNMSOM Part Four: Penlights, Protein Bars, and Instapaper

This series of posts is a collection of concrete, actionable tips based on my experiences as a third year student at UNMSOM. Please read my introductory post for background and disclaimer information, as well as links to each part in the series. Additionally, here are links to the previous and next posts in this series. The “next” one obviously won’t work until I publish it.
Previous: Third Year at UNMSOM Part Three: Checklists and @Simplenoteapp
Next: [Placeholder, not published yet)

This may actually be the last post in this series, we’ll see. Since I’m not sure about that, I don’t want to add a “conclusion” to the end of this post, since that would seem a bit silly if I continued afterward. Instead, I’ll interject here to repeat: third year will be difficult, but you will almost certainly make it through, just like nearly everyone else. Statistically, the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor at this point. Just keep on keepin’ on.

Tip #10: Buy a clipboard.

For crying out loud, you can get one for $5, delivered to your door if you signed up for Prime, with a built-in ruler and everything. It weighs next to nothing, so if all it does is sit in your backpack all 3rd year, you will have lost… $5. On the other hand, I got the idea from a good buddy, and I’ve been grateful to have it. If you’re going to take notes when you’re in seeing a patient (which I recommend, unless you can just always remember what all of their heart rates and O2 flows are at), this sure beats writing on counters or folding your paper fifty times to make it firm enough to endure your chicken scratch. I’ve seen some students use clipboards that have a built-in compartment that they use to keep their iPads out of sight – this may be another idea to consider.

Tip #11: Carry a USB stick.

You don’t really need to carry one with you, but I highly recommend that you leave one in your backpack. Some of the computers aren’t real computers and don’t have a local hard drive to save stuff. Most of this will have a USB port, though. So if you’re on a rotation where you can’t put notes into the medical record (and therefore you have to compose them in Word or Notepad or something), you’ll either need to compose your note in an email and save as a draft or save it to a USB. Additionally, if you’re making handouts for a presentation to your team, it’s nice to be able to save it to a USB and then print wherever is most convenient.

Tip #12: Save the UNM antibiogram.

While you still need to know general antimicrobial strategies for your exams and your future clinical career, you can look like a champ if you know the local bugs’ sensitivities. These sensitivities to various antimicrobial agents are charted out in an “antibiogram.” UNM’s latest antibiogram (as far as I know) is the 2010 version, and it can be accessed from the UNMH Intranet. There’s a button on the left hand pane, something like clinical resources, then you go to epidemiology… something like that. To make things way easier, I copied the antibiogram into a .pdf document that I keep in a folder in Goodreader. Lucky you, I’ve conveniently uploaded it to SMRTpoint here, as always you need to log in with your Sharepoint information. I highly recommend that you put a copy on your smartphone or tablet, so when your team is debating whether or not to add cipro for PA coverage, you can astutely observe that the sensitivity at our institution is not that great (although it may be the best choice dependent on the clinical situation, yada yada yada). And if our antibiogram gets updated, I’ll try to remember to upload the new one and change the link above (you could leave me a reminder in the comments).

Tip #13: Sack pack.

It might have a funny name, and I might look a little goofy carrying it around, but it’s cheap, super lightweight, and awfully convenient. Here’s the one I use, though it’s currently out of stock. In it, I usually carry my clipboard, a couple protein bars, and often some reading material. Best of all, I can leave all this stuff in the sack pack, and the sack pack still fits easily into my backpack, so I can carry my umbrella, lunch, extra books, etc. in the backpack but just grab the sack pack to carry with me. Must be like having a purse or something. Also handy for toting my iPad, in that:

  • it doesn’t unbalance my white coat like carrying it in a large pocket.
  • it keeps it out of sight, helping to keep honest people honest.
  • it helps make sure that I don’t leave my iPad on a countertop somewhere.
  • it’s much easier than carrying it by hand all the time.

Tip #14: Get a good tumbler.

If you are a coffee drinker, there’s a good chance you’ll be leaving the house long before you’ve finished sipping your coffee… several days a week. Make sure you have a good tumbler. My backpack has an external pocket that fits a tumbler perfectly and makes it so I don’t have to risk getting those last few coffee drips all over whatever else is in my bag.

Tip #15: Sew the corners on your white coat.

I realize this isn’t the best picture, but hopefully you can see what I’m saying. The bottom inside corners of the white coats we’re (generously) given have flaps. For some reason, I catch these flaps on doorknobs all the time. My first attempt to fix the problem involved cloth glue, yellow stains, and having to buy a new white coat. My second attempt has worked out nicely – just sew a little “tack” spot as pictures to prevent the flaps from hanging open and catching on things. Then again, this could just be a Nate problem, maybe you should wait to see if it’s an issue for you first.

Tip #16: Buy cheap penlights, and carry one at all times.

For some reason, I found my attendings and residents to frequently be unable to find their penlight when they needed it, or to have forgotten to carry one at all. This made for a great opportunity for me to step up with my beaming medical student smile and say, “Don’t worry, I’ve got one!” Sometimes they would forget to give them back. Other times, they’d be touching it with the same gloves they used to examine a sick, sick patient – no thanks, we can stick that one in the biohazard bag. Good think I buy cheap penlights. These are the ones I use, they’re about a buck each, and they generally last me a few months apiece before they break or run out of batteries. While they have a handy pupil-size-o-meter on them, they’re anything but fancy… which is kinda the point. I can lend them out as much as I want without breaking a sweat, and for that reason I’d recommend them any day over a fancy-shmancy calibrated penlight with WiFi connectivity. Besides the obvious, the other big advantage to always having a penlight on you is just having some compassion for your patients. On several rotations you’ll be waking up patients to examine them at times when most UNM students still haven’t gone to bed. Instead of blinding them with the room lights for 10 minutes at four in the morning, why not use your penlight to do their wound check (or whatever else you need to be illuminated) and save your patient the rude awakening? NB: I realize you’ll still have to wake them up. I’m just saying it may be easier for them to get back to sleep if you don’t have to flip the room light on to do your pre-rounding… and usually I don’t think you need to.

Tip #17: Guys: leave your ties tied.

On some rotations, you’ll be in dress clothes 5–6 days per week. I’m pretty good at tying my tie, but on occasion I just can’t get it the perfect length. Solution: once I get it right, I just don’t untie it at the end of the day. Unbutton the collar, loosen it enough to get it over the head, and hang it on my tie hanger. Next time I want to use that tie, I shave off a minute or so in tying time and know for a fact that it’s the perfect length.

Tip #18: Save these bookmarks in your browser of choice.

There are a few URLs that you should absolutely bookmark – ones that aren’t particularly easy to find or remember. Make a “School” folder somewhere and save these links, maybe separate from your informational resource bookmarks. Seriously, make these bookmarks right now.

  • MDWeb: where UNMSOM students have to log their work hours and certain patient encounters every block.
  • LoboCash: where you can load money onto your ID card, which you can use to make purchases with your ID at the hospital cafeteria. Remember, the cafeteria doesn’t take credit cards.
  • Sharepoint
  • SMRTpoint
  • SMRT blog
  • Calibrated Peer Review (CPR, for OSCEs)
  • DynaMed home access
  • UpToDate home access
  • several blocks require you to do virtual cases here, and I always forget the site’s name.

Tip #19: Carry food.

Everyone tells you this. At least it seemed to me that they did. I thought it was silly, I’ve been doing intermittent fasting off and on for years now, I can handle hunger. AAMOF, after 10 or so days, ghrelin secretion adapts to your eating schedule, so I don’t get terribly hungry, even with 16–20 hour fasts. However, I learned in a hurry that for me, it had nothing to do with hunger. It had everything to do with attitude. My positivity was directly proportional to amount of food in my stomach. As soon as I figured that out, 3rd year totally changed. Even if I wasn’t really hungry, if my attitude sucked and my stomach wasn’t full, I’d eat something… and my attitude (and experience… and probably grades) would consistently improve. Because I wasn’t exactly going for taste, and I didn’t want to expand my waistline too much, I found that I could buy these very filling, low-carb, high-protein bars in bulk and make sure I had 3–4 in my backpack and 1–2 in my sack pack at all times. If I ate one, I’d make sure to replace the one I’d eaten once I got home. Once the box was empty, I’d order another box. Since I had a reserve of 5 or so bars between my bags, the new box would be Prime shipped to my door in 2 days, free of course, and always before I ran out of them. As a warning, these aren’t the best tasting bars, but they’re the best tasting I’ve come across for their macronutrient composition.

Tip #20: Start using Instapaper.

Reading nothing but academic journals, textbooks, and practice questions will corrode your soul. You need to read for fun as well. I’ve posted about Instapaper before, but I love it enough to give it another mention here. Basically, it saves for later the text and images of whatever article you’d like to read when you don’t have the time or energy to do it now. Lots of great third party apps use it, it has a great bookmarklet for your browser, it works great with your Kindle… and the developer seems like a genuinely nice guy. I come across a ton of interesting content on the web, but I usually don’t have time to read it, so I Instapaper it for later. Instapaper syncs to my iPhone and iPad, so I can catch up on my topics of interest while I wait in line at the cafeteria or when things are slow on the wards. I only use it for pleasure reading, and I love that I never have to regrettingly admit, “I’d really like to read this but can’t afford the time.” One click, and I’ll get to it eventually. In fact, there’s a decent chance that you don’t have time to read this post right now. Why not sign up for Instapaper and give it a test run?

Tip #21: Use your creative outlet.

I know I ranted and raved at the beginning of this series about only posting “actionable” tips, and I might be breaking my promise with this one. I’ll compensate with brevity. Find a way to foster whatever spark of creativity you have during third year. This is in addition to exercise, good nutrition, good sleep habits – those don’t count. Find something that will keep your creativity alive and make it a priority.

Third Year at UNMSOM Part Three: Checklists and Simplenote

This series of posts is a collection of concrete, actionable tips based on my experiences as a third year student at UNMSOM. Please read my introductory post for background and disclaimer information, as well as links to each part in the series. Additionally, here are links to the previous and next posts in this series. The “next” one obviously won’t work until I publish it.
Previous: Third Year at UNMSOM Part Two: Notepads and Amazon
Third Year at UNMSOM Part Four: Penlights, Protein Bars, and @Instapaper

I hope this installment is full of several short tips. Here goes.

Tip #5: Make a vide poche

[Lifehacker post where I discovered the proper name.] Basically, this is a French term for “bucket in which you deposit all your pocket stuff when you get home.” I’ve only recently starting doing this, and it’s made an immediate difference. My desk is way cleaner than it was previously, since I don’t have all my crap scattered across it. More importantly, I can feel pretty confident that I have everything I need when I leave in the morning, no matter how tired I am. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten to bring a pen, my pager, my stethoscope, etc. (When I’m tired and in a hurry it’s amazing I remember anything at all.) Now, when I get home, the first thing I do is tear my to-dos out of my mini comp book and set it on my computer, but the next thing is to take everything out of my pockets, take off my pager and stethoscope, and put it all in my cookie-tin-turned-Vide-Poche. The next day I know exactly where I’ve put it all, and I’ll remember it all as long as I remember any of it. Whether or not you use this tip, I suggest you make some morning and afternoon lists, at least until you get the hang of things. Here’s what I mean.

Tip #6: Morning and afternoon lists

My first third year rotation was surgery. Some days, the early mornings were… early. As I alluded in the previous post, it seemed like I would forget something almost every day. Since I was across town at the VA, it’s not like I could just make a quick trip back home. I’ve been a fan of using checklists for a while (always meant to read The Checklist Manifesto — maybe I’ll get a chance now that 3rd year is coming to an end :) ). Basically, some stuff is boring, repetitive, but important, and it doesn’t make sense to try to remember it. Pilots and surgeons use checklists all the time (“timeouts”), so I figure why not. I made a quick checklist I called my “Morning #List” and my “Afternoon #List”. I use hashtags so I can search for stuff without getting extraneous results that happen to involve the same words.

Anyway, I made a morning list that I would glance over before leaving the house each morning. It reminded me to make sure I had stuff like:

  • White Coat 
  • Pager 
  • ID Badge 
  • Stethoscope 
  • Pens 
  • Penlights 
  • Maxwell’s quick reference book 
  • Lunch 
  • Protein Bars 
  • Phone

I’d glance at my afternoon list before heading home from the VA, and it would remind me to get new scrubs, grab a list of cases for the next morning, double check that all my notes were submitted, etc. That kind of stuff. Saved me a lot of headaches in the long run, very little effort to make and use. To ensure I always had them with me, I used Simplenote.

Tip #7: Start Using Simplenote (or something like it)

Simplenote is a sweet, sweet, ultra-simple tool. It takes plain-text notes and syncs them. It has a web interface and native iOS apps. It supports note tagging and full-content searching. It syncs with a ton of third-party apps. It has awesome note sharing that my SO and I use to keep track of places we want to eat and movies we’d like to see, and my roomie and I keep a shared list of all our movies (so we never rent something the other one already has).

But the most important part is that it syncs, and it syncs fast. Because it’s “plain-text” (meaning no fancy pictures or anything), there’s not a lot of information to sync. Even really long notes sync fast. So I use an app called Notational Velocity on my Mac, which syncs with Simplenote on my iPhone and iPad, and all my notes stay in sync, fast. There are simple ways to set it up with Android and PC as well.

Because the full-content search lets me find stuff in a hurry, I use it for everything, I have around 160 notes now. But I can type in “food,” and it instantly filters out any note that doesn’t have the word “food.” I can type in “#food” to only show notes that I’ve decided are food-relevant enough to deserve a hashtag. It’s great.

To give you an idea of how I’ve used this during third year, here is a list of my current notes tagged #school:

  • Student Lounge code
  • School Codes (exam codes)
  • Rotations Books Megan
  • Resource List for 3rd Year
  • OSCE Tips from Jill
  • Nate’s Rotations Schedule
  • Medical vocabulary words
  • Lockers, codes, scrubs stuff
  • Library Hours
  • Interpretive services
  • H&P Cheatsheet
  • Fourth Year Schedule
  • Citrix Receiver Setup
  • #InternalMedicine Scratch Pad
  • #InternalMedicine Contacts

It’s just handy, and it works. Give it a shot. Worst case scenario: it’s free. Extra bonus: as of the last time I checked, the web interface was accessible from both the hospital and the VA computers. Make sure you log out when you’re done.

Tip #8: Helpful files from BA and JO

Two very generous students, senior to me, have shared a bunch of their rotation tips with my class. I found these useful to look over before and during each block. Now I’m sharing them with you.  These files will be hosted at SMRTpoint or perhaps UNMSOM Sharepoint eventually, so they will be password-secured and accessible only by UNMSOM students. For now, just shoot me an email from your Salud address with the subject (without the quotes): “Stuff from BA and JO”. You’ll only get a reply if the email is from your Salud address, to make sure this stays UNMSOM material.  I’ll post updates  here when I get it uploaded somewhere secure.

Tip #9: Carry a spare combination lock in your backpack

Unfortunately, as a MS3 you’ll always be looking for a good place to keep your stuff. Most rotations, you just don’t have a convenient, secure place to leave your bag while you pre-round, round, go to lunch, etc. On some rotations, your assigned lockers will be close enough from “home base.” Other times, they’ll be a few floors away, or across town if you’re at the VA. I found it worthwhile to carry one of these around and just leave it in my backpack at all times. The VA has empty cabinets all over the place that work great with this type of lock. If you’ll be carrying anything valuable in your bag, it will be worth it.

Alright folks, that’s all for today.

Next: Third Year at UNMSOM Part Four: Penlights, Protein Bars, and @Instapaper