Residency training in Internal Medicine takes up three years or more of our lives, which mainly involves making rounds, reporting cases, attending RTDs, and research. Taking the Philippine Specialty Board in Internal Medicine (PSBIM), however, requires diligent mastery of the Harrison’s Textbook in Internal Medicine and local Clinical Practice Guidelines, which often can be overlooked by ‘toxic’ duties, fatigued residents, or due to busy clinic schedules of internist graduates.
Reviewing for the specialty board is both challenging and exciting. Challenging, since you would need to memorize and put into heart as many data, algorithms and ‘most commons’ in the textbook. Exciting, since you discover many options on how to review for the exam such as enrolling in an online review course at the convenience of your own home or workplace and learning how to compile a separate copy of all the disease Algorithms you will find in the textbook.
REVIEW NOTES. Categorize your review notes according to the latest PCP Glossary of Prevalent Diseases and Disorders in Internal Medicine Practice, which is downloadable at www.pcp.org.ph. Create your own review notebook with 10 or more pages each for the subspecialties and write down as many important must-knows you can based on the diseases listed. For example, in Cardiology, allot a page each for Acute Coronary Syndrome, Valvular Heart Diseases, etc. For Pulmonology, a page each for COPD, Pneumonia, PTB, etc. Once you’ve finished your very own hand-made notes(with pride), you will gain enough confidence in the belief that you have gone through each of the disease entities in the textbook. Affirm and convince yourself you’ve learned them by heart. Feel free to create your own mnemonics.
To help determine your time budget, don’t forget to check the percentage distribution of topics, i.e 60% will come from the major subspecialties. Last but not the least, find time to answer the latest edition of Harrison’s Self-Review Test Questionnares as well.
ONLINE REVIEW. The PCP-South Luzon (PCPSL) Online Review really helps adding confidence to the PSBIM taker since each question has a corresponding page where you may find the specific, verbatim answers in the textbook. Once you have answered all the emailed questionnaires, you have at least highlighted a great number of pages in your textbook which makes it easier for you to return to and review on. You will usually receive email invitations for enrollment before July of every year.
REVIEW CENTERS. Some prefer to enroll in PSBIM review centers and though it helps majority of internists, the downside is the costly enrolment fee. The assurance of passing is still dependent on your self-review skills. Hand-me-down review notes from those who have enrolled in these centers are useful as a guide. Create a folder for each of the subspecialties. This way, you would know which of the subspecialties have you read less or focused on more.
EXAMINATION PROPER. Now that you believe you are ready to take the exams, stay committed. Submit your Diplomate Exam Application Form at least a month or two before the deadline which can be retrieved from the website or from the PCP Secretariat in Ortigas.
On the day of examination, STAY POSITIVE! Believe that you will pass. Stay calm and simply follow all the instructions on the exam page as per examiner’s instructions. The exam comprises 2 sets, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The common fear arises when answering the Right minus Wrong (True or False) questionnaires. We have to accept that we have limitations, and perfecting the exam is near to nil. So, what I would suggest to takers is that if you are not 80-100% sure that the question is false, DO NOT shade False. It lessens your chances of passing.
Of course, on top of it all, constant prayers for divine help and an undying motivation help a whole lot in passing the exams. Find your own motivation, whether it be for your family, self-growth, or career. Altogether, it must be dedicated towards pleasing the Almighty Allah.
Goodluck and hope this helps you in your reviewing adventure!
-Naheeda Dimacisil-Mustofa,MD DPCP