The musings of a final year medical student

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Start of Med school: party, work, then party more

I have just began my fourth week of lectures at Medical School and I am absolutely loving it. This post is going to be centred on what I am learning, teaching style, and the work life balance during first year.  

The Medical School has divided learning into separate categories, those being:
- Scientific knowledge
- Practical skills training for clinical practice
- Communication skills for clinical practice
- Research
- Anatomy interactive sessions

N.B I have changed the names of the actual categories for the sake of the anonymity of my medical school

Scientific knowledge - this is the biochemistry and proper hardcore scientific knowledge that we need. This category is further broken down into 'blocks' throughout our first year. Scientific knowledge has began with a six week introductory block which has involved going over most of the A2 biology and chemistry I studied with a few extra facts sprinkled in, so it hasn't been too taxing. We usually have a lecture on this every day. After this block we are having a test and then moving onto endocrinology, which I am really excited to learn about.

Practical skills training for clinical practice - we have these every couple of weeks and we are put into smaller groups of around 20. Here we are expected to dress professionally: bare below the elbow,  no cleavage, dark colours, shoes that give adequate foot coverage to prevent needle stick injury. So far we have only had one proper session where we learnt how to clean our hands properly and how to approach patients whilst preventing injury and spread of disease which was really good fun. The facilitator, a nurse, made the session really enjoyable. Later we will learn venepuncture, elements of cardiovascular examination and even the dreaded rectal examination. 

Communication skills for clinical practice - Again, these sessions are every couple of weeks. Actors come into the medical school and we are filmed carrying out pretend histories and then we evaluate our own communication skills. This is a very important part of the course at my particular university and failing this section means that a student has to retake the whole year. We had our first intro session on this yesterday and it was brilliant fun. The aspect of communication development really interests me, as well as the practical side of medicine. Talking to patients, understanding their social scenario and the challenge of gaining their trust is what I am most passionate about medicine.

Research - I don't know too much what our research sessions entail but they are on a weekly basis. Our first project which we are starting very soon is a systematic review of an aspect of medicine that interests us. We have selected which topics interest us most and now we will get put into a ballot and see what we get. I've picked topics including Ebola, palliative care and obesity. We then get given a question and we have to research using various databases like PubMed for experiments that are related in order to carry out our systematic review. I've got to be honest, I'm not looking forward to this. I am sure it will give me much more insight to a particular aspect of medicine which will be very interesting, but equally I am more concerned with learning the science and practising my clinical skills than reading dozens of trials and collating data.

Anatomy interactive sessions - this is one of my favourite sessions. We have these every fortnight. In our first session we got to see a full cadaver and it was brilliant. In these sessions we get to view a mixture of prosections (preserved parts or entire organs and other parts of the body) and models. We are set work to complete during the session and hand it in at the end. 

Okay, so now onto what medical school has felt like so far. In all honesty, I do not feel at all overworked. I have spoken to friends at other medical schools and many complain about the vast amount of work to do. My medical school is not PBL, however we do have a lot of free time to revise and explore the content discussed in our 40 minute lectures. So far I haven't had any homeworks or deadlines in particular. The end of topic test that I have in a couple of weeks time worries me slightly just because it is not clear if it will be simple test of how much do you know or whether it is going to be applied in a particular way. Nevertheless, it is only a test to see how we are doing and is not going to count towards anything. 

The medical school's student's society does a great job of providing plenty of socials, both academic and recreational. Tonight I am attending an abdomen anatomy lecture done by a surgeon at one of our larger hospitals. There are so many medics' sports teams, performing arts, and lots of medical clubbing nights every week. 

Right now, I would say there is a lot more playing hard than working hard. Whether that's bad or not I really don't know. From one point of view I feel disappointed that I'm not keeping one step ahead of everyone else. However, I have been evaluating recently that a lot more of my happiness is derived from socialising and meeting new people. Yes, I could work my arse off and get into the top 10% of the year, but does that really mean anything to me? A piece of paper or a number percentage can't really make you happy, or at least I personally don't get that much happiness from having good results. Don't get me wrong, I work hard and I love what I study. When I did very well in my GCSEs, A levels, my musical achievements and certificates, they really don't mean anything to me. They were important to get me where I am now, but having a piece of paper really doesn't faze me.

One thing that has really surprised me is my physical stamina. I've had Freshers' Flu and haven't gone to bed before 2am since I got to university, and somehow my body is still coping with getting up at 6.30am and starting lectures at 9am every day. I have had to do a lot of napping, but it just amazes me how my body is still managing this. I do worry that I'm going to burn out soon and then get really ill. I keep trying to not go out or have an early night, but when you are in such FANTASTIC company how can you say no to the wonderful socials on offer? I have a great circle of friends and I simply want to spend as much time with them as possible, even though it is going to be to the detriment of my health.



Thursday, 2 October 2014

Freshers' Week: My Advice

So I moved up to university on the 20th September, and I feel very settled in. However, first of all, I had to make it through Freshers' Week. I had the best time, met lots of lovely new faces and would thoroughly recommend that you throw yourself in at the deep end, really get into the thick of it.

Over that week, I realised many things and have got some tips for any soon-to-be Freshers.

N.B some of this advice is based on the assumption that you would treat Freshers' Week the way most people do: constant partying, forgotten morals and feeling a bit ill. I'm not advocating that, but the following advice will be useful.

 - Bring plenty of petty change and small notes (fivers and tenners) for club entry and taxis back home (and 4am Maccie's)

 - Bring flip flops - they will be important for communal showers (don't get verrucas off the shower floor) and bathrooms, out of the blue fire alarm drills, and just general lounging around in your flat.

 - On your moving in day, dress in light, loose clothing and wear plenty of deodorant. The amount of walking, lifting, adrenaline and nerves mean perspiration will be involved. I met quite a few freshers that were less than daisy fresh, shall we say.

 - Make sure you shower 1 or more times a day. All the drunken sweating will not be great. In addition, it will help you wake up and press on through your hangover.

 - Make sure you have contraception sorted before you get there. The pill does not protect you from STIs. Yes, you can get free condoms at Freshers' Fair but this is usually at the very end or mid way through the week.

 - Don't trash your flat or do drugs in it. You might think it's funny at the time but the university or landlord can charge you a fortune for it. Medical students can be thrown off the course for being caught smoking cannabis, or anything more severe.

 - Don't buy every freshers' social wristband/ticket on offer. Most people go to the student union events. Try to gage which ticket/wristband is the most popular, not the one where the promoters are constantly harassing you and spamming your Facebook.

 - If a freshers' event claims to be "The best night of your life", it most certainly won't.

 - Keeping busy is the most important thing and will stop you from feeling homesick. The ones on my floor that cried did spend a lot of time by themselves. If you go out a lot and join in on as much as possible you will have much more fun and will be far too busy to feel sad or teary. Try to be out of your room as much as possible.

 - Bring doorstops. You can purchase cheap ones for less than a pound online. Bring several to lend to your mates. Having your door open makes you seem much more approachable and sociable, and the doors in halls are always heavy fire doors, so a doorstep is necessary.

 - Keep a full water bottle in your flat and your bags at all times. You're going to be dehydrated.

 - The best way to make friends is to keep a smile permanently pasted on your face. You will look much more approachable and make friends easily.

 - Try to get some exercise. Even though your head may be hurting, stomach aching, you feel exhausted from sleep deprivation, a light jog or walk will really help clear your head and make you feel marginally better.

 - Don't just hang out with the same people, or people who are at your university that came from your old school. Uni is all about meeting people from all walks of life, and you want to have a good bond with the people you are sharing a flat with in your first year.

 - If you get a reading list upon arrival at uni, go STRAIGHT to the library and get said books. Don't waste any time in getting them, otherwise all the best ones will go.
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