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.



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