When I began my Master’s degree in September 2014, I never imagined how much my life would change between then and now. I managed, more or less, to complete half of the programme’s taught credits in the first year, but then stumbled through two abortive attempts at beginning my second year, and am only just returning to study now.
In late September 2016 I was diagnosed with CFS/ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). After what seemed an endless barrage of blood tests and other various proddings/pokings, I was formally diagnosed and I began to learn about how to live with the condition.
It’s been a while since I’ve written for this blog, but I thought I’d share a few words about what third year at Exeter medical school is like. This year our cohort has been split, so half of our year went down to Truro for 3rd and 4th years and the other half stayed here in Exeter. It was a bit of a shame because a lot of friendship groups got split up, but people seem to be happy studying where they are. For 5th year we swap around, so those in Truro come back to do 5th year in Exeter and those in Exeter head down to Truro for 5th year.
I’m really not sure if the Medical School gave us enough warning about what a massive step third year is from second year. Last year we were spending everyday on campus with a few contact hours a day and just one day a month on placement, and now suddenly we’re spending 4 days a week on busy wards with hardly any structure or supervision. I’m not complaining at all, it’s so interesting and exciting and I feel more like an apprentice rather than a student, but it is hard work. I feel like last year if you didn’t know something, it was ‘alright because you’re just a second year’. But this year, I’ve heard of quite a few of my peers being reprimanded by doctors and consultants because ‘You’re a third year, you really should know that by now’. I’m not sure what they thought was going to happen over the summer, but suddenly a lot more is expected of us. It’s motivational though, the fear of being embarrassed drives you to work hard and make sure there are no gaps in our knowledge!
So, to elaborate on what the structure of the week is like this year: Monday is Academic day, where we have 2 hours of lectures and then either clinical skills session or professional practice group in the afternoon. Tuesday we begin our week of allocated placement and spend the afternoon having tutorials (1-4 hours of teaching sessions from healthcare professionals). Wednesday morning we have placement again and then the afternoon is free for self-directed study or sport (or working at Superdrug, in my case). Thursday and Friday we spend all day at placement. Our allocated placement changes every week, and often varies greatly from one week to the next. They are often specialities of medicine, such as cardiology, paediatrics, psychiatry, GP and obstetrics and we rotate so that everyone in the year spends time in each speciality. A week in each placement isn’t a long time, which is good if it’s not something you enjoy, but frustrating if you do enjoy it and don’t have time to really get stuck in. Some specialities such as cardiology, elderly care and psychiatry have more than one week allocated.
I’ve found I’ve got less free time than last year, and when we do have time off we’re usually so knackered from the week before that it’s harder to fit in activities like sports. Nevertheless, I still find time to work 20 hours a week at Superdrug and go to the gym 3-4 times per week, which I find keeps a nice balance to my life.
In terms of assessment, we have 4 Medical Knowledge progress tests and 5 SSU essays to write. We also have clinical competencies (performing examinations, taking blood, etc) both in clinical skills (a simulated environment) and whilst on placement. In addition to this, we have to write 2 reflective essays for our academic tutors to read.
I know we’ve still got so much time to decide which speciality we want to work in, but I’m keen on the idea of paediatrics. Although I haven’t actually experienced my paediatric placement rotation yet, so that may change in the future. The good thing about rotating placements every week is that by process of elimination we can decide which specialities we find interesting and which ones aren’t for us.
All in all, I’m still really enjoying my time here studying with Exeter Medical School. Although it is challenging at times, I feel so fortunate to have a place here and have also made it this far through the course. This year I’ve been given insight to what working on wards as a doctor is like and now I can’t wait to graduate and start working!
For first year students and those lucky second years (myself included), reading week is upon us. But as you hear this term ‘reading week’, you can’t help but wonder what’s it all about? Well, as most people decide to go home for a few days, reading week can be a nice break from the hustle and bustle of a packed out term. Reading week is largely about enjoying the freedom of not buying and cooking your own food, of being able to watch TV, and of course, catching up with family and friends. However, not to be forgotten is the true purpose of this week, to catch up on academic work and basically organise yourself. First term can be a little overwhelming for anybody, living independently in a completely new place, making friends and adjusting to student life. Reading week is also just a moment to breathe.
From my experience, I advise: don’t waste your week! The second part of first term can be insanely busy and can fly by with deadlines, house hunting and exams looming. Here’s a few tips on how to deal with the period from reading week up to Christmas!
1) Use your time effectively in reading week:- catching up on any missed work (we’ve all been there), or start planning/writing your essays/reports etc. Also, as silly as this sounds, take advantage of home cooked meals! This is also a chance to bring anything back to uni you may have forgot,such as a Halloween costume. A Christmas jumper also always comes in handy in December (socials, flat meals etc)
2) In November, start looking for houses for next year. Make sure you’re clear on who you’re living with and commence house hunting! A lot of them are released in November and there’s a mad rush which leads up to the Housing Fair. You won’t want to leave this issue until when you have exams, it’s just unnecessary stress!
3)Don’t leave all work until last minute! Leave yourself enough time to do the research, write out a draft, edit the draft, and also enough time left in case something goes wrong (illness, losing work etc)
4) Go to lectures. As simple as this tip is, I know it can be hard on a freezing cold Monday morning dragging yourself out of bed for an 8:30. However, it is worth it, as missed lectures can slowly add up and when the time comes to revise, you’ll realise that you don’t know half of your course!
Lastly, enjoy this festive time of year! Exeter also has a fantastic Christmas market, which is something to look forward to!
Term two of second year has gotten off to a great start. I’m so glad to be back in the buzz of university life, have a schedule of basketball practices and Exeposé meetings to structure my week around and get stuck back into my degree. I was thrilled with how well received my One Second Everyday video was when it was shared on Exeter’s official Facebook page; 276 likes, 37 shares and over 5,000 views and counting! Looking back on it has made me realise how much fun I had last term – and how important it is to make the most of daily things; the walk to campus on a beautiful day, or weekend pancakes with my housemates. I will definitely be keeping it up for 2016, and now that I know the ropes of making a good compilation hopefully this one will be better than ever!
Today though, I thought I’d make a post on a more academic vein than I usually prefer to opt for. There’s no doubt that university life involves so much more than the degree, but it’s also important to appreciate we’re only here because of our degree.
Thus ends the first week of my final term here at Exeter. My friends and I feel a bit like we’re in limbo – people are forever asking about our plans for the future, and we’re thinking ever-more about what to do after we leave university. Some people are intimidatingly organised, and some of us have precious little clue as to what’s next (I’m in the latter category). Sometimes it feels like I’m wishing graduation forward, and have half-left uni already. So, since I’ve personally ruled out post-graduate options which would require full organisation now, I’ve temporarily suspended thinking about the future until the freedom of Summer term.
I’m quite glad to be back in Exeter after Christmas – I’ve learnt there are pros and cons of both living at home and in Exeter. At home, there is family, friends, cats and home-cooked meals. But in Exeter, there are even more friends, independence and a lot more fun. Living in the house is a lot better for me than halls, I really like my housemates and we always have a good time, whether we’re going out or just staying in. Although I was sad to say goodbye to my family, I was looking forward to getting back into a routine of learning and working. After all, there are only so many lazy days you can have.
So far this year I have been pleasantly surprised by the workload and the course. Coming back in September, I was really worried about how difficult second year was going to be, especially after struggling with first year. I think I’m used to the course structure, I know how to prepare for sessions and I know how to organise my revision.