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!
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.
I had mixed feelings about coming back to Exeter. Although I didn’t want to leave my family, and the comfy house and home-made meals, I was looking forward to seeing my friends, getting back into a studying routine and being more independent again. After getting used to living by myself, it was difficult having to live with family again. I really enjoyed spending time with them though, my sister Tanisha and I spent a lot of time together. She starting working at Superdrug and I loved training her and working with her, it was so much fun. I didn’t get as much revision done as I was planning to; I worked 35-40 hours a week at Superdrug and wanted to spend time relaxing with my family. I really don’t know where all the time went, 3 months has flown by!
I was over the moon to find out I had passed my end of year exam. Despite all the stress, I think the majority of my year passed. Everyone tried so hard, we all got what we deserved.
This time of year is incredibly stressful for students awaiting results all over the country, especially those waiting to find out if they have got into their university of choice. I’m not lying when I say that results day was the most important day of my life to date. It was a horribly daunting thought that the contents of that envelope would determine where I would be living and what I would be doing for the next 5 years of my life. Having to go back to school and retake, then reapply and go to all the interviews again seemed unbearable. However, on the other hand, a year out might not be so terrible. I planned on retaking the subjects I hadn’t achieved so well in, getting as much work experience as possible and maybe a well-paid part-time job on the side. In fact, universities often prefer older students, who have had a year to mature and gain experience relevant to their degree. It shows determination, resilience and commitment. Having a well-thought out back up plan is invaluable; it takes a lot of pressure off of results day. Although I preferred to get in first time, I knew I would be okay either way.
I had received two conditional offers to study medicine, both asking for 3 A’s. Many of my friends had received 3-4 offers, with different universities asking for different grades. They had their first choice university and aimed to fulfil their grade requirements, but then also had other universities offering them a place if they did not do as well as expected.
Discovering that I had achieved my grades was the best feeling ever; I cried my eyes out and so did my mum.