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!