uk medical student

Update + Survival Strategies for Medschool

Today a few people came crying to me and a few more expressed their low mood. This is one of the days when medschool really sucks :/ Keep reading to see how I stay sane myself.

On the bright side, I felt much more confident doing prehospital care scenarios tonight and learned a lot so I’m glad I went and didn’t follow the lazy minion in my head.

I was quite curious about the feedback I’ve been getting from tutors and doctors in hospital so I peeked into my feedback and some of it is so positive I thought they must’ve confused my name with someone else’s. Either that or I managed to fool everyone into thinking I know a lot when I don’t feel that way at all. If I did, it must be my new life attitude working - I decided I would:

- show up (unless really unnecessary)
- put on a poker face if feeling nervous, smile a lot
- fake it till you make it, including dressing the part
- not take criticism to heart - seriously throw that negativity out the window, you don’t need someone to tell you you don’t know something and make you feel bad for it if you already know you don’t and you’re working on it
- remember the consultant/attending only knows more because they’ve had more practice, they are not better, just further down the line
- strategically answer questions when 100% sure
- reason through the ones where not 100% sure
- talk around the answer when I really don’t know (only because when I say I don’t know, doctors keep pressing me more and saying that I probably do - annoying habit!)
- ask questions
- ask more questions to avoid getting asked questions or in response to a question if I don’t know the answer (they forget they were the ones to ask)
- joke with the doctors & make friends with them, they’re mostly nice people
- befriend the junior doctors and final year students, they’ll help without even being asked
- carry a massive notebook everywhere and take down every single case or piece of information I hear - helps you learn + makes you look like you’re on it
- never trust them when they say they’ll send you the slides because they never do
- Google, Wikipedia and YouTube are my best friends
- the Oxford handbooks and the BNF are my second best friends
- learning outcomes: use ‘em, you’ll feel like a genius if you read around them in advance
- ask to do things on wards/theatre/clinic, take bloods, do ECG, calculate & prescribe meds, clerk, examine, assist in surgeries, suture
- go to conferences, learn more about the specialties you enjoy, it’ll fuel your studying
- feign interest even if really disinterested, it works and you learn
- buy a cheap whiteboard and draw complex pathways on it so they’re ingrained in your mind forever, look at it as you come and go

HOLISTIC TIPS:
- chew gum discreetly, always
- wear monochrome and smell good but not overpowering
- make time for fun with friends every day
- speak to family everyday
- do a few good things for others everyday
- gym a couple times per week
- eat well (not too “healthy” and not too unhealthy - balance is key!)
- tidy up room (& life) every once in a while
- memes (can’t stress this one enough)
- allow self to wallow in self-pity for a day or two but make sure to reset and get back on track after the specified time frame
- learn about the world and not lose touch with what it is to be human, watch documentaries, read articles, communicate with old friends and stay in touch
- hot showers before bed, face scrub, chill in dressing gown and spa slippers
- change bed linen every week
- keep window open at night
- spray air freshener or light candles
- decorate walls, have books on the shelf
- never drink coffee, always drink water
- eat any and all free food to avoid cooking
- not take self too seriously and take every opportunity to have some banter

Medical School Interviews

Across the UK hopeful medics will have sent off their applications and are eagerly awaiting for an interview. Considering I was in the same position a literal year ago I thought I would share some advice for the interviews. Unfortunately, I can’t disclose what interview questions I got but I can give some general tips that really helped me. 

First, I thought I would give some background to my application. I applied to 4 medical schools that were all MMI so the advice I am about to give is more geared towards MMI style interviews. I was very fortunate to get 3 interviews and 3 offers for medicine.

  1. Look at the Medical Schools website. Each medical school tends to outline the qualities they are looking for at interview on their website. Think of specific examples for each quality and practice how you have used/developed said quality and why this would make you a good doctor.
  2. Stay away from Student Room. The number of people that told me to stay away from student room was enormous and yet I still ignored them and checked. All it does is scare you and makes you panic. It’s not worth the stress at all. Just focus on your application and nobody else’s. 
  3. Be professional. Medical schools really value professionalism and teach it throughout medical school. However, there is the expectation for you to have a certain level of professionalism before you enter medical school. Little things such as what you wear can make a big impact. For example, guys tended to wear suits at the interview however it isn’t necessary to as long as you are dressed smart then it is okay. Arrive on time. It looks really bad if you arrive late to your interview and you will also probably be really stressed as well which won’t help at all. If you are going to be late ring the medical school well in advance.
  4. Some interviewers may be mean. I wish someone had told me this. Interviewers are there to test certain skills and therefore may be appear to be really brutal to you. Remember, that is what they are there for, stay calm and prove to them that you can handle it. This is essential as not every patient is going to be compliant and they need to test that you are able to cope with it.
  5. Stay up to date with the news. When I had my interviews, the junior doctor contract was very hot in the news so I read around the topic. However, medical schools expect that of you and will probably not test you about that as it doesn’t really show anything that makes you stand out. But keeping up to date with scientific advancements in the medical field will put you in good stead.
  6. Be honest. I think this is probably the most important tip I have. If you do not know something, then tell them that you don’t know it. The person asking will probably have a lot of expertise on the subject and will be able to tell when you are waffling. A lot of the time they are trying to see if you are brave enough to say you do not know rather than seeing if you actually do know something on that topic. Remember that a responsible doctor is one that stays within their limits and admits that they do not know something. If you are quite competent on the subject, then do talk about it however do not feel pressured to have a conversation with them about it. 

So there are all my general tips! I just want to finish with saying that please don’t worry if you mess up a station. MMIs typically have 7/8 stations, you are judged on all the stations not just one, so take a deep breath and smash the other ones. If anyone has any questions regarding interviews just send me a message.

Good luck to everyone applying! 

How I did well in the UKCAT

Its worth saying that I applied to medicine twice before getting in, the UKCAT score I got the first time was well higher than the second time. My application was strong enough to receive offers from higher UKCAT threshold universities as well my back up non UKCAT assessing university. 

I decided to write this post because I found my old notes on how I organised my mind to do well in the UKCAT and thought I’d share with the Medblr community.

Here goes! 

Verbal Reasoning (650)

  1. Read the question/statement and allocate a keyword!
  2. Skim passage, try looking for the keyword.
  3. If its there, read the sentence before and after and decide between true, false and can’t tell.
  4. If you can’t decide between them. Flag and move on.
  5. If you cant find the keyword. Flag and move on. Its not worth wasting time deciding whether or not you’ve selected the correct keyword. 

Abstract Reasoning (750) 

If anything I practiced this the most and scored high in it. The way I arranged my mind for this section is as follows

  1. I formed a set of categories upon which I scanned each question and decided which category it best fit.
  2. The categories were; shape, colour, number, arrangement and the WHAT THE ABSOLUTE HELL category. Usually in that order. 
  3. These categories have sub categories too. For example: type of shape, features of shape that repeat in the set ( e.g. a triangle in each set). It does get more complicated sometimes where categories intermix, like  1 fully shaded triangle in the right hand corner of each box in the set. 
  4. Breathe, I know that was a lot to read. Practice makes you faster.
  5. When your in the WHAT THE ABSOLUTE HELL category, guess, flag and then move on. You most likely won’t have time to come back to this. Make an educated guess. Flagged is incase you have time to have a second look. 

Quantitate Reasoning (820)

Im being truthful here and telling you I hardly practiced QR. Im really good at mental maths. Seriously I never used the calculator throughout this section on the UKCAT and here are some tips. 

  1. READ my child READ! Because sometimes you dont need to look at the information given at all. Sometimes everything you need is in the question itself. Best believe it. 

Originally posted by halloweenmagick

  1. Round, saves SO much time. If the options are in close range, round smaller. 
  2. If you’re not good in maths, practice as much as possible. Revise your times tables and know the basic formulae for area, volume, perimeter etc. Revise stats and make sure you know how to do basic ratios, percentages, mean, range etc. Make sure you know how to read a graph. 
  3. Flag anything that you dont get first time and move on. If something is time consuming, its worth moving on and finishing the easier ones. 

Decision Analysis (500) 

I still cry at this. WHY?

Funny enough, after AR I practiced this the most. When I tested myself this section was always my highest score. Funny. 

Originally posted by thatssocarl

My tips if you choose to take any is:

  1. Don't dig deep into this too much. You begin to confuse yourself dreadfully.
  2. Take your time, these are all supposedly do-able. So each one you get is one worth getting correctly. 
  3. Look for words that indicate what the sentence is about.

Situation Judgement Test (Band 1)

I scored Band 1 both times when I did the UKCAT. The first time I did it, SJT was still being trialled. My main tip for this: Read the GMC guidelines for doctors and medical students. This is what structured my way of thinking in both a professional manner and an empathetic one. Its worth reading. 


Extras

  1. Flagging is your best friend. 
  2. Love it because hating it will only discourage your preparation. Love it LOVE IT, you can hate it when its over. 
  3. If you begin to fluster during the exam because its the third question you’re flagging because you really don’t know whats going on. Take a moment. Tell yourself that you got this. Im telling you YOU GOT THIS!
  4. Dont go back, move forward. Even if you’ve flagged ten in a row move forward and only go back once you’ve been through them all. 
  5. Each question is worth a point. Whether the question is easy or hard, its still worth the same. This is why I tell you to flag the tricky ones and do all the easyish ones. 
  6. Sleep the night before and have breakfast. Stimulate your brain. 

I know this gives me a rather average overall score (goddamn you DA) but it was good enough for all the medical schools I applied too. 

Good luck! 

The “jump” between A2 and med school is unlike all the other jumps because you’re not learning more complicated versions of things you already know- you’re learning completely new things. And they’re all really complicated.

There’s much more content, and the content is broad and deep (although not compared to ow it will be in future years, I guess, but it feels deep and complicated)

In terms of change in revision techniques the biggest thing is probably lack of past papers. You can’t do that thing you did in A Levels where you practiced past papers until you were prefect at them - you can only really work from text books, lecture slides and maybe one or two old past papers that may not really be an accurate representation of what you need to know.

Teaching style is pretty different because the lecturers just talk at you for an hour (most of which you can’t really ask questions and just have to sit and listen) and you won’t get another chance to really meet outside class and go over things you don’t understand, you pretty much have to learn it by yourself for the most part. There’s no way you can really prepare for the new teaching styles, you just need to know what to expect. You’re taught by Doctors in the field that you’re learning about- so you have experts teaching the basics.

If you want to keep up with everything (that’s something I struggled with a lot) I’d suggest getting your hands on the specification and crossing things off as you go along, traffic light things, go over the things you don’t know DON’T repeat the things you’re confident with over and over, it’s a waste of time. There’s so much to know - if you’re relearning A Level things (e.g. the kidney) don’t dwell on it as much as you should every thing else. Go over lectures over the weekend or in the evenings, read lectures alongside a text book and write up more detailed notes. Keep a folder/file of notes that is organsied and up to date - list things you need to go over. Don’t let things build up.

If things do build up a bit, you will be able to make up time during christmas and easter holidays- but don’t rely too heavily on that time.

This is probably the hardest thing to do in medical school, and I really struggled with it and was basically unable to do it- I ended up doing quite a lot of cramming in the final few months. 

I recently made a post on mistakes that I learned from/things I would do differently if I could do 1st year again.

I don’t think I can help in terms of discipline and self motivation- if you’re in medical school you’ll be pretty proficient at this anyway. I guess you’ve got to have the words “I’m doing this so I can be the best doctor I can be” at the forefront of your mind. Your motivation should come from your desire to provide the best care you can for your patients- throughout medical school and your medical career, THEY are your motivation. That’s all I can really say on that one, but others might have better things to add.

Okay, notes and pre-reading. Not all of the recommended reading is necessary - contact 2nd years at your medical school and ask them which books are the most worth purchasing and what information can just be found from the lecture slides. (We had over 20 books on our recommended reading!! I bought 3 I think - and borrowed one other from the library)

If you have anatomy classes and dissection, pleeeease do the pre reading before you start cutting the bodies up! It makes soooo much more sense when you’ve already read about what you’re about to see (p.s. I didn’t do this and I wish I did!) For lectures, pre-reading the slides wouldn’t be a bad shout either. But it would be really hard to read them all when you have so many a day… I never did this. So I’d say it’s not necessary unless you want to get top top grades, but who knows.

I made notes during lectures quite a lot, but I never actually read them afterwards because they were just pure scribble. But I think it’s worth making notes anyway - because lecturers say a lot of important things that aren’t written on their slides, so it is worth making notes. Some lecturers tell you the bits they think are worth writing down (the best lecturers, IMO) so yes - definitely take notes. I’d suggest making notes on a laptop just for purposes of speed - they don’t give you enough time to write, and the slide will change before you’re done if you hand write all your notes (unlike A Levels).

Don’t start revising for your exams any later than the beginning of the easter holidays. You’ll get the bulk of your revision done in the weeks leading up to your exams, but the easter holidays are a decent place to start :)

I don’t really have a social life to balance, but don’t go out overy night and miss morning lectures. I’d say limit your going out a bit, because it’s just painful to get up for a 9am lecture when you were at a club until 4am the night before.


Hope this was comprehensive enough! Good luck anon - don’t panic xx

The BMA will ask UK doctors if they wish to strike.

Today, the BMA’s junior doctor committee voted unanimously that the UK doctors’ union will ballot it’s members on whether they wish to strike over the plans for the new junior doctor contracts. All doctors not at consultant or full GP level are affected by the planned changes. If you are a UK medical student or doctor, now is the time to make your opinion count. Currently, a relatively low proportion of UK doctors are signed up to their union, but that could change. BMA membership is currently free, so if you have any opinion on this, whichever way you feel, now is the time to sign up and let that opinion be known. These things are happening in your world, and I think each of us deserves to weigh in on sonething that affects us all. Furthermore, under UK law you will only be able to take part in any strike action if you are a part of the union organising it. The Department of Health has released a statement in reply, visible on their tumblr. Which I will admit I was unaware existed until today.

UK vs US medical schools

I was wondering if anyone had experience of both systems and could compare the amount/levels of knowledge each course equips you with.

I understand that US schools require an undergraduate degree with the premed required modules, and is then a 4 year post grad course. Where-as the UK standard course is 5 years of undergrad.

The US schools seem to sit a standardized test, the USMLE step 1 after their second year of postgrad, two years before they qualify. I’m now 18 months short of qualifying and have been looking at the USMLE step 1 revision materials as some general medical/clinical sciences pathology revision. But, to be honest most of the USMLE stuff is out of my league. 

Is this because US dr’s graduate at a higher level, and do less training after they’re than MD? In the UK we do our two years as a junior doctor before our specialty training, perhaps this is sort of included in the US course? Or, do UK medical students actually just learn less. Granted my clinical sciences might be a bit rusty, but I can’t believe I’m just really thick.

Sylvia Plath on Medicine and Regrets

‘I think if I had done anything else, I would like to have been a doctor..

..This is the sort of polar opposition to being a writer, I suppose. My best friends when I was young were always doctors. I used to dress up in a white gauze helmet and go round and see babies born and cadavers cut open. This fascinated me, but I could never bring myself to disciplining myself to the point where I could learn all the details that one has to learn to be a good doctor. This is the sort of opposition: somebody who deals directly with human experiences, is able to cure, to mend, to help, this sort of thing. I suppose if I have any nostalgias it’s this, but I console myself because I know so many doctors. And I may say, perhaps, I’m happier writing about doctors than I would have been being one.’

Sylvia Plath discussing her regrets (1962).

Not long until this project gets off the ground!
I’ve got a little team building up steadily but MedGrrl is still looking for more female med students who are interested in blogging!

  • Have you successfully applied to medical school?
  • Have you just finished your first or second years or are you in pre-clinical training?
  • Perhaps you already run a blog about your studies or your life as a med student?
  • Maybe you’re already a doctor and would like to pass on some advice? 

If yes, and you’d like to get involved in a project that aims to help and support girls in the UK applying to medical school and staying there, then get in touch!

Email: Medgrrl@hotmail.com with your name and a bit about yourself. 
I’ve made a facebook group for us to get a discussion going on and i’ll get back to you, tell you a little about myself and give you details on how to join.

I’m hoping to establish a non-profit, student run brand of dedicated bloggers who enjoy writing about their experiences and offering advice to others, the kind of project you’ll be proud to be involved with.

If this applies to you, or people you know, send me an email and help me put some ideas together.

It’d be so great if you could reblog this, thanks guys!