End of Year Review

So here we are, first year of Grad Med is over and results arrive Monday. Now I’ve recharged some of my batteries I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the last year.

First and foremost, it’s been tough. Not just academically but also personally. The stress alone is enough to push anyone to the limit. Condensing a 2 years of work into one in any degree is tough, when it’s the entirety of the theory of medicine, it’s astonishing. Thankfully, my previous degree enabled the academic side to come easily. 

Before Christmas, the excitement and almost disbelief at being medicine helped to keep the stress under wraps. Christmas was a distinguishable turning point. The workload increased, more personal problems started to become apparent and this was when my Grandad’s cancer was diagnosed. 

Between January and April, the workload ever increased and unfortunately my grandad’s condition deteriorated until he passed in March, at a time when even without his loss I’d have burnt out. Easter came and went and suddenly exams were upon us and in a blink of an eye they were over.
While the above recollection of the year seems overly negative, there have been great times. I’ve spent time in theatre watching neurosurgery, time on stroke wards, presented research and conferences, won awards and above all found a group of people who were there during tough times and stay there to celebrate the good times. 

My summer contains no such extravagances, just some rest before the next year and possibly get some part time work. 

I want to thank those of you who read this, it only started as a self-indulgent way to get across how I was feeling. I never thought people would want to read it, so thank you for the interest and hopefully see you again next year/when results arrive. 

Til then ciao

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Offers, Waiting Lists and Rejections

It’s that time of year where most of the universities have finished their interview cycles and are sending out their results. Statistically, around 5% of GEM applicants and 20% of Undergrads will have offers.

If you have an offer, congratulations! You’ve made it through the dreaded cycle, now it’s time to get your DBS and contracts signed. Don’t delay on this, don’t give them a reason to reject you after you’ve come this far.

Step 2: Get your student finance application started. Even if you haven’t got all your offers you can change this before you submit it, but get the rest of the application sorted. If you’re a GEM offer holder, I suggest making a decision early as student finance hire temps you do not realise there is funding for GEM as a second degree. If it gets really troublesome, ask for Tier 2 – Graduate medicine department.

Step 3: Attend the open days. These are put on especially for offer and waiting list applicants where you get to judge the university instead of the other way round. You also get to meet your new potential course-mates and jaded medics from years above. There’s normally free food and workshops as well.

If you’ve been put on the waiting list, do not despair. Last year, every single GEM school used up every single place on their waiting lists. This actually extended beyond the waiting list with people getting called up for an offer during the first week of term. Similar to the offer holders, sort out student finance application (but don’t send it until you have the offer), attend the open days and keep an open mind. Make a back up plan for the next year if it happens that you don’t get an offer but make sure it’s not set in stone until you know for sure. It is hell, every single email from that uni will make you jump. I should know, I was one of the waiting list applicants. I ended up getting the offer while working in July (I was 19th/29 on the waiting list), so keep the hope.

If you’ve had the unfortunate situation of being rejected, it’s not the end of the world (cliche, I know). Take the rejection as a lesson, sometimes a uni just doesn’t feel you’re right for them, sometimes you had a bad day, sometimes you just happened to come up against the cream of the crop. Take a step back, think about your next move. Is medicine right for you? Do you want to apply again? What are you gonna do in the meantime? These are big questions but don’t rush to answer them all at once. If you’re a GEM applicant, you have the GAMSAT score for another year (if you did it) and it was obviously good enough to get interview this time so you’ll have a chance to get another the next year.

If you are going to apply again. Ask for the feedback from the interview. They won’t be able to give you the answers but they can send you the reasons why they didn’t accept you. Spend the next year working on that aspect, be it work experience, communication skills or just interview technique. Remember though, most medical schools only allow 2 interviews per applicant but there is infinite amounts of times you can apply (as long as you don’t exhaust the interview limits)

 

Regardless of your decision, I wish you all the best in your careers. Maybe one day we’ll cross paths but you’ll never know we did…

Tempus Fugit

So here we are, a week and a half away from the Easter break. That means there is a mere 7 and a half weeks of uni (as in time in lectures etc..) left of the year. A quarter of my medical degree done.

The general feeling is not so much of stress but tiredness. A combination of a lack of breaks since christmas, mountains of work and a bit of burnout. Despite having a ‘break’, there are 2 essays to be written, a portfolio to be completed and revision to be started.

Time really does fly though, and each day I’m closer to reaching the light at the end of the tunnel that is placements. It also means I’ve done over half my time at uni (4 years out of the total of 7!) and for the first time, I can’t wait to get out of all day lectures and workshops.

Regardless, i’m not wishing away the time, instead simply enjoy what time I have off. This will, after all, be the last year (possibly of my life) where I’ll have significant holiday time off. No point wasting it!

Coughing and Splurting

Well isn’t this typical. Just when the weather is getting good and the motivation has returned, illness appears. Granted it’s only a cold but right now I just want to sleep rather than make use of any free time I have.

The first week of a new module is always hectic. New material to learn and often exams from the previous module. This time it was clinical skill exams. Nothing like trying to take a history from a simulation patient when trying not to sneeze.

As usual, next week will be busier so a relaxing, bed-bound weekend probably isn’t the worse.

Although I did have my first ice cream of the year this week! DSC_0050

A day to reflect

Believe it or not this isn’t going to be a soppy post.

Today was literally spent reflecting.

Unfortunately for us, one of the GMC (general medical council) guidelines for aspiring doctors is for them to have to ability to reflect on their practice. This means filling out weekly reflections on how the week went; what you struggled with and what went well.

Well here’s a reflection. I shouldn’t have left them all to the end of the module. One common thing in life is the accumulation of all the weeks into, what can only be described as, one very long week. So separation of them in order to reflect upon each one was not fun.

Ah well, there’s something to improve on in the future.

Other than that, today was productive. More anatomy revision, more clinical skills revision and some audit surveys completed.

This brings to an end the week of entries which I promised you (and myself) I would do. I might carry on although I feel the daily entries are a bit ambitious (sorry but my life isn’t that interesting). Enjoy the rest of your weekend while you can!

Interviews

‘So why do you want to do medicine?’

This is the ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years time?’ question of all medical school interviews.

As I speak, universities are sending out interview offers to hopeful candidates. Interviews are scary, especially since you’ve spent the best part of a year applying. On the plus side, this is the final hurdle. So to help you, I have some tips to try and calm some of those pre-interview nerves.

Type of Interview

Know the type of interview before you start preparing. Most universities prefer to use the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) process as this is able to test the applicant in many areas during a short period of time. Needless to say, these interviews tend to me more stressful as you have to be able to know a little about everything (a bit like medicine). However, they are short. Most stations are between 5-8 minutes depending on the university.

The other type of interview is the Panel Interview. Panel interviews are generally easier to prepare for and allows the interviewer to gauge an accurate bearing of the applicant. Unlike MMIs, you generally can’t mess up. A mess up in an MMI may affect your score for that station, but there will often be 6/7 more stations to make up for the mistake. Panel’s are slightly less forgiving and a mistake can haunt the interview. If you think you are more of a chatty people person, panel’s tend to be stronger where as MMIs test your ability to be succinct and think on your feet.

Acting

Most MMIs for now contain an acting station. This is based around breaking bad news. As part of the GMC guidelines, they have recognised this is something all medical students should be able to do.

My advice here is to be sincere. The actors will often have a basic script which enables them to respond to what you say and your body language. I have known full-blown arguments to break out in this station.

Accept the fault. Don’t try to make an excuse for what happened, this looks bad. Apologise (throughout) and come up with ways in which you can fix this. The scenarios are non-medical (so no knowledge required – you’re applying to do medicine, not doing it already), often a pet which died while you were looking after it or a missed dinner reservation. If you are doing well the actor may accept your resolution or may make the scenario more difficult (e.g. the pet was brought during their kids cancer treatment).

You can move heaven and earth to come to a resolution. This doesn’t mean jump straight to the most erroneous option, but means you can be a bit creative along the way.

Preparation

Look into the university; what do they offer? what teaching style do they use (PBL or seminars)? what is the structure of the course? how do they teach anatomy? Show them you’ve researched the place at which you want to study, but don’t list reasons, show how this relates to you and your decision.

Ethics. There will always be an ethics question from euthanasia to organ donation to homeopathy. My big tip here: Look up the 4 pillars of ethics and apply these to your answer.

Work experience. Most of your questions will about why you want to do medicine or what drove you to this decision? Whenever using work experience as an answer, reflect on what you learnt and how this affected you.

How much medical knowledge you know will not help you. You’re applying to go to medical school, it’s pointless if you know most of the information before starting!

Finally, DON’T LEARN ANSWERS!!!

Have a template in your head which you can use but it is so obvious when someone has simply recited an answer. Most MMIs now will ask the basic questions in slightly modified way to see if you simply recite or actually answer the question.

Nerves

Nerves are a big part of any interview. There will always be the person who is relaxed and wants to chat beforehand. There will also be the one boasting about which surgeon they shadowed for experience. The only person who determines the outcome of that interview is you! Take deep breaths, you’ve come this far therefore, on paper, they want you. Most interviews will have a warm up question to get you going.

The interviewers know how stressful the environment is at interview. They will understand if you draw a mind blank, or mess up some words. It shows you’re human and will rarely affect the outcome.

 

I wish you all the best with interviews. If you have any specific questions regarding interviews, visit the contact page.

IT’S FRIDAY!!!

Well won’t you look at that, it’s the weekend! Another eventful week has passed but today was a pretty standard friday.

Lecture first thing on embryology of the musculoskeletal system (a lot less interesting than it sounds). This was followed by PBL (case based learning). Our case for this week is a 16yo male who tripped and fell over during national qualifiers for the 800m. Funnily enough, he sprained his ankle (who would have guessed!). Next week our cases all turn towards GI, cause if there’s one thing every medical student is desperate to learn, it’s the Bristol Stool Scale….

We finished today with some clinical skills, examining knees and ankles, both joints I have had numerous problems with in the past (never broken bones, only seem to tear ligaments and tendons), so this session was quite familiar following trips to A&E.

So that was my week (i’ll continue to sunday to make it 7 days). I hope it gave a small glimpse into life as a graduate entry medical student. It just so happened it coincided with the last week of a module when things are winding down slightly.

Rest well and enjoy your weekend!