So, I was helping out at the interviews this week and I noticed similar questions kept coming up time and time again. This gave me the idea to write this blog and I have also had some questions from my Instagram page @themedbeeblog so enjoy!
Do you get much sleep?
Answer: Yes and No
This was a funny one and I honestly laughed a bit because no one has ever asked me this before so I actually had to evaluate my life at this point. The answer is yes but you will feel tired and it’s down to the individual in question. Personally, I identify as a night owl so early mornings are hard which means those 5am starts on Friday kill me. However, I get 6-8 hours sleep a night as I have learnt to go to bed when I am tired (normally 10 or 11pm). This is because it’s too late to drink coffee and I do not learn when I am tired. There are some med students who will stay up to the small hours working and then go and do another day of lectures. I can not do that. I tried it in Block one and it lasted a week. There is no reason you can’t get enough sleep at med school during the normal term (exam time may be an exception) it’s all about how you want to manage your time.
How much extra work do you have to do? or How much extra work is there?
You will never get asked by any lecturer “oh, have you done the work from the last lecture?”. You are an adult learner, especially at grad level where you have completed a whole degree already. No-one is there to tell you to do work and it is up to you how much you do, how you do it and when you do it. You could easily breeze through the entire year having only gone to lectures and nothing else but I can imagine that won’t be a good tactic to have used come exam time. My extra work consists of re-writing the lecture notes to my own way of thinking and completing my anatomy book with lots of detail each week. If there is something that has completely clouded me I draw on the MTC’s whiteboards for a day or go to my lecturers. An example of this is the heart when I was struggling to get my head around the vessels supplying the structure so I took a model from the common room, obtained resources from my anatomy teacher and drew the vessel until I got it.
It’s entirely up to you, you drive your own learning at med school. They just give you the initial kick start and then it’s down to you. However, it does become a natural thing. After lectures, most people migrate to the PC room at the MTC or the main library on campus. I tend to live in the MTC as I like studying outside my room in which my productivity rate is severely reduced.
How do you manage to keep up with everything? / Do you struggle with the workload?
Answer: I don’t / YES
You will be up to date in the first week (and there will be some people who are up to date the entire year) but honestly, I am always at least 2 days behind. There is a lot of work, but it’s so much more important that you understand what is going on rather than being constantly up to date. I have 6 lectures to catch up on still from block 2 that ended two weeks ago. It’s ok to be behind. This took me a while to accept and I stressed myself out so much over it. I prioritise some tasks over others which helps. An example of this is Anatomy as we have the sessions each Friday. I make sure I am up to date with those lectures and that my workbook is filled in before each session (and occasionally I used the two-hour break I have at the hospital to get the last bits filled in).
Honestly, you are drinking from a fire hydrant with the amount of content you have to learn, but none of it (most of the time) is particularly hard, there is just a lot. So you come up with pipes and loops and diversions to send that water on a by-pass trip to when you can find the time to work on it. It’s ok not to be this stunning student who knows it all, no-one is and if they say they are … they are lying 🙂
Do you ever feel inadequate?
Answer: Yes, but I try and not let it get to me
This is particularly more relevant to the GEM course, something which I initially set out to do on this blog. On these courses, you have everyone from a non-science background to people with PhD’s in anatomy/virology or have been a paramedic/ HCA/ PA for years before. I came from a very specific science background and so for all this term, I have felt inferior to everyone else. It’s taken me forever to grasp some concepts and I have felt a complete failure half of the time. However, it’s important to try and ignore what people have come with and are sprouting out and focus on you.
I sit in CBL sometimes with people who have come from the more traditional backgrounds (Biomed, Medical Sciences) and I kick myself when I don’t know things because I am from a science background and I should know these things. However, in reality, these people have had entire modules on one of the lectures and so understandably know it back to front. I remind myself that in block three, I will hopefully have the same opportunity to teach as my peers did this term not necessarily because I have covered the content before, but neuro is what excites me and I will be over enthusiastic with trying to learn things.
You just have to embrace it all, and use it to your advantage? Struggling with anatomy? Find that person who is an expert and ask if they will teach you. Struggle with the RAAS system? Ask the guy (as we do) who knows it to teach it in a CBL session. Everyone should support each other, particularly on a med course as we are going on to become doctors who need to support each other, so why not start now?
It’s normal to feel inadequate but sometimes it’s important to remember once in a while to look back on yourself and how much you have learnt since the start of the course. I am in no way shape or form the best in the year, but I am proud of the progress I have made so far.
How do you switch off?
Answer: By doing whatever the hell you want
This is such a broad question and will be different for every single medical student out there. For me, it’s hard because traditional ” watch a film/read a book/ play sports” does not work for me. My brain does not like being idle so I have decided that alongside my studies to teach myself the guitar and next year I want to learn some basic sign language so I can communicate with death patients before a translator arrives. However, some people in my year play sports every evening, I did revue for two weeks, there’s some who binge Netflix for an hour or so before bed. There is no right or wrong way, as long as you get the subject of Medicine out your head, then stick with it 🙂
What’s your typical week like?
Answer: Depends on what week of the block we are on but…
All days (bar Wednesday) are 9-5pm whilst Friday (depending on your rotation) is 8am till 5pm.
Monday we have lectures in the morning (normally about 3/4) and then CBL/Anatomy in the afternoon.
Tuesday is normally a full day of lectures but is broken up with Soc Pop so it’s not all science heavy content.
Wednesday is a half day of lectures followed by an afternoon off in the first week of every block but otherwise is a full day off!
Thursday we have CBL /self-directed learning in the morning and lectures in the afternoon.
Friday we have an 8am lecture at the hospital followed by clinical skills and anatomy (using the plastinates and surface anatomy models).
In January we will start our hospital teaching so Mondays and Tuesdays become half days at uni and then the other half is self-directed learning/hospital teaching. At the weekends there are events put on by the upper years such as anatomy and physiology days which are optional but I always go to them as sometimes just being taught the topic differently can make you “see the light”. The free pizza helps too.
Did you have any expectations before med school and have your perceptions changed?
I went into my first day thinking I would be solidly working from 9am-10pm and managing to juggle a social life and starting to do some exercise on the regular. I can safely say none of this has happened 😀
I am 100% not working 9am – 10pm every day. I think I did in my first week but that quickly stopped. I was just exhausted constantly and so this was not a viable option. It’s also taken me a while to develop a new method of getting my notes written up and making sure I understand what I have learnt which has taken a good 8 weeks. This is fine though as I have 60% of the year still to go and Block One will not be an issue to go over.
I also expected it to take forever in terms of settling down. Being on the spectrum I have problems adapting to new places/timetables/routines so I was expecting to have the troubles I did over my undergraduate. This included not being able to eat and going through extreme bouts of homesickness. However, in a nice surprise, none of this happened. I have found an amazing bunch of friends and in all honesty, I think the demands of the course haven’t let me over think the situation so it’s actually been a smooth transition. I know I am still working things out in my brain with regards to getting in a routine which I know I have nearly solved and I hope to work in some time to go climbing or swimming next term.
With regards to the amount of work I expected, it pretty much has lived up to my expectation. There is a lot, and though the content is not particularly hard, it’s the sheer amount that is the issue so you can’t toddle through the term as you need to keep up. However, as said before, some good old-fashioned organisation seems to help here.
The people on the course have also surprised me. I expected to feel inadequate at every turn and for everyone to be a lot cleverer than I am. I expected everyone to find it easy and for me to be struggling. However, this is not the case. Everyone is lovely here, no matter what year/person/level of qualification you speak to. One of my good friends has a PhD in anatomy but is one of the humblest guys I know and if someone is braggy and showy off (I haven’t encountered anyone as of yet), you just tend to ignore those bits of that person’s personality. I am 100% committed to the fact that the graduate entry course was right for me. Everyone is lovely here, which isn’t surprising as if you are a decent human you will make a good doctor and are more than likely to get into med school. It’s nice to be surrounded by people who have come from so many backgrounds (I sound like I am promoting the med school here) but for everyone to have the same common goal…. To pass the first year 😀
Does it feel like a dream?
Answer : Yes and No
It really did the first couple of weeks but as the stress grew, reality hit and I was wondering why I ever thought it was a good idea. However, sometimes I do still sit there and think about how this time last year, I never ever thought I would be in the position I am today. I never thought I would even get an interview, let alone two offers from the universities I loved the most. Sometimes, when I am working and typing down notes such as “how to manage anaphylaxis” and I realise that I am not just learning this to get a grade, it really does hit me that I am here.
My friends and I often do talk about how crazy it is that we are here and we know how lucky we are. 1600 (ish) people applied to Warwick last year and they let in (roughly) 200. That’s a 1:8 chance. We’ve managed to prove ourselves against 7 other people and even though we do moan about how tired we all are, I don’t think anyone would have it any other way. In a way, these odds help you get through as a lot of times I sit there thinking that I am in no way able to do this course, but they must have seen something in me right? I think also finding out the head of admissions is our head of anatomy (who is also on the interview panel at the royal college of surgeons) gave me a bit of a confidence boost. Just remember I need to keep proving myself as he could be deciding if I get my job one day!