If any of you are particularly loyal followers of my Blog I’d imagine you probably get a rather favourable view of being a medical student in Cardiff. Some good nights out, interesting intercalated projects, plenty of rugby, the odd expenses paid conference and planning an elective. However, it pains me to say that it is not all fun and games! Today is going to be a minor rant about the more challenging elements of my degree. It’s fair to say the next 5 months or so are probably going to be the most difficult of University academically speaking. To start with there is a progress test in 3 weeks that might count for as much as a quarter of my marks in 4th year. A progress test is where they give you a finals paper to do regardless of your year. Passing the exam is based around getting a reasonable mark for your year so it’s not too bad, but as I started the old course I only had exams at the end so I’m not very used to having high stakes exam throughout the year.
However, if that wasn’t enough, we have another progress test in May and then a clinical exam called an ISCE in May where we are expected to perform examinations, clinical skills and communicate with patients under the close eyes of an examiner to asses your clinical ability. These type of exams tend to be very very stressful. Written exams are difficult enough but the pressure of having an examiner watch your every move is enough to get you anxious 5 months away! Fortunately, that’s it for clinical exams while at med school once that is done but it’s going to be quite gruelling still.
It’s not just the fact the content is difficult, but also the breadth of knowledge you need about different specialities that makes tackling these assessments difficult. The ISCE is going to examine almost everything we’ve done in clinical medicine, from taking blood to taking an obstetric history which means there is going to be a lot to cover. So it’s not even like you can get away with an intense two weeks of cramming at the end. So it’s fair to say it feels like it is all a bit too much sometimes.
That being said, given the amount of material to cover in every year of the course medical students often feel overwhelmed in every year of the course and it’s almost always fine which is at least one reason for optimism. There are also good support systems in place provided by both the University and obviously at stressful times friends can be a great source of encouragement. However, it is probably something to bear in mind if you are considering studying medicine. There is no doubt it’s pretty tough and often in different ways at different stages of the course. For example, 1st year is a bit lighter in terms of timetabled activities than later years but involves doing a lot of basic university medical science that students struggle to see the relevance off which makes revising it not the most fun thing to do. Of course, it varies student to student but many of my friends didn’t enjoy the academic side of 1st year at all. 4th year is pretty different, as you’d expect you’re a lot closer to clinical medicine and on some of my rotations I’ve been assessing patients independently (under supervision) which has been really interesting and makes it a lot easier to remember things, but after a long day on placement sometimes it can be quite difficult to get yourself to do more work after a busy day doing stuff on the wards. Often the last thing you want to do is right some notes about anything medicine related.
So if anyone is thinking about doing medicine, remember the decision to do medicine means committing to a challenging five years of academic study and probably a lot of psotgraduate exams after that as well. There are times when it’s a lot of fun but there are times when it just seems like an awful lot of work. Food for thought perhaps for any budding medics.