As we are now in our final year, we have been experiencing the joys of final exams over the past month or so. If the truth be told, the exam season actually kicked off at the beginning of December with the Situational Judgement Test, and we had the Warwick Safe Prescribing Assessment (SPA) exam at the beginning of January (plus the odd mock exam here and there) but it really got underway in earnest with OSCEs (structured clinical exams) on 12 February. With just a month separating the OSCEs and our last scheduled exam in the first sit (this is the national Prescribing Safety Assessment), it’s been a tough old run and most of us just want a few days to sleep and hibernate.
After the written component of our assessment (SAQs and MCQs), our cohort was assessed via the OSLER (Objective Structured Long Examination Record) method. There was a very famous Canadian physician called Dr William Osler (he of the eponymous nodes) and I have often wondered if there is a connection between him and the rather clunky acronym for our exams. Maybe I’ll make it my mission to find out when we’re all done – that is, if I still have the energy!
We haven’t got our results from any exam yet aside from the SPA, so these could be my famous last words, but all in all I found the OSLER process quite manageable. We each were assigned a full day and a half day of OSLERs. I was in a group of people who started our OSLERs very late in the week and thus most of my cohort had had their full day before I did. Of course nobody shared specifics of their cases with anyone else, but I was told that the time does pass quite quickly during the day when you’re actually doing it – and I found that to be the case as well. All of the patients whom I examined were really nice and friendly, and it seemed like they really wanted each student to pass and do well. I am always grateful to patients who give up their time to help us medical students learn and be assessed – they seem to enjoy themselves and it must be great fun to watch students come through all day. I might get tired of being examined repeatedly, but none of them seemed to mind that much. Maybe there was more variation in exam technique than I realised!
Recently our allocations to the Foundation Programme were released. This is the region of the country – known as the deanery – in which we will be doctors for the next two years. This was really exciting for everyone, as it’s a combination of a few things – both our educational performance ranking (for which we get 50 points out of 100) and the results of the SJT exam sat back in December (for which we get the remaining 50 points). Our combined score decides our ranking against all of the other 7,000-odd applicants from all over the country (and even the world, as there is a sizeable international component) and this in turn dictates which of the programmes we are allocated to. It’s very exciting to ponder the next step of our lives, and it’s really hard to believe that in a few short months, we will be sent to all corners of the country to start the next phase of our careers!