At the end of 2017, we completed our year of Specialist Clinical Placements, which for us was marked by the end of the Psychiatry block, which I actually enjoyed far more than I thought I would. It wasn’t until we’d got to the end of the year, though, that we’d realised how quickly it had flown by! Forty-eight weeks of fifty (with just two weeks off in August) is really hard going, no matter who you are. I always had more time off than that when I was working. At least over Christmas, most of us had some time to relax and some good excuses to be a little lazy. I had the chance to spend some time out of the UK for a couple of weeks, and I’m really glad that I did – it helped me appreciate the West Midlands much more when I got back, and I really needed a change of perspective.
Our final exams start in just over a month, and it’s really difficult to believe that they’re almost upon us. I don’t quite know what to expect. I’ve sat Phase I and Phase II exams (of course) and they’ve been… tough but not impossible. Phase I was relatively straightforward as the content was (mostly) presented to us throughout the course of the year; the pace and the volume was a huge struggle, but it was obviously not entirely insurmountable. I personally found Phase II exams to be a lot more unexpected in content and nature than Phase I, but thankfully they’re behind me and my cohort now. I think (and truly hope) that as long as each of us has kept up with our work throughout the year and has maintained a consistent stream of work over each block, we should hopefully be OK when it comes time to put pen to paper for the Phase III exams.
We have already sat the Safe Prescribing Assessment, a Warwick requirement to graduate (although not, as I understand it, a GMC requirement). Now it’s just a matter of waiting for results and dealing with the consequences, whatever they may be. The prescribing exam tests our ability to interpret instructions given to us by using the British National Formulary (a huge compendium manual covering basically every single drug available to be legally prescribed by healthcare professionals in the UK) and transcribing them onto mock drug kardexes (they resemble drug charts for patients in hospital) and discharge letters. It sounds straightforward but it’s a lot more complicated than one would initially expect. I know that many people, including me, found the exam really tricky.
It’s really important that we med students also look after our physical and mental health. It’s really easy to get in the habit of burying our nose in a book for 12-15 hours per day. But I have been forcing myself to do things like swim and take walks around the neighbourhood. I find it much more efficient to work after I’ve cleared my head, and swimming also helps me sleep better at night so that I’m less sluggish during the day. Is it a winning formula? I’ll know the answer to that in a couple of short months!