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July 30, 2018

Graduation

Thursday 19 July was the day that we’d all been waiting for. After four years of hard work, just over 150 men and women walked across the stage at the Arts Centre, shook hands with the Chancellor of Warwick University, and collected MB ChB degree certificates from the head of the programme. I was honoured and delighted to be among them. When I accepted the offer from Warwick Medical School back in April 2014, I didn’t know what to expect but I never thought it would be like this. I didn’t think I would make such good friends, learn such a huge amount of information, and miss the environment of WMS so much once I’d left.

The day itself went by in a roasting blur – this wasn’t helped by combining the month-long heatwave and wearing very heavy black robes on a sunny day in July! But it doesn’t matter – at least if we have one thing in common, other than that all graduates were a sweaty mess by the end of the day, it’s that we actually did it! We actually graduated from medical school! In the ceremony itself, we listened to some fantastic music by Warwick musicians, heard some inspiring speeches (including one to the MB ChB graduates in particular by an alumna) and got to applaud our coursemates as we watched them all officially become doctors.


Probably the most inspiring moment of the entire ceremony was the recitation by all MB ChB graduates of the Oath of Geneva, led by a member of our cohort. I normally hold myself together well, but I have to admit to a small lump in the back of my throat by the end of the oath. We all promised before ourselves, our families and each other to take seriously our responsibility to providing the best care possible and be the best doctors we can be, and the oath was a public commitment to this. It represented what we had been working for this whole time, and now we are entrusted with some serious responsibility.

After the ceremony, which honestly flew by, we paraded out to the stone steps on the piazza and gathered for the (in)famous group picture that will grace the walls of the Medical Teaching Centre for years to come alongside every other graduating year. Grouping us by height made herding cats look easy! The poor photographers – at least they’re making good money from the cost of the photograph. Yikes! We got one nice, formal snap and one with our hats thrown in the air, and I cannot wait to get mine in the post. Following the photograph free-for-all, the medical school was kind enough to put on a very nice lunch buffet for graduates and guests. The food was lovely and the atmosphere was great. Finally I got to meet the parents and families of my friends and acquaintances – the ones who had tales of support and sympathy similar to those my own family tell. It was a wonderful experience and one which I shall always remember.

It seems we have now come to the end of the road. At this point, it only remains for me to thank you, dear reader, for following this blog and gamely tolerating my adventures in medical school and throughout Warwickshire and the West Midlands over these years. I wish you the best, wherever you may be, and I remain respectfully yours.


July 16, 2018

Reflecting on Four Years of Medical School

I still remember every day of my pre-med-school life: I remember the day I sat the UKCAT. I remember the day of my interview (it was totally different to how they do it now!). I remember the day I got my offer to study medicine at Warwick, the day I left my old job (and salary…) and took a plunge into the unknown, and the day I moved up to Coventry to start medical school. I remember the excitement in the air on our first day: 170 new and nervous people all crammed into the lecture theatre together for the first time. I remember feeling excited and bewildered and finding it slightly hilarious to be having another Freshers’ week!

And we made it through. We made it through the first year, where everything was new and the volume of information seemed HUGE at the time (little did I know…), and they said we would gain the equivalent of a new language with all of the new terms and expressions that we were expected to know; those words and phrases roll off our tongues without hesitation now. I thought they never would do but now it seems entirely normal. We made it through all five blocks, as the wonders of the human body became clear to us. We had to learn how things were supposed to work correctly before learning how they can go wrong. I’m an anatomy geek (in another life I would have been an engineer, I suppose) and so Locomotion (Block 4) was far and away my favourite block. We made it through first-year exams – I’ve sat a lot of exams in my day and these were the hardest I’d ever sat.

We made it through Phase II, where we actually got to spend time in hospital and got to attend clinics for areas we were interested in because we had time for them and were encouraged to learn about everything. These were the days when we had time to spend the afternoon watching a thyroid operation if we wanted to – and if we were lucky, we would get to scrub in, and you can be certain that we would tell all of our friends about it at the weekend and they’d probably be jealous! Phase II was the time where all of our pre-clinical teaching came to life: all of the things we’d read about were now right in front of us. I got to manoeuvre the camera on a laparoscopic appendicectomy (a keyhole removal of an appendix) and it was the coolest thing I’d ever done. I saw a patient’s liver! This made my week.

And we made it through Phase III, probably the largest volume of information I’ve ever had to learn in my life (and I’ve already got a few degrees under my belt). Phase III was the specialist clinical placements – our time was much more restricted and focused in this year. We no longer had time to bounce around between interesting clinics because, after all, you ever know what’s going to come up on finals! And we were on for 48 weeks out of 50 in 2017, it was the longest and shortest year of my life at the same time, but I learned more information than I ever thought possible. And guess what: we made it through. Of course we did.

Now that we’re done with medical school, I can honestly say that I am so glad to have done it this way: although the work was really hard and sometimes I thought I would go mad from stress, I learned so much that I can’t even put it into words. It showed that we can do it. I learned about how the body works, what goes wrong with it and how to fix it. I learned how to interact with patients and colleagues in a clinical setting. I learned about disease and management and everything else. And, I’d like to think, I learned how to be a good, competent and safe Foundation doctor – because that is what I plan to be at the end of the month. Now, the only thing that remains is for us all to walk across that stage and collect our degrees. Watch this space…


John


June 25, 2018

The End of Assistantship and the Beginning of the World of Work

Our last block of medical school has come to an end. On Thursday of this week, we attended our last half-day of lectures at the Medical Teaching Centre, handed over our Assistantship sign-off books, and walked out into the pouring rain for the last time. It is a very strange feeling – so many hours and days of our lives have been spent in this building, it’s hard to believe that we’ll not be going back again. But at the same time, we are all very ready to move on to the next step in our lives, start putting our training into practice, and start earning some money.

The end of Assistantship was quite bittersweet. We have spent so many of the past years at the local hospitals in Warwickshire that they have become very familiar to us. We know the codes to the stock cupboards, we say hello to the porters, we even give directions to visitors in the corridor when they are looking lost. Yet those of us who are not staying are probably not coming back to these hospitals again. We’ve done the drive up the A444 or down the A46 for the last time, and now all that is left is for us to walk across the stage and collect our degree certificate.

All of the doctors, nurses and other clinical staff on our ward were very friendly and I really enjoyed both of our Assistantship placements. True to form, it was really effective at teaching us what F1s (foundation-year 1 doctors) actually do whilst on the ward. At the beginning, I wondered if eight weeks wouldn’t be a little overkill, but it was actually really useful and worthwhile – I feel much more comfortable about what is expected of us than I did before, and this is after spending several years on hospital wards as a learning student.

And interestingly, in Assistantship we were with entirely different clinical partnership groups than we’ve had up to now. I have no idea why the med-school admin team did this – I had a new clinical partner and we were paired up with two other individuals whom I’d not worked with before. But what I truly believe about Warwick Medical School students is that we just get on with each other really well – put any of us together in a small group with each other and we’ll do just fine. Maybe it was the Selection Centre (the interview process) all those years ago, in which groupwork played an integral role of our assessment. Or maybe it’s just years of collaborative working together that have helped us cooperate with one another. I don’t know, but I really think that Warwick Medical School do a great job of making sure that we are able to work in any team and work well. And that’s a skill which I think will serve us all for a very long time to come.


John


June 11, 2018

Learning How to be an F1: It’s More Than Just Writing in the Notes!

Now that final exams have become nothing but sweet memories, we are currently making our way through our final block at Warwick Medical School. This is Assistantship, in which we learn everything that foundation doctors in their first year (commonly known as F1s) actually do. It’s a transition period where we put all of our accumulated knowledge into practice, so that we can hit the ground running in August when we start working as qualified junior doctors. It’s all becoming a bit real now!

The great thing about Assistantship is that we have a sign-off list of tasks that we have to be certified as having completed, but we don’t have the stress and pressure of exams hanging over our heads. This means that we can throw ourselves into learning in a supportive environment without feeling like we are missing out on revision or learning elsewhere, or feeling bad because there’s something else we should be doing (like burying our noses in books). And of course we get to trail F1s, who were in our places just one short year ago. It’s very collegial. The sign-off tasks include things like being present for death certification, shadowing nurses on drug rounds, making sure that we can complete an electronic discharge summary (a major part of the F1’s jobs) and many other day-to-day tasks on medical and surgical wards.

We are also required to complete a couple of out-of-hours shifts with our F1s. This is to prepare us for our medical on-call shifts when we are junior doctors and show us what it’s really like. I spent an overnight shift with my F1 earlier this week and it was really useful. Many people are understandably apprehensive about these shifts, because we’ll be on call overnight and the first doctor that most nurses will contact. But the good thing about having a couple of these shifts under our belt during assistantship is that we really see how well supported the F1s really are throughout the night. There are senior nurses on almost every ward, and loads of people (like registrars and even consultants) whom you can phone to ask questions if you need to. It’s all about knowing when you need help and whom to contact. I wouldn’t say that I’m going to be an expert by any means, but shadowing in this role during Assistantship has definitely helped prepare me and set my mind at ease – and that’s really the point of the entire block, isn’t it?

It’s hard to believe that it’s all coming to an end now. We are all packing up our houses and our lives and getting ready to move to another part of the country and be actual doctors! I think it’s really helpful, however, how the medical school manage the transition. Assistantship is exactly what it should be: a post-exams period to help bring us up to speed with the daily tasks and role of the junior doctors we will be in a few short weeks.


May 30, 2018

Assistantship – Putting Learning into Practice

Now that we’re done with finals, elective is over and most of the difficult assessments are behind us, our cohort members are able to relax a tiny bit and enjoy the final tasks of medical school: trailing F1 doctors, getting stuck into teams in the hospitals, and learning the practicalities of how doctors actually do their jobs on the wards. This is the Assistantship phase, in which we learn what it takes to be a junior doctor, and prepare properly for our role in two short months! It’s hard to believe that we’re so close to finishing now.

The medical-school admin team try to match up students who are staying locally for their foundation years with the team that they will do their first rotation with. This way they can get to know the actual team and wards they’ll be based on when they start. It seems such a nice way to ease into the world of working on the wards and relatively stress-free. Those of us who aren’t staying around, however, are unfortunately not so blessed. I am planning to go to a hospital in the Southwest of England and therefore my experience on Assistantship, like the majority of the cohort, is sadly more generic. It’s absolutely fine, however, and every bit as useful as I would expect.

However, I think I have been lucky with Assistantship in some respects: two of my rotations in my first year of the Foundation Programme are respiratory medicine and upper-gastrointestinal surgery, and these are the two areas where I have been placed for Assistantship. This means that I will have some idea of what to expect next year and what F1s are expected to do in these roles. Although each trust is different (this is stressed a lot), some things will be common between all hospitals in the UK. I imagine this includes things like the types of procedures that are carried out in surgery, the demographics (roughly), the types of conditions that are present on respiratory wards, the general treatments and so on.

Outside of Assistantship, I still try to teach students in younger years when I can for a couple of reasons. First, I honestly believe that nobody should be in competition with one another in medical school – we are all here to help one another out, because if we become better doctors, then our patients are the ones that win. Second, I have certainly attended more than my fair share of peer-support sessions over the years and the least I can do is repay the favour in kind. A few weeks ago, I taught some second-year students at a weekend (people give up their weekends to be taught – amazing dedication!) and, I have to be honest, I’m quite glad that that part of my life is behind me. Although medical school has been fun, there are some parts that I’m quite happy not to repeat! Now I’m looking forward to the future, and enjoying the last parts of the journey along the way.


John


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Our Med Life blogs are all written by current WMS MB ChB students. Although these students are paid to blog, we don’t tell our bloggers what to say. All these posts are their thoughts, opinions and insights. We hope these posts help you discover a little more about what life as a med student at Warwick is really like.

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