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July 30, 2018


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…


June 29, 2018

The end of an era..

Well that’s it, I’m done, finished, finito! I handed over my assistantship booklet to be signed off on our last day and with a quick smile and a tick by my name I had completed medical school. Where has the last 4 years gone? I remember in first year seeing the final year students revising and thinking how far away that seemed, and now it has come and gone!

The last few weeks of medical school have been useful, strange but useful. I was no longer with my clinical partner who I have come to rely on for so many things in life and people were starting to expect more from me on ward rounds than lurking at the back. Adjusting to a new set of expectations from others, as well as myself, has taken some getting used to and my learning curve has only just begun.

Our 2-month long assistantship block has been useful in preparing me for life as an FY1 Doctor. I feel much more confident in some of my clinical skills and feel comfortable talking to patients and colleagues alike. I also feel more comfortable asking for help. In medicine it is just as important to know when to ask for help as it is identifying situations where you know it is safe to take the lead. This skill will set me in good stead as I expect to be asking lots of people for help most of the time when I first start my job! I also took the opportunity to do a few night shifts so I know what to expect. I shadowed one of Warwick’s brilliant clinical educational fellows for their night shift as they provided ward cover. For a small hospital like Warwick there is just one person covering the wards at night, with a registrar on site and a consultant at home for back up. Observing and helping with the types of jobs that crop up on night shift was very useful, one ward had a patient with terminal cancer with nausea and wanted advice as to what medication might work best, another ward had a patient who had fallen out of bed and hit their head who required assessment, other jobs included new cannulas so that medication or fluids could continue. We were also responsible for crash calls, both nights there were crash calls-one of which I had to put out myself which was nerve-wracking. I felt quite jittery after the crash calls but it’s better to be exposed to emergency situations as medical student first than experience those situations for the first time when you are the doctor called to that situation.

Amongst assistantship I have also had some serious life admin to organise, namely moving to a new house and starting my new job. Moving to a new house is always stressful and I’m trying to put off packing as long as possible but I also needed to go up to Newcastle, where I will be starting work, for a HR appointment and blood test before I could start my new job. I was quite excited to visit the hospital where my first rotation is for the first time, even if it was for a blood test! Walking the corridors that had the same NHS familiarity to them, made me realise that in just 4 weeks’ time I am going to have an ID badge around my neck saying Dr Joanne Wallace, and all the responsibility that comes with that.

We had our graduation ball in our last week, which was great send off for us all. It was great to celebrate all our achievements in medical school on a beautiful summers evening with a glass of bubbly in hand! The next time I see lots of my colleagues will be at graduation in a few weeks. At graduation we will all stand and recite the Declaration of Geneva in unison, and then 25 years after drawing a picture of myself in a white coat when I was in primary school, I’ll finally be able to call myself a Doctor. This is the end of my medical student story, I wish you all the best of luck in your own stories!


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.


June 11, 2018

What does a FY1 actually do?

I’ve now moved onto the second part of my Assistantship placement, after 4 weeks in A&E, I’m now on a general medical ward working with the haematology team. Working on a general medical ward is very different to A&E. Most medical wards have their own routine of ward rounds followed by various jobs. On a medical ward it’s also important to be proactive about planning for discharges. This is important to ensure beds are available in the hospital and to ensure patients get home quicker and in a safe and organised way. The FY1 is very important to this, as its usually their responsibility to write the discharge letters. This can be a tedious task but if it’s not done on time it can cause huge delays! Learning about managing jobs like these is something we didn’t cover in medical school, which is why we have our assistantship block to learn about these vital tasks and to find out what the FY1 has to do on a daily basis.

I’ve also had the opportunity to attend the twice weekly FY1 teaching. This has been interesting to see what sort of topics are covered and at what level. Once a week FY1s take turns to present sort presentations to each other on various topics, focusing on the role of the FY1 in recognising and managing those conditions. In the other teaching sessions, a consultant will give a talk focusing on common presentations within their specialty, again focusing on what is expected of an FY1 in those situations. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the level of knowledge hasn’t been that different from finals, but there is more focus on local services and referrals processes. It’s often the FY1 sorting out tests or organising referrals to different services so it’s important they know who to contact in lots of different situations!

As well as spending lots of time in hospital during assistantship I also got the opportunity to attend the Warwick Medical Education Conference, an annual 1-day conference organised by the Medical school. Members of staff from the university and the local hospitals present their latest research and educational projects, and students also get the opportunity to present work they have done in medical education. Some students in 2ndyear presented the work they had done with peer teaching between students with non-science backgrounds which was interesting and I took the opportunity to present some of the work I did at the start of 3rd year (the SSC2 research block) when I conducted a questionnaire asking students about their career ambitions. My presentation went well and was early in the morning so I could relax and enjoy the rest of the day. It was interesting to hear about educational initiatives being trialled here at Warwick. I hope medical education and teaching is something I can be part of as an FY1, teaching medical students and as I become more senior teaching junior colleagues. I think teaching is a great way to bring variety to your medical career and to keep you excited and interested in your job in amongst all the shift work!

Speaking of shift work, I’ve shadowed the FY1s on some of their medical on call shifts, long shifts that take place 9am-9.30pm. These shifts are very hard work but this week I’m also going to go on some night shifts, I may be mad doing these voluntarily but I don’t my first night shift to be on my first job where I am responsible for patient care. Doing some night shifts during assistantship I can see what it’s like working at night in the hospital and what it’s like trying to work at 3am, while still being supervised in everything I do! Wish me luck!

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About our student blogs

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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