All entries for Tuesday 02 February 2021

February 02, 2021


The last 2 weeks have been full of prescribing. Here at Warwick, we have to sit 2 prescribing exams in our final year – one of these is a national exam, the Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA). All final year medical students in the UK have to sit the PSA, which covers the most common drugs and prescribing scenarios newly qualified doctors are likely to encounter. The PSA covers a lot of emergency situations such as prescribing drugs for conditions such as anaphylaxis, infections, and heart attacks. In addition, newly qualified doctors work on medical and surgical wards, so some of the questions ask about long term management of common conditions, including high blood pressure, kidney problems and lung conditions. Other questions may be based around the complications of commonly used medications – one common example is high potassium levels in the blood, which is a very common side effect of blood pressure medications. There are a LOT of medications which are used in medicine, which can be daunting to learn. However, the scenarios in the PSA exam mostly focus around the most common drugs and drug categories, meaning that revising for it is actually really useful preparation for life as a doctor. This is because we will be seeing patients who take these medications on a daily basis. The PSA is mostly theory based and asks about the theoretical knowledge of prescribing.

The other prescribing exam we final years here at Warwick have to complete is the Warwick Prescribing Assessment (WPA). This exam is slightly different to the PSA in that only Warwick students sit it, and the content of the exam is more practically based. So, for example, the PSA may ask a question about what drug you would use for x condition, but the WPA will have a drug chart and ask you to prescribe it for use. I quite like the WPA in that it tests the actual skills required for prescribing – its good practice. That first time being asked to prescribe an anti-sickness medication as a new doctor will be less scary knowing I’ve done it several times before in practice for this exam. I feel as though this is in keeping with Warwick Medical School’s ethos that graduates should be good doctors who can fit into teams well and do the job to a high standard from the very beginning. COVID-19 has had an impact on our WPA exam, so rather than sitting it in an exam hall, this year we are doing the same exam at home whilst being invigilated remotely. This of course still tests the same knowledge but means that we can have a cup of tea with us for the exam which will surely help with those exam nerves.

The prescribing exams can appear quite daunting – there are so many different medications and it is impossible to know all of the drugs (including uses, side effects, monitoring) in complete detail. However, I feel as though some of my prior experience may come in handy - I worked for 2 years in between my History degree and starting medicine. For one of these years, I worked as a dispenser in a hospital pharmacy where I dispensed lots of medications and looked at quite a few drug charts. Hopefully that extra experience stands me in good stead for these exams. I will keep you updated!

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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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