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August 04, 2020

SSC2 Lockdown

HELLO I am back!

I apologize for the two months silence. My blogs were getting harder to write as I was mainly sitting at my desk completing my SSC2, so it would not have been hugely interesting for you guys but, I have officially clicked that submit button and the relief is immense!

As we couldn’t go into hospital, Warwick made us third years for 3 months and we completed our third-year research module a couple of months early and we will be completing our second-year placements later on in the year. Again, because we were not allowed in, we all had to do systematic reviews, the one thing I specifically did not want to do. However, after frantic searching of PubMed and Google scholar, I found a topic of Medical Education that had not been reviewed as far as I could see. I must be careful with what I say as our reviews are marked anonymously so I can’t give anything too specific away about my project as our marks haven’t come out yet.

It was… let’s say… trying. I came across so many hurdles including a panicked afternoon where I thought my project would have to be scrapped and re-started again, four weeks before the deadline. However, looking back, I am so proud of getting through it and now have another skill under my belt for my future career (all be it a rather shaky skill). I also developed a bit of a better idea about the world of research, something I ran away from in my undergraduate. I was offered a paid-for masters by my supervisor (I have no idea why, I was useless, all my cells kept dying!) and I shuddered as I had no idea about this world beyond undergraduate. However, through connecting with others on twitter and developing ideas, I am excited about including research into my career. Twitter has been my saviour throughout lockdown. I have developed connections across the UK and it has landed me some of my closest friends. I have a friend in Cardiff who I have never met but I consider like a sister! It’s also shown me the different ways I can incorporate research and how to develop my portfolio (just by spying on other people’s lives!).

This has meant I have begun to think about what I want to do post Warwick. I may be starting the final phase of the medical degree here seven months late but I am still in the mindset that I am nearly a third year. I’ve decided I want to do an AFP programme incorporating medical education however, I want to work at home in Kent. Unfortunately, Kent does not have a separate AFP programme and is incorporated into the South Thames programme which includes London. Kings College (where I want to apply) requires me to be minimum third decile of the cohort to even get short listed, so it’s clear I have a LOT of work to do.

However, I have keeping steady process with my extra-curriculars to be prepared for speciality applications. This year I helped with the GOSH Summer School running their social media account for the conference. I love the team I work for there and got to have a shout out at the end of the conference via zoom which felt amazing. I love GOSH and all the staff there are just amazing as well as welcoming to any medical student and they have added fuel to my fire to get into a paediatric speciality…. I’m just not sure which paediatric speciality yet! I have also been chosen to be on the JASME (Junior Association for the Study of Medicine) national committee as part of their media team which I am over the moon about. Their conference at Warwick got cancelled this year but I am excited to help run it in 2021!

Lockdown has been hard. I lived on my own for 10 weeks and I could go a week without directly talking to anyone and adding this to the sleep deprived state my brain was in due to night shifts and the stress of SSC2, I really did struggle. However, this was beneficial as I realized the importance of having a good social network around me. I ended up going home and continuing my project there. It was chaotic but was the best option for me. I had my dog around to distract me and the cats to walk across my keyboard. It also meant I got some free meals that I didn’t have to cook!

I feel like I have kind of cheated my medical degree. When we started back in 2018 I never thought we would have 21 weeks out of education and now, I am going back to a totally different degree. We are only in clinical two days a week which means we must make the most of every opportunity we can get, and clinics are mainly over the telephone which reduces the amount of patient exposure we get. GP placements will be the same with patients only coming in if absolutely needed. It does worry me that this reduced patient contact may impact my skills, however, this new way of doing things may be the new future for the NHS so it’s important we train to be adaptable to this. Covid-19 really has changed the UK beyond what my January self would believe.

Anyway, that is enough for now. I’ll see you again Mid-August!

October 08, 2019

We are back for seconds!

So, I am back, and have been for four weeks now. It’s been really busy, so I have had barely any time to sit down and think about what has gone on these past 4 weeks but now I have some spare time so let's begin!

We arrived back two weeks before the freshers arrived, it felt both good and weird to be back. Everything was the same, but different at the same time. We have now shifted to being grown up clinical medical students, so our lectures are reflecting that. The lectures are less of “this is how it works and what happens when it goes wrong” and more “it’s gone wrong, now let’s fix it”. I finally feel like I am training to become a doctor! I have also been hot on making sure I keep to my promises from last year in keeping myself well and energized to work. I make sure I stop working at 8pm each evening and just spend the next four hours doing whatever I want, I don’t feel guilty from taking a step back from medicine and even just 4 weeks after putting those measures in place, I can’t believe how I got through first year the way I did.

I am also a residential tutor this year. This means I live on campus in a block with 89 odd freshers (I have my own flat thankfully!) and be their first point of call through the year. So far, I have loved this role and it’s nice to think that I may be helping freshers get through the hardest first two weeks of term they will ever have. However, they have given me two separate types of fresher’s flu of which I am not thankful for them for, but I guess I will forgive them.

We are also now in hospitals on Mondays and I love it (despite my early bus rides from campus). We get to spend more time on the wards, where we will be working one day. I can now take blood from patients as I passed my TDOC on Monday (whoop). One moment that has stuck with me whilst doing my first clinical learning opportunity session with the REACT team at UHCW. My tutor suggested I go and see a patient with Parkinson’s who had significantly deteriorated and was severely ill. I went into the room and instead of throwing 21 questions at the wife, I ended up just helping her care for her husband by helping her clean her husband’s beard from custard. The wife looked exhausted and my first instinct is tea, tea solves everything. I dashed off to make her some, so I now know where the tea station is in ED (which I believe will come in handy) and when I came back, she was alone. I asked if she had had anything to eat and managed to find her some (very dry, very crumbly toast). I went to sit with her just to offer some comfort, but I was whisked away by my supervisor, I hope I helped her a little though! That singular moment there showed me why I had battled my way through first year and what I have to look forward to now I am out of lectures.

AC1 (Advanced Cases) block is a lot less intensive than first year, instead of 5 lectures a day we get 5-7 a week. It feels amazing and I don’t feel like I am swimming against the tide. It’s enabled me to get more involved with life outside of studying. I am a medic mother with a fellow neuro friend of mine, and we have two kids in the year below whom we basically cheerlead on through the year. My kids are also neuro inclined so we are one big brainy family, just as how I imagine my actual family to be! I am also excited to get to teach on Anatomy and Physiology days as well as setting up Flash Seminars to allow more opportunities for peer teaching for those not involved in Student Seminars. I have also re-visited my beloved climbing wall where I fully realized how much I missed climbing over summer. I am even signed off now to belay other people up the wall, something my little sister is particularly excited about.

So far, Year 2 has been brilliant, and I can’t wait to get further stuck into this block. Next Monday, I have the thing I have been waiting for… my surgical induction! I’m now off to a communication skills session with a SIM patient so I guess this is it till the end of the month. School is officially back.

October 03, 2019

I passed! Bring on Phase III

I passed! I’m officially a third-year medical student! I found out my results last Monday and I am so over the moon to have passed my exams and have moved forwards into the next stage of my training. Third and Fourth year are grouped together into one “phase”, which the med school call “Phase III”. This is the final phase of the Warwick MBChB before we (hopefully) qualify as doctors. The way Phase III works is that we have an 8 week block called Student Selected Component 2 which is a research project, followed by 8 x 8 week blocks of “Specialist Clinical Placements” where we rotate around various specialities, including areas such as Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Orthopaedics etc. These are our final placements before we enter the real world, so to speak and go on to become qualified doctors. It feels surreal to say that I am entering the final part of the course when it only feels like yesterday I was packing up and getting ready to move to Warwick to start a new phase of my life.

The first part of Phase III is Student Selected Component 2 which is our chance to complete a research project and develop the research skills required of all doctors. This 8-week block is very self-directed but the first week was a week full of taught sessions relating to our chosen project. My project is interviewing funeral directors and producing a thematic analysis of their experiences of arranging for GPs to complete cremation paperwork. Thus, my sessions were around qualitative research, how to conduct interviews and producing a write up from this. As well as a chance to do research, the block is also a chance to recover slightly from the length of second year and engage in some extra-curricular activities such as teaching or attending conferences.

This week started more slowly with me emailing out the Funeral Directors I want to interview and finding books and articles for my literature review. It feels slightly odd to not be on placement after so long of going to hospital, but it is also a welcome feeling to enjoy being a normal student for a while, being mostly based on campus and at the library. It means that I can start going to the gym again and catching up with friends again. It’s a slower pace of life, but a welcome one.

September 19, 2019

Exams and a long–awaited holiday

That’s it – the exams are over! I had two written exams, one which was a Short Answer Question paper (SAQ) and one Multiple Choice Question paper (MCQ). Overall, I think they went okay, although it is very hard to be able to tell after the fact. For the SAQ, each question requires you to write an answer in prose or bullet points so it tests total recall. The SAQ paper is useful for testing concepts which are lists of things (i.e. list 4 differential diagnoses for central chest pain), or require written argument (i.e. values laws or ethics such as state ethical principles supporting X). The MCQ paper tests fact recall and reasoning abilities, and often out of 5 options, 2 or even 3 may be correct answers, but there is one answer which is most correct. The MCQ then requires you to reason and think about why something is the answer when something else isn’t.

The week after the writtens we had our second year OSCEs. The OSCEs are the “practical” aspect of our exams and test our clinical skills. However, in second year, the OSCEs are very different from first year. In first year the OSCEs focus around being able to do a specific examination or take one history in 10 minutes. In second year, the OSCEs test multiple skills in one station and are true to the clinical environment. So, one station may be 2 minutes taking a central chest pain history, then 3 minutes doing an examination of the heart, then 2 minutes interpreting an ECG. And in addition, each station is now only 7 minutes! This means that time is very tight and we have to be much smoother and slicker with our clinical skills. Overall, I think the OSCEs went okay, they are designed to test you and I was certainly exhausted by the end! I did my best to answer the questions as best I could, but I think the exam conditions make you miss things that you normally wouldn’t. I spent a lot of time in hospital and GP this year and I think this definitely helped, although I would say my performance wasn’t as good as I think it has been on a day to day basis on placement, which is slightly frustrating. I hope that the examiners understand that exam conditions can mean we don’t always perform as well as we are able to.

After my OSCEs ended, so did my exams! It was one of my friend’s birthdays on the day of the OSCE which was unfortunate, but it also meant we could go out and celebrate after our exams were finally over. We went for a lovely meal and a few drinks to celebrate and start off our 2 weeks off before third year starts. I’ve arranged a lovely week in Newquay in Cornwall which is my first holiday in a long time. I’ve been looking forward to kicking back and relaxing on the beach for a long time.

Very soon, we begin third year and our ‘Student Selected Component 2’ module, which is where we undertake a research project. I’ve spoken about this on my blog before - I’m doing a project looking at how doctors and Funeral Directors work together after someone passes away. I know this is a slightly unorthodox project but it should hopefully uncover some interesting results that I can write into a report. We get our exam results on Monday and start our projects on Tuesday, which is slightly terrifying as it means if we need to re-sit we have to continue with third year at the same time as revising for resits. Fingers crossed!!!

August 15, 2019

Signing off for Summer

What. A.Year.

It’s flown by and it only feels like 5 seconds ago I was walking in through the doors of WMS and collecting my orange lanyard. I still can’t believe that I’ve managed to learn as much as I have learnt and got through the exams. If you had shown to me all the work I would be doing over this year and how much I would have to learn back in September, I probably would have frozen to the spot with fear.

Apart from the academia, I have learnt so much about how I need to approach next year. For starters, I need to take time out. I’ve spent too much time glued to my desk in the MTC before exams and I was most certainly burnt out by the time we reached the end of OSCEs. I want to get involved in running student seminars, anatomy days, physiology days and take time out for climbing and friends. I also want to get involved in research up at UHCW and start to build on my CV and surgical experience in the field I want to follow.

Second year also brings about the arrival of SSC1 which is a module we get to pick. There were a couple of options that took my interest, but I decided to go for Middlemarch (medical humanities) as my first choice and medical ethics as my second. This morning I found out I got my first choice of Middlemarch and I can’t wait to get into the book when it arrives tomorrow. I was surprised that I got my first choice because this is normally the most popular one so I was pretty happy when it came through. I am looking forward to it because I can potentially bring my favourite book into the coursework element of it, and I don’t need telling twice to be able to talk about “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time”.

I am also looking forward to maintaining my links with GOSH over the next year. I have been privileged enough to be invited back to sit on their summer school de-brief to discuss how to promote GOSH educational events, and hopefully be able to volunteer at their conferences in the future. This is the hospital I have always dreamed of working in. The recent separation of the twins conjoined at the cranium was just the extra motivation I need to keep going. I want to be there, at the front line of developing technologies helping to make critically ill children’s lives better. I knew I always wanted to work in the field of paediatrics, but having experienced and talked to the clinicians at GOSH, I know that’s where I need to be and where my personality and enthusiasm fits in the best.

GOSH seems to be a repeating theme with me and during the past couple of weeks, I have also been to Brain School which has been set up by a GOSH neurosurgeon. I’ve wanted to attend this event for a while but it’s difficult to get down to London with the first-year timetable so now I am back in Kent, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to go. The lecture was given by Prof. Mark Wilson (who is also running trials at Warwick!) and he talked about Neuro trauma and how these patients need to be treated more specifically in the field. I also learnt a few “pub quiz” facts such as “the cranium will always contain the same amount of blood when you die no matter if you have died from haemorrhage or asphyxiation” and “the brain is the only organ that is protected against atmospheric pressure”. We were also introduced to the Good Sam app which allows a by-stander to activate an alert for a cardiac arrest to near responders and for remote responders to see the patient’s stats, just by the camera. It uses some AI technology but just by holding the camera to the patients face, it shows blood oxygen saturation and heart rate with complete accuracy. This was incredible and I can imagine how critical it will be for incidents in remote areas where it may take responders more time to arrive at the scene in comparison to an inner-city cardiac arrest.

I am now signing off for the summer. I’ve got some work with Medify to try and give me a bit of pocket money but I want this summer to be a break. This has been a hard year. I am slightly nervous abut adapting to the change of learning style in January next year from lectures to bedside teaching. I don’t deal hugely well with dramatic changes and it will be weird coming out of 4 straight years of lectures to an academic day once every two weeks. However, I am looking forward to it. There’s only so much lecture hall you can put up with! I’ll see you in September!

Good luck to the second years who are currently revising for their exams!

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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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