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February 24, 2021

The Last Day of Placement

I had my Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA) last Monday and I would be lying if I said I didn’t find it tricky! It was a weird experience sitting the exam at home, made more difficult by the lack of the adrenaline of the exam hall to really get you into exam mode. However, I sat it and it’s done – results pending. No-matter the outcome, I’m simply happy to move on and get stuck into revision for real.

Last week was my final official week of medical-school placements as my surgical block came to end. Whilst it was a milestone moment I felt it was all rather anticlimactic as I have spent much of the last fortnight revising for my two prescribing exams instead of at the hospital. However, we did have a mock-OSCE on Wednesday which was arranged by the block lead and some of the doctors involved in teaching the block. Just to remind you of what an OSCE is, is a clinical-style exam where you do activities and have a discussion with the examiner. This was just a practice but actually it was really useful for getting back into the swing of doing timed OSCEs and also for gauging where we are in relation to the level expected of us for finals. It feels strange to say, but I quite….enjoyed the exam! It involved various stations including one station where we had to do a suture whilst being observed. We were given marks for each station and then the highest scoring candidate gets a certificate. I’m proud (and very, very surprised) to say that I got the highest mark! I have to say that I probably struggle with confidence generally, but receiving this good news gave me a little boost and definitely makes me slightly more confident going into finals revision. Added to this is the fact that the surgical block has re-ignited my passion for medicine in general. I do think that in my surgery block I have seen the best of what medicine can do for people – seeing people at their worst moments, their moments of pain and tragedy, but also seeing how medicine can improve people’s lives.

What will I be doing now placements have ended? The next 8 weeks are a revision block called Advanced Clinical Cases (ACC), which is largely self-directed in nature. This means that the medical school and hospitals are putting on activities (such as examination practice), but it is totally up to us what we decide to go to depending on our own learning needs. I’ve booked in a couple of ward sessions to practice my examinations and history taking and also a couple of procedure practice sessions (so practicing taking blood on mannikins) – as these procedural skills do come up in finals. Warwick uses the ‘spiral’ curriculum method, which basically means that essential topics are visited several times throughout the course. The topics we learned in Phase I and Phase II come up again in finals, just in more depth. This means that we go over the basics several times and become really confident at managing common conditions such as heart attacks, lung infections and diabetes, because we’ve learned the principles of these conditions throughout the course. The next 8 weeks are sure to be tiring, but I’m excited to learn and improve. Bring it on!

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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