Starting my first clinical year.

I am due to start my first clinical placement on the 8th of September after a 1 week induction course. I am not going to lie – I am scared! I am going to make a note of my main concerns and hopefully in a few weeks/months/a year will be able to come back and reflect on whether or not my fears were well placed or not!

My 3rd year placements (also called rotations) are:

6 weeks in psychiatry
5 weeks in paediatrics
1 week in general practice
11 weeks in medicine
8 weeks in surgery
4 weeks in obstetrics and gynaecology

 

Currently I am worried that I am pretty sure I can’t remember anything from the last 2 years of studying. I am also worried that I am going to be terrible at taking blood.

I currently don’t understand what to revise for intermediates and if it is literally everything then I don’t understand that even remotely.

My first placement is psych and that seems intense. Everyone has horror stories and that alarms me a little bit but I am suuuuure it will be fine….

I don’t know if I am going to have a clue what to do on the wards or with my time in general…. The whole thing seems alien and unknown. We shall see!

Beth’s top tips for a good medicine personal statement

Having spent the last 4 years reviewing personal statements in my spare time, I have come to have a fairly decent understanding of what is and isn’t required. So here are my top tips for getting it right!

  1. Do not make lists of things you’ve done. It’s important you show your interest and experience, but you have to remember your competition. Everyone will have shadowed a surgeon, a doctor, a vet. Everyone has done Duke of Edinburgh, worked at a charity shop and helped at a care home. It is all about the reflection which brings me to my next point:
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  2. Write about what you have learnt. Each placement, each experience should be related back to how it makes you a better medical student. Taught someone maths? Leadership and communication skills. Observed a multidisciplinary team meeting? Learnt the value of teamwork in a care environment.
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  3. Avoid the cliches. “Always” being interested in never true. “Fascinations with the intricacies of the human body” fade when you’re in the lab for the 3rd time that week trying to learn it. “Realising that sometimes a little chat with that elderly lady in the care home is really all she needs” changes when you don’t have the time for that any more. Oh, and orienteering your lost group in DoE back to the campsite is not a key skill. Find a different leadership role.
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  4. Don’t tell fibs. They’ll catch you out. If you say you read the sBMJ, read it or they’ll ask at interview and you’ll be stumped. Don’t be the guy who claims he runs marathons and when asked “What do you do when you hit the wall?” answer – “If I bump into things I usually just dust myself off and keep running”.
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  5. Don’t write about your A levels. Colleges love going on about this but it is so irrelevant. Unless you’ve done something obscure, there is no need. Do admissions tutors really not know that biology taught you lab skills? Do they need to be reminded that English Lit encourages essay writing skills? Not really, no. Instead they want to know about you as a person. Not you and every single other applicant who is doing the same subjects. If however, you want to discuss your EPQ or a specific part of your studies – by all means.
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  6. Do not get lost in language. Admissions will have thousands of these to read. One of the requirements of a doctor is also to be clear and understood by patients and other professionals. Write in short clear sentences and try not to sound like Shakespeare. If you feel your statement is better when it is read out loud with large arm movements, you probably need to change it. Remember that while medicine is an art and a science, until you are practicing it as a doctor, it is simply science. Your statement should reflect this.

Good luck tomorrow!

Good luck to everyone receiving their results tomorrow. Remember if it doesn’t go to plan it is not over. Remember if it does go to plan then enjoy what’s left of summer!

The Student Room has great forums ready to advise you on what to do next regardless of what happens. Come and say hi!

Clinical Rotations

So I have got my first ever pure clinical year starting in September and I have finally got my rotation through! When this is changes depending on where you go to med school. At Southampton it is going to be in year 4 for everyone after my year. But as I am on their old course plan I have mine in my 3rd year of BM5 (so 4th of BM6).

I am starting off in community medicine (psych, paeds, GP), then moving onto medicine and palliative care, and finally surgery and obs and gynae! It’s going to be a lot busy year but I am definitely looking forward to not living in lectures anymore! That said I’ll still have Friday lectures  in the morning but that’s about it!

I’ll update with more when I know more.

Reviewing my own personal statement

At the end of my second round of applying I only had one hard offer. Waiting lists just don’t cut it! So had I applied again, my PS is one thing I would have really worked on. With hindsight and experience, my comments on my statement will be in blue!:

 

As a mature student, I took the time to find a career that would challenge me, seeking academic rigour in an interpersonal environment with a foundation in science.

I like this. It took me ages. While it doesn’t specifically say medicine, it is concise and explains why I came to medicine as a career option.  

At 16 I left education due to the financial constraints of independent living. During this time I focussed on what career I really wanted to pursue and gained valuable life experiences.

This was fairly important to me at the time and it explained my gap between college and high school. It isn’t actually doing anything for me that couldn’t have been in a reference though.

Living independently I have overcome many obstacles, balancing homework and housework, education and earning.

Again, at the time it was important and I like the alliteration but I don’t think it is making me a better applicant.

Since October 2007 I have worked in Worthing Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department.

Long and irrelevant introduction. Working in A&E since 2007 – would have been better. October? Who cares. Worthing? Who cares!! And it has it’s own place on UCAS if they really wanted to know.

Performing initial triage allows me to see a range of complaints, familiarise myself with a patient orientated environment and develop an understanding of patient confidentiality.

Good – could have been elaborated though. I have started talking in the present tense which is weird. Stick to past tense.

Working in a front line multidisciplinary team also gives me an understanding of how every person plays a vital part in maintaining excellent patient care under pressure.

Every “person” is a bit generic. 

 Being confronted with often traumatic injuries, I learned the value of organ and blood donations and have now become a regular blood donor. In these sessions I learned how blood is taken and preserved before it is used whole or split into its constituents, for example the plasma is used reverse the effects of anti-coagulants.

This was important to me at the time but again, really not relevant to me as a medical student wannabe.

Returning to college was a challenge I enjoyed and I quickly settled in. Taking contrasting subjects allowed me to grow my research and essay writing skills but also my problem solving and logic.

Again, not highly relevant. They know what I took and what I got from it. Doesn’t matter how quickly I settled in either. 

I have taken advantage of every opportunity available,

“every” is a stretch. I certainly didn’t join a sport or a club etc.

including leading group study in lessons, organising and running revision classes, and coordinating charity events. This helped to hone my leadership skills and taught me how to bring out the best of everyone in teamwork situations.

Leadership is important but so is being a team player. 

I accepted a place on the BrightMed course last year where I had the privilege to experience anatomy at its best and observed a dissection. During the session I learned how each cadaver is treated with respect, and the importance of body donation.

Again the sentiment is nice but this doesn’t make me a better applicant. 

It was fascinating to see the human body in such detail as to be able to identify the cause of death, in this case a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.

IRRELEVANT

Inspired by this, I initiated a college visit to the Body Worlds exhibition “The Mirror of Time” which explores human development and aging. Being able to see the intricacies of the human body was fascinating, providing a more detailed understanding of different systems and processes such as the circulatory system and foetal development, both topics that I had enjoyed during my Biology studies.

Organising the event was good, but the rest of this is irrelevant. My college encouraged talking about college – which is rather misguided. 

Having volunteered at Worthing Hospital for over two years, I appreciate the often challenging work that comes with treating individuals with individual needs.

Ditch the place name but otherwise good. 

I have learned that medicine is often not a simple case of diagnosis and treatment as individuals can have unique symptoms.

Okay… this could be more interesting. 

Talking to patients on the wards showed me how much medicine can improve quality of life which I found thoroughly rewarding.

Nice sentiment but again not great. 

This has led me to take up further volunteering at Worthing Society for the Blind, helping those with vision impairment enjoy a range of craft activities. I found it very humbling to see how people adjusted to the loss of their sight but it was inspiring to see how this was overcome and activities such as knitting were still enjoyed. This firsthand experience of making a difference has reinforced my aspirations to work in a healthcare environment to improve the lives of others.

This is okay. But I certainly could have elaborated on HOW they overcame it. And what I actually did!

My experiences have widened my familiarity with differing levels of care of patients with a range of difficulties.

Good

 

I am keen to learn more I have obtained a work experience placement with a GP in November.

This doesn’t make sense

Through work experience and college I have a developed an understanding of the demands of a medical career both academically and professionally and feel that my experiences have presented me with the potential to flourish in both.

I like the ending haha.

Overall I think this had potential (luckily Southampton saw that!) but needed a lot of work. Writing a PS is hard work so I recommend getting started nice and early!!

How to get started on your Medicine personal statement

I get asked this question a lot and I always give the same advice. Make bullet points under the following headings and then expand each part:

Intro – This wants to be a few sentences, short and specifically detailing why you want to study medicine. Keep it current – nothing about when you were 3 or 4 or 5 and wanting to study medicine. You may have wanted to do it for a long time but they want to know why you want to do it NOW. Try to avoid the cliches, and quotes rarely work well.

Key tip: No one has ever ALWAYS wanted to do it.

Work experience – This part should form a large chunk of your statement. Don’t just list what you did, because remember that you’re up against people who have all done the same. They’ve all worked as a HCA, shadowed a doctor, shadowed a surgeon, worked in a charity show and a care home. It’s all been done. Nothing (well, unless you’ve done something exceptional) is new. Instead you need to show that you have had these experiences and learnt from it. For example

I went to my local GP surgery and I saw lots of patient consultations. To further my experience I went to a local hospital and shadowed an oncologist and a paediatrician and a nurse. I saw that they had long hours but this experience still intensified my passionate desire to work in a hospital.

 

That (stolen with permission) tells you that they spent some time following people. And they liked being in a hospital. It’s almost completely useless and doesn’t tell me anything about you or about what you LEARNT which is the whole POINT of work experience and a PS. Instead, you want to reflect. Did you see good communication skills? Why were they good? Did you see teamwork? Why was it important and why made it good?

Pro Tip: If you’re still doing work experience, try to keep a diary as you go. It makes reflection so much easier.

Volunteering – This comes next and again should form a large paragraph. Start with anything where you’ve been in a caring role, working with children or vulnerable people, working in a care home etc. This can follow the same sort of reflection as work experience.

Then move onto less relevant experience. Charity shops, etc come into this category but it is where you can express your ability to deal with a diverse range of people. Remember that while giving up your time and working with the public are important, being in a charity shop is not enough on it’s own. You need to remember to relate it back to medicine.

Extra curriculars – Unless you’ve done something amazing, you will want to keep this short too. Captain of a team, member of a team, any teaching etc that you want to get in is great but remember most people play a sport and most people have done DofE. In fact a lot of statements I read all say that during DofE they got lost and that you managed to save your group by orienteering back to where you were supposed to be. Orienteering is not a key skill here. Keep. It. Relevant. Remember your competition and keep it short. Anything about gap years or future experiences can go here too.

Conclusion – This should be a couple of sentences. Summarising why you should be chosen.Try not to repeat yourself, but just quickly tell them why your experiences mean you’re better for a place that the next PS in the pile.

 

This is obviously not a required format but it seems to work and is easy to make it flow. Once you’ve expanded it, then it is a case of going over it again and again. Giving it to parents/neighbours (not posting it online) to read and critique. Anyone can tell you if it is good because everyone should have an opinion on who they want as a doctor.

Then put it in a drawer/folder and leave it for a week. Ever read something you wrote years ago and thought “why did I write that?!??”. Well that is what this does. Gives you some distance and lets you review through more critical eyes.

A PS is not something you can do in a day or a week. Don’t leave it until October. Get started now. In fact, if you have time to be reading my blog, you have time to start doing this! So go on! GO! Get started. And good luck!

Semester III

Semester three was (for me) gastrointestinal and nervous and locomotor 2 though this will be semester 4 for anyone starting now.

GI was good! Lots of poo talk but lovely big structures with clear anatomy and well known physiology. It is a straight forward no nonsense topic and I really enjoyed it!

Neuro – yes, it was hard. Yes, I thought I might just fall down dead during revision, but in retrospect it isn’t as hard as people make out. There is a lot of abstract content (and a lot of content in general) but I got really caught up in thinking the anatomy was going to be impossible…. and it really (REALLY) wasn’t. Yes it is a little more abstract but it is far from impossible. In comparison to GI anatomy is harder but physiology is more interesting. I loved learning the way things work and realise why a lot of interesting quirks happen and why symptoms occur. Alternating hemiplegia was particularly interesting.

 

Results came out Friday and after all the hell that was revision I actually did better in Semester 3 than I did in Semester 2 which I thought was easier! I think as you progress it does get harder, but I think that we get better at doing it.

Onto semester 4! My last lecture based year. Eeep!

Semester II

Passed semester 2! Really really pleased. I had some really lovely feedback from my medicine in practice teacher which was brilliant. The exam was so strange, talking to a fake patient while my GP teacher hid behind a curtain! But as the most practical part of the course so far I am really pleased to have done well!

 

Onto Semester III!

Update on Southampton Selection Process for Medicine BM4 BM5 & BM6

Things are changing at Southampton! Here is a quick rundown of the latest info I have:

BM6
No real changes. Entry grades are BBC with interviews decided on personal statement. Graded on interview and personal statement and offers given to the highest scorers.

5A*-C grades at GCSE,

BM5
Big big changes. GCSEs 7A*-A grades, and A levels now required AAAa. In addition, applicants will be ranked by their UKCAT. Anyone scoring below 2500 will not be considered any further. Those scoring the highest in the UKCAT will be invited to interview. The selection day will be a group interview and individual interview.

BM4
Still 2:1 in any subject, C grade now required in Chemistry A level though if your degree contains a lot this can be waived. All applicants will be ranked by their UKCAT. Anyone scoring below 2500 will not be considered any further. Those scoring the highest in the UKCAT will be invited to interview. The selection day will consists of a written component, group interview and individual interview.