TheMockOSCE.com

Hey everyone – a couple of Ex Dundee medical students have made a website for students trying to improve their OSCE performance.

Check it out here! This is particularly aimed at current medical students in the UK, so if you fit the bill, have a wee look!

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UCAS Guidance on Personal Statement Writing

Find it here. From a quick glance, it looks like some pretty sound advice!

On a side note, anyone coming to the Dundee open day this week? It’s on the 20th!

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“My Life As A Med Student”

A great post here from a tumblr blog on studying habits.

From a personal point of view, I live by to-do lists and would definitely second the last point about teaching others – if you can explain it to somebody else, it shows you really do understand it.

The rest of the blog is an interesting read too!

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Feelings about starting medicine

I’m starting to feel a bit old, recently… Making all these posts about starting medicine is a bit of a punch in the teeth! I’m now about to start fourth year after doing a BMSc, making it 4 years ago that I started uni. FOUR YEARS! That’s just more than 20% of my lifetime ago! So, perhaps I’m no longer the best person to be talking about how I felt about starting uni, as my memory is getting a bit hazy in my old age, but here goes nothing.

Excitement

Before starting uni, I was pretty excited. From the moment I got an unconditional offer, I couldn’t wait to start uni and after I got my offer from Dundee, I almost accepted straight away! Over the summer, before starting, excitement built as I started buying stuff for uni and putting some money aside to help me enjoy freshers week as much as possible.

The prospect of moving out of a small town into a city was exciting within itself and the chance to make new friends and study something that I was interested in all made for a pretty good summer.

Apprehension

On the other hand, for all the same reasons I noted above, I was apprehensive! Would I make new friends? Would I do well at uni or would I struggle? Would I enjoy being away from home? Would I be able to have a life outside of medicine? These are all natural questions to ask yourself, and its all worked out fine in the end! It really is tough to know how you’ll cope with all of these things and the only way to find out for sure is to try it!

In saying this, I was more excited than I was apprehensive, but I do remember one night where it hit me that I was leaving home in a few days, but I needn’t have worried!

Responsibility

From the moment you get an offer, the realisation that becoming a doctor becomes more and more of a reality, and with that, peoples perception of you changed from a teenager to more of a professional and this is something you’ve got to try and live up to. You’ll realise this is happening when people start telling about their aches and pains they’ve been having recently and if you know what’s going on. Get used to this!

 

So, before starting uni you’ll feel a mixed-bag of emotions, but hopefully, you should be excited about it. It really is one of the best times of your life, especially early on, so try and do your best to savour it!

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Coping away from home

Moving away from home can be a big worry for both parents and students, alike! For some, it will be their first time away from home, for others, it is a time which couldn’t have come soon enough! Some people take to uni like a duck to water, others take more time. In saying that, even those who generally cope well with uni life may get homesick if things go wrong in their personal life.

It’s hard to give tips on how to cope with life away from home, as everyone differs so much.   However, I’ll put a few examples of how people generally cope here, to help people decide what might be best to do.

For those who get homesick, or for those whose parents will be missing them, try to stay in touch! A wee phone call at the weekend to say everything’s fine and to keep up to date with things at home is a small gesture which can go a long way. I also know some people that phone home everday – how often you call is just down to your personal preference.

Go home every once in a while or ask your parents to come visit – even if you don’t particularly miss it, it’s nice to have home comforts at times. Sometimes, by the time you start missing home it might be too late, so go home while you have a chance – as I say, this is easier for some people than for others! Some people from further afield go home when there is a bit more time off for studying. On the other hand, some people don’t like going home as it reminds them about it and makes them miss it more. Its just something you have to try for yourself to see how you react to it. Also, if parents are concerned about how you’re coping, inviting them up for a visit might relieve some of their apprehension as it will show them that you’re coping well and enjoying your time at uni!

Visit friends from home – this might not neccessarily mean going home. If there’s a friend in a city nearby, go visit them. This small reminder of home might just help to get rid of some anxiety about being away from home. It might also help to speak to somebody else who is going through the same experience that you are: studying away from home!

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A week in the life of a BMSc Student

Personally, I don’t think there is enough information out there on what its like to do a BMSc/BSc during medicine. At Dundee, an perhaps elsewhere, there is still the general view that a BMSc year is a ‘year out’ and lets your social life stay alive for one year before the dreaded fourth year. Obviously, the work load varies from BMSc to BMSc, with some more work intensive than others, but a BMSc should definitely not be thought of as a skive, by any means. I did the anatomical sciences BMSc, where a large part of the course is made up by studying anatomy. However, it is the other parts of this course I found particularly challenging and it is these parts I hadn’t given much thought to prior to starting the BMSc year, so perhaps this might be useful to people considering a BMSc year.

Throughout the year you have a dissertation, anatomy, generic skills and four units to complete. Each unit lasts 6 weeks and includes a lecture series which is examined at the end of the year by a written paper where you are given two essay titles. You then pick one to answer in 90 minutes. These exams all happen in May. In addition, by the end of each unit course, there is an essay to complete, and usually an additional piece of work e.g. poster, literature analysis. As I say, you have four of these to complete.

Monday

Depending on whether you are a morning person or not, you get out of bed relatively early, and sit down to your laptop. This usually involves a couple of hours reading on literature relevant to the essay title you have been given for your unit, or some reading for your dissertation/project which occurs throughout the year. Then, at 10am, it’s off to campus for a 2-3 hour lecture on your unit topic. The timing of these lectures varies over the year, so this is not set in stone.

After a quick bite to eat at the union, it’s off to the Anatomy lecture at 1pm for an hour, folllowed by a 3 hour dissection on the area discussed in the lecture, to consolidate learning.  At 5pm, its time to head home after a fairly long day and then at night, most people try to write up the lectures from the day and perhaps do some of the recommended reading from the unit lecture.

Tuesday

Perhaps this is just me, but I normally revised the lectures given the day before and then moved onto the other tasks which always loom over e.g. Essay reading/writing, Dissertation reading/write up. Also, depending on your lab, you may well be in the lab for the whole day which leaves little time to keep up with other work!

Wednesday

In the morning, its a 9 o’clock anatomy lecture with 3 hours in the dissection room afterwords as per normal. In the afternoon, I almost always was in the lab doing some work in there. Following the lab, I wrote up my anatomy lecture in the evening, tried to keep up with the lab book you’re meant to write throughout the year (although this seems like an annoying task, I would have been lost without my lab book – I used it to keep track of all my experiments I was doing and was good for reference later once I had forgotten what I’d done and what I hadn’t). Again, more dissertation work or essay work if there was time.

Thursday

This again was a lab day, finishing off the experiments from the Wednesday as some of the experiments I was doing involved leaving things overnight and processing the results in the morning. At night, I usually looked over Wednesday’s anatomy lecture to keep on top of that and did more dissertation work.

Friday

Morning was lab again, finishing experiments from the thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon was filled with anatomy lecture and dissection. The evening involved getting as much of the anatomy lecture written up as possible before meeting up with friends in the evening to relax.

Saturday

After a bit of a long lie, I would finish writing up yesterdays lecture and revise it again to make sure I knew it all. Again, its more essay reading or dissertation work.

Sunday

No points for guessing here, more essay or dissertation work.

On top of all this, there is also a generic skills part of the course. In first semester this involves a series of lectures on statistics, which, although a bit mundane, is probably actually quite useful for your future career. This, for us, happened on a Friday afternoon from 5-6pm which was a huuuuuuge drag! This is then examined before the christmas break in an online exam. In second semester, generic skills is a problem solving course which involves 4 lectures, with the exam being  a written paper at the end of teaching which involves you answering 2 of 4 questions from the lectures given.

The difficulty of the year is not with difficult concepts, its the fact that the work is almost never-ending due to essay deadlines and dissertation work. For example, at one point, we had an anatomy exam and essay hand-in deadline on one Friday, followed by our dissertation hand in only about a week later. Trying to do all this whilst staying on top of lectures and generic skills things is a bit of a nightmare. And, when you finish one thing, which would normally be a relied, you normally have another deadline just coming up which you need to work for. It can all seem a bit much at times, believe me!

Pros and cons of a Laboratory project

Gaining experience in a lab is not always possible in medicine and so this gives a good foot in the door for people thinking of pursuing an academic career path. Also, it helps you do develop a new, analytical way of thinking. Furthermore, some people actually enjoy it!

From a practical side of view, when your supervisor asks you to come into the lab, it MAKES you do work. For some people, this is a good thing! Another point to note is that, depending on your luck and quality of your work, there may be a chance of presenting your findings at a conference or being published which looks great on a CV. Some people have also managed to continue in their lab as a summer job to get some money before 4th year.

On the other hand, a dissertation is just a big essay really, so is a similar format to other work you do through the year. BUT, if you struggle to motivate yourself to work, it might be tough – for example, getting yourself out of bed in the morning to do even MORE journal reading can be a drag, especially if that’s all you’ve done for the last 5 weeks. Also, might get boring writing essays all day, in my experience, being in the lab helps to break up your week a bit and I found it quite therapeutic at times. In saying all this, if you put your mind to it, if you worked from the moment you found out your dissertation title (normally a week or so before the start of term), you could probably have most of your dissertation written up by the end of the first month if you really went for it – this would give you way more time to study other things. Doing a dissertation has minimal chance of publication though, and often its the same dissertation titles, year after year.

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Organising Notes

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, staying organised is pretty important in medical school. If you’re not organised from early on, you’ll probably never find the time to actually organise it all properly, and you’ll suffer for it for the next 5 years when you can never find anything! So, how best to organise it?

Also, regardless of how you want to stay organised, a laptop/computer is almost essential for uni now… things could be a bit of a nightmare without one. Perhaps thats just because I’m so used to having one now thought! I would definitely recommend a laptop over a desktop computer as you can get pretty good spec laptops now for cheap.

 

Hard copies:

Writing notes and keeping them in folders is a pretty traditional way of doing things. However, it tends to be quite an expensive way of organising things. By the time you buy enough pukka pads, folders, dividers and polypockets to last you through the year, the price starts to add up a bit. On top of that, if you keep all your notes, it can take up quite a lot of space. By the end of first year, things might not seem too bad, but by the time you finish third year, you’ll probably have a couple of bookshelves full of stuff!

Another thing to note, using hard copies of notes it a bit slower when looking things up for reference compared to using a computer, where a quick search will find the document you’re looking for. However, in folders, you could be looking for half an hour or so before you find the precise thing your looking for!

 

Electronic:

Ctrl+F is your friend on the computer and lets you search through PDFs very quickly This is brilliant for online versions of textbooks as well which come as PDFs or whatever. Also good for searching within a document for a particular topic you want to revise. It’s gotten to the stage now where if I’m looking up a real-life textbook, I’m looking for the ctrl+F shortcut to find stuff in that! Also, it’s easy to organise multiple levels of folders on a laptop to allow you to cruise easily through your notes to find the stuff you’re looking for.

Downsides to using  laptop is the risk of losing your data. This tends to happen at the worst possible times e.g. my laptop died on me 2 weeks before Christmas exams this year. To combat this, I would say back things up on USB, ext hard drive or a cloud based service (e.g. dropbox) – these can be lifesavers – NEVER use JUST a usb stick – these are most prone to breakages and are most prone to going missing. You can always print notes off as well if you want both.

Another annoyance is when you get handouts at tutorials etc. which are odd to file electronically – I’ve just scanned these in to file them with the rest of my notes but this is less than ideal.

Also, using a laptop is space saving, and you can easily carry all your notes with you from the desk in your bedroom to the library or home for the weekend without a second thought.

 

I personally use a laptop and find it great for quick referencing. From day one I also meant to print off all my notes but never actually bothered. Then I planned to do it in the summer between 1st and 2nd year but never found the time and since then my mountain of notes has been ever-growing and since then, its never happened! So, don’t make my mistake and stay on top of things from the start!

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