Why I Love Having a Small Class Size

Unlike a lot of medical schools, our medical school has thirty places in each year group (and fifteen for the Foundation Year). At any other medical school, I’d be sat in lecture theatres with 300+ other students. There’s nothing wrong with that structure, but I prefer being in a class of fifteen-thirty for reasons I’ll explain in this post.

It Feels More Like a Community

All of our class did Secret Santa, and all our tutors know our names and we know theirs. It feels like we are individuals instead of a face in 500, and therefore are more recognised.

Teaching

The support available to us is fantastic (details coming in a later blog!), however it feels like there’s naturally more support thanks to the smaller class size. The teaching has been amazing, however we could ask to have lessons delivered in a different way (we are also encouraged to provide feedback so we can all effectively learn). It is easier to have voices heard in a crowd of thirty than a full lecture theatre.

We’ll Also Work in Larger Groups

Our medical school values the Multi-disciplinary team, and with EHU having many health courses, there’s plans to work alongside other health students. In this way, we get to meet new people and get a taste of what our future will be like, working with other professions.

Being in a Classroom

We’re too small of a class to be in a full lecture theatre. This is great, as I feel like it’s easier to engage when a tutor is nearby. Lessons feel more interactive, and we can ask and answer questions more easily (if we wish). I would feel silly if I had a question and I interrupted a full lecture theatre by raising my hand. A classroom feels more versatile too, for group work, discussions, and breaks.

Closing Words

I’ve only ever been in a large group of (future) medics at events, so I truthfully can’t compare the experience. However, I really value our medical school setting, and I would never change that. With a Medical Society opening up, I’m really excited for what opportunities lie ahead for us.

-Tony

The Path Less Travelled

In one of my first blog posts for Inside Edge, ‘Am I too old to go to uni?’, I wrote a little about my decision to come to uni at the age of 23 in an attempt to reassure everyone that it is never too late (and you are never too old) to pursue your dreams. Today, I want to really drive that point home and shed some light on the rather twisty, hilly path I took from sixth form to university. I guess, compared to the majority, it’s the path less traveled.

For most of my time in sixth form, I was preparing to go to university. I didn’t particularly want to and I didn’t feel remotely excited like my peers did, but it seemed like the right and most obvious thing to do. I didn’t even question it. As the application process came to an end and I stared at a UCAS Track inbox full of offers from brilliant universities…I realised that I didn’t want to accept a single one of them. I yearned to be out in the world working and I was desperate to start a creative career. I knew from the research I had done for my personal statement that I didn’t actually need a degree for my chosen career if I could get a solid portfolio so I had a blog throughout college and eventually secured an incredibly prestigious and competitive apprenticeship in social media and digital marketing for businesses. I worked for a fabulous agency in Manchester and was kept on to look after some big household brands after qualifying, living the good life, and drinking free cocktails in fancy bars after work!

Fast forward slightly and my Dad passed away suddenly, leaving me feeling lost and desperate to be with my family more to support them. I gave up my role in digital marketing and spent nearly two years working in foreign currency retail so that I had flexible shifts and never had to take work home with me so that my time with my Mum was undistracted. After 18 months of this, I felt more like ‘me’, and that yearn to be creative was biting at my heels once more. I returned to digital marketing and was delighted to be creating once more, but something was missing.

I had been struggling with my own mental health for years and struggled to find any support in my local area due to huge waiting lists and funding issues. One day, after a truly life-changing phone call with an NHS Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner, I Googled his job title and added ‘how to qualify’. Straight away I came across my degree, Counselling and Psychotherapy, and fell in love with how Edge Hill in particular cover the subject in a person-centred way with a huge focus on professional practice and work experience. Throughout my first year and half of my second year, I continued working in my digital marketing role part-time to support myself before deciding to work as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities early in 2020.

As you can see, I’ve moved backwards and forwards through my digital marketing career with breaks to work in retail/foreign exchange in between before deciding to retrain as a psychotherapist by returning to full-time education as an adult. Even whilst studying I have moved jobs in order to better align with my long term goals and feel more fulfilled in my work. I came to Edge Hill aged 23 and will leave next summer at the age of 26 with a CV that would be about 5 pages long if I included everything! The message? Once again…it is NEVER too late and you are NEVER too old.

Sam xo

My Placement Experience

Our Foundation Year in Medicine at Edge Hill University is unique in that we have two weeks of placement in the academic year. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, I was unable to complete my placement in May. However, I did enjoy my placement in mid-December 2019. I’ll be talking about my experience with placement in this blog.

Preparing

To prepare for placement, our class learnt how to effectively wash our hands, learn CPR, and learning skills we may need on placement (things such as safeguarding, but such issues didn’t arise). This took around a week, allowing us to best prepare. We also find out our location in advance, to organise transport. Our Medical School will choose a placement that’s most accessible to you, in either Lancashire or Ormskirk. A friend gave us a lift to mine and another friend’s placement in the morning, and I had taxis back to University in the evening.

The Support

Our Medical School, as well as I, communicated with my placement providers about my health conditions. We also got a card from our placement providers saying “IMSAFE”, another great example of our medical school looking after out wellbeing.

the “I’M SAFE” card we got for placement. We’re reminded to look after ourselves all throughout our studies!
The Week

9am-5pm Monday-Friday at a GP surgery was when we were in placement. We did so much: observe ultrasounds, GP/ANP appointments, the prescribing line, and working on reception. There, we observed and learnt so much, and all the staff were so lovely and welcoming. I really enjoyed being on the reception and placement helped me understand how a Multi-disciplinary team works together (as we learnt in lesson).

The experience made the idea of working in community more interesting. This is because there’s so many people to meet, conditions to understand, and you’ll see patients multiple times.

Closing Words

The placement, while short, taught me so much. I’m reminded of why I chose Medicine in the first place with experiences like placement. I look forward to more placements, and what I can learn from them. It’s so exciting to see where I’ll be in five years, but I am also excited to get back to University!

-Tony

To the Future Medics

I am writing this blog as if I am writing to my seventeen year old self. I felt like I was always surrounded by people who were one step ahead, and I’m sure this is a common feeling to many. Therefore, I hope this blog resonates with you.

Don’t Compare Yourself

Medicine is competitive, but it’s important to focus on yourself. Some people are fortunate enough to have weeks of work experience, whereas you may have one week, or only volunteering experience. That’s okay, it’s about what you learn in those environments. You can learn just as much in one week as another can learn in a month. Focus on what you learnt, not what your fellow applicants might’ve learnt.

Struggling is Okay

If you’re struggling in Sixth Form, that doesn’t mean you’re not fit for Medicine. Struggling is human, it’s something I’m learning to accept even now. Your capabilities as a medic are not defined by how you handle a heavy workload, no matter your age. You’ll always be supported by peers, family, and friends. Medicine is demanding, but our support network grows as we progress and we become more able to cope.

Keep Trying

I’ve mentioned this in previous entries, but it’s important. You may get no offers in Year 13, you may not get the grades you need, and you mightn’t get a place through Clearing. That’s okay, Medicine is competitive, and even the best applicants miss out. Your age isn’t a factor, and you may even benefit in ways you wouldn’t think in taking gap years/alternative routes. I encourage you to read this document if you were unlucky the first time.

Closing Words

I remember how I felt early in Sixth Form. While at a Medicine event in early Year 12, I was one of the only people out of near 100 who didn’t have work experience, which was discouraging. My two weeks work experience wasn’t as clinical as others, but that didn’t matter, because I learnt so much from it. While there was a lot of waiting and luck in my journey to Medical school, it was all worth it.

-Tony

The Best Things about Studying Counselling and Psychotherapy

I’ve written at length about my feelings around ending my second year at Edge Hill and moving into my third, but it has largely been very general around my academic experience as a whole. One thing I haven’t offered is my unique perspective as a Counselling and Psychotherapy student, so today I’m going to share my favourite things about my experience so far!

  1. Personal development. The change in myself as a person has been enormous, just by taking part in the course. This is different for everyone but I feel so much calmer, self-assured and confident in who I am. The process wasn’t easy, it took a lot of self-reflection and work on myself but the results are incredible.
  2. Professional placement. It feels really daunting to suddenly begin counselling real people in a real setting when you begin the second year of this course, but I am so grateful that it is a required aspect of my degree. Not only is it adding credibility to our qualification, but it also stands us in a brilliant position to gain employment when we graduate.
  3. Renewed sense of purpose. I am fairly confident in the generalisation that every student has moments where they wonder if they can carry on. Deadlines mount up, the work gets hard and life gets in the way sometimes. But, on my course, having that voice in the back of your head that reminds you that you are doing this to help people in need is so, so powerful. Especially when the media is full of stories about declining mental health resources etc.

If you ever have any questions about my specific course, please do feel free to ask! I could talk about it for hours.

Sam x

My First Year in Recap: Academics

As someone who didn’t originally consider a Foundation Year in Medicine, I didn’t know what to expect at first. However when I read more into what I’d learn, I became more and more interested. But what was it like to experience it? I’ll be discussing just that in this blog.

Lessons

In a class of seventeen, we all have opportunities to contribute. Our five weekly lessons cover: science, the Multi-disciplinary team, personal and professional development, public health, and communication. Every two weeks we learn study skills on a Wednesday afternoon. We learnt 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm from Tuesday to Thursday, giving us four days ‘free’.

Opportunities

We had the opportunity to teach CPR to members of the public, and two of our classmates went to a conference in London to meet medical students from across the country! The staff are always looking for opportunities and are always asking us what we would like to do.

Assignments

There was a nice mix. We wrote a vignette essay to discuss how Multi-disciplinary teams help patients, presented for the communication theme, wrote a public health report, and completed a reflective portfolio. The independent learning involved with these assessments allowed us to develop understandings which will be of great benefit in our career. I also have two upcoming exams: an online science exam and three case based scenarios.

Placement

Unlike most Foundation Years, we have two weeks of non-clinical placement: one in a CCG and one in primary care. Our second week should have been this week, but my first week in primary care in December was fantastic! Placements are in the North West and I observed the reception, ultrasound appointments, ANP and GP consultations, and the prescribing office all within five days. The staff were lovely and welcoming and I can’t wait for my next placement!

Closing Words

Being assessed in different ways, having plenty of opportunities, and being on placement have made this year a great learning experience, while also being less stressful than the first year of the five-year programme. I feel more prepared to deal with the challenges ahead thanks to the Foundation Year!

Top Tips for Applied Health and Social Care Applicants

As I work on the final pieces of coursework to complete my second year at university, I can’t help but notice all of the buzz around interviews and applications. It feels so strange that two years ago I was interviewing at Edge Hill and hoping my application for BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy would be accepted!

When I accepted my offer to study at Edge Hill, my programme leader from the Applied Health and Social Care Department sent out lots of recommended reading and advice to prepare for my course. As a prospective Counselling and Psychotherapy student, one of the recommendations was that we start a journal of thoughts and feelings as this is a big part of our course that forms part of some key assignments. They provided prompts and advice to get us started.

The reading list was admittedly intimidating, but it isn’t intended to be! It’s likely that you have never read academic texts of that nature so please don’t freak out. You will be shown how to read and interpret these in a Study Skills module in semester one. Read the ‘abstract’ of a few papers and make notes, find excerpts and free chapters of your core textbooks online and make notes on those, too. It may differ on other AHSC courses, but I did not buy any books until I got to university in September and clarified which ones would be most useful. They can come at a huge cost so it is best to wait to see what can be borrowed from the Catalyst and which books you will use so frequently that it’s worth buying.

If you are feeling lost or lonely, search ‘Edge Hill Freshers’ on Facebook and put a call out for people starting on your course. We gathered up a few of us and started a group chat that is still used to exchange ideas, deadlines etc two years later. It made a world of difference having some familiar faces to meet up with and walk into the lecture hall with on day one. Some of those people are now my closest friends! For questions on workload, study tips or what kind of assessments to expect I highly recommend searching your course on The Student Room where past and present Applied Health and Social Care students can answer your questions in a casual, neutral space.

Good luck in your application – I might see you around the Health and Social Care building next year!

Sam xo

Applying for Medicine: The Good, the Bad, and the UCAT

If you’re considering Medicine, I’m sure you’ve heard about the UCAT; an admissions test required by most medical schools, including Edge Hill University. The UCAT functions similarly to an IQ test, being logic based (besides the Situational Judgement Test). I struggled, so here I’ll share what I wish I knew!

Note: information on how COVID-19 is affecting the UCAT found here.

The Format

The UCAT is two hours long and split into five sections: Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, and Situational Judgement. For more information, click here!

Check Your Eligibility

I didn’t know I was eligible for 25% extra time in the UCAT when I applied, so I sat the standard test. However I knew I was eligible for the UCAT bursary, meaning I didn’t pay for the test.

Booking

Although applications aren’t open, I’d familiarise yourself with the procedure here. It’ll outline things you’ll need. I would book as soon as possible, to get the day that’s best for you.

Preparation

There’s a free official UCAT app. Even though there’s plenty of free resources online, I bought a guide because it was comprehensive and recommended by other students.

I bought this guide in 2018 when the UCAT was called the UKCAT. The article I linked above (and myself) recommends this guide, which is £15! With that said, the free resources are more than enough to score high.

I recommend the UCAT website itself. You should mainly prepare on a computer, because the UCAT is done on a computer. Also, you’re only allowed the online UCAT calculator in questions, so familiarise yourself with that.

On the day, you’ll be given a marker pen and boards to do work on. This isn’t marked, but it helps to get your thoughts down!

Scoring

There is no negative marking for wrong answers, so if you’re low on time for one section, guess! You may get some right, rather than none at all.

You’ll score between 300-900 in four sections, except Situational Judgement (which is banded), getting the score immediately after your test. This means you’ll have your UCAT results when applying to University, so apply strategically, as some Universities prefer higher UCAT scores!

Closing Words

When preparing, a lot of us struggled with Quantitative Reasoning, but it ended up being our best sections. I wish I applied for extra time and that I didn’t skip questions.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment!

-Tony

The Building Blocks of a Medicine Personal Statement

Although the UCAS deadline for Medicine applications is six months away, you may be considering writing yours now. Most Medicine Personal Statements have a big focus on your skills and personal qualities, but how do you do this? I’ll be detailing my experiences in writing my Personal Statement below!

Planning

You have 4000 characters/47 lines to sell yourself (approximately 500 words). That’s not a lot! Jot down what experiences you want to include, the skills you learnt, and how they relate to becoming a medic. Use this plan as a rough guide, it’s okay if you think of something better to use when writing it!

Support your Skills

If you write that you’re a compassionate person, no matter how true it is, Universities will dismiss it. You’ll need to use experiences as ‘proof’. Did you become more compassionate by seeing something on placement? If so, how? Was it something you saw? When you write about it, respect patient confidentiality, and keep the description to a minimum. Every word counts, you just need to set the scene.

After you’ve said the skill and how you got it, link it to the job. For example, a medic will need to show compassion for a patient and their family when discussing sensitive issues. Show you understand the importance of these qualities.

Some Universities actively list the qualities they look for on the course page, which can remind you of some qualities you have. As long as you don’t lie, you’ll be fine! (Remember: interviewers could ask you to explain some of your Personal Statement).

Re-Drafting

This is a rule of thumb for any piece of writing, but your Personal Statement especially. Everyone makes mistakes, so it’s important to proofread. Having your Personal Tutor or a Medicine co-ordinator in college read will help too. If someone can proofread it, make sure to (politely) ask them!

Closing Words

Your Personal Statement should be about what you’ve learnt and who you are. It can be difficult and it’s okay if you struggle! Ask your tutors for help and ideas (but remember, don’t have someone else write it for you!) The Medic Portal and other resources can be a big help, too.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment. There’s so much more I could talk about when it comes to writing Personal Statements.

-Tony

My First University Presentation

Before University, I was expecting that I would be assessed on written assignments, examinations, and OSCEs. I wasn’t expecting to have to present.

Although I’ve presented numerous times in the past, I felt nervous for my first University presentation, even though it was in front of only a few people – probably because I would receive marks and feedback for the first time. Months on, I can reflect and share my experience.

Preparation

Unlike other presentations I’ve given, University presentations (like other assignments) require us to cite credible academic sources. At first, I wasn’t sure what to do, but with support from my lecturers, I soon had the ball rolling. To find resources, I mainly used Google Scholar, PubMed, and the University’s online library.

With the research done, I checked BlackBoard to find a guide to making presentations. One key piece of advice given was not overloading slides with text. But how do you share all your research while keeping your slides brief and not overwhelming the viewers?

It’s about verbally expanding on bullet points, which I used as a prompt. The clearer what you say and how you say it, the more marks you get, but University doesn’t expect us to be perfect presenters, especially so early into our courses. I learnt what I wanted to say for each point, and although this was more difficult than relying on a script, I have to know the content for my career, so it helps.

Tips

With that said, it’s practically guaranteed we’ll forget something to say; even the best presenters forget but don’t get discouraged. Only you know what you planned to say! 

Practice makes perfect, but I struggled to practice alone. However, a few coursemates and I booked a room in the library to rehearse together before the presentation. I found I was more confident presenting in front of them than I was by myself! 

Final words

Our assessors gave us both positive feedback and areas to improve on, so I’m looking forward to doing better next time. I’m certain I’ll be more confident and improve on the score I’m already happy with. Hopefully, this anecdote puts any worries you might have at ease.

-Tony