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

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

What Am I Looking Forward Next Year?

I submitted my final assignment two days ago, so my Foundation Year is officially over! However, I can’t stop thinking about the next academic year. I figured this blog would be a great outlet for the thoughts I have right now. This blog should give insight on anyone going into first year Medicine, or how you may feel going into summer after your first year of studying!

Seeing Old Friends and Making New Ones

It will be at least six months since I have seen my friends when I see them next. To say I’m looking forward to see them again is an understatement. However, with fifteen students joining our class (and more students at societies, events, etc.) there’s more friends to make, too!

Placement

This is subject to lockdown, of course. A few weeks into my course, my Wednesday mornings are expected to be occupied with placements. Placements are a great way to contextualise learning and get a taste for what lies ahead for us when we graduate. I can’t wait to start them!

More Work

The Foundation Year is a full-time course, but there is a greater volume of work in the First Year of Medicine. I’m looking forward to having more to learn, especially since I feel more prepared thanks to the Foundation Year!

University Life

I love living at home and seeing my family (and dogs!), but I do miss University; I miss being able to go for a quiz on a Monday evening, or seeing my friends whenever I wanted. I’m certainly going to appreciate it more come next year.

The Facilities

At home, 98% of the coffee I drink is black. I love it, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t want a caramel latte from the Hub’s Starbucks in my hand while catching up with old friends. I also miss sandwiches from Subway, too. With that said, I’m sure my bank account is appreciating the break…

Closing Words

I’m aware next year is going to bring a lot of challenges. However, I’m looking forward to them, and all of the great aspects it’ll come with! Sadly there is no telling when we’ll be back at University, but I’m looking forward to it starting again; whenever that may be.

-Tony

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!

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 Experience in the Clinical Skills and Simulation Centre

What is it?

The Clinical Skills and Simulation Centre is the building used by Health students. We use it to learn practical skills before we go out on placement (such as drawing blood, practicing CPR, and so much more ). It only opened in October 2019, so everything is very new.

When I applied for Edge Hill University, I was interested in the Clinical Skills and Simulation Centre based on details alone. Initially, there were no pictures of what the building actually looked like, so stepping inside for the first time was a surreal experience. While our clinical experience in the Foundation Year is limited, we’ve made great use of the building so far!

But what it’s it really like studying there? I’ll be sharing my experiences to give you an idea as to what you can expect.

What does it look like?

Aesthetically, it looks and feels like a hospital. This is comforting; I feel like this will help with placement as it’ll be a familiar setting.

What’s in it?

The ground floor has multiple beds for patients of different identities. They blink, breathe, respond to your voice, and there’s even a birth simulation. The other week, we saw how medication affects a patient’s heart rate. It’s very versatile and realistic, and I can’t wait to use it more.

The first floor has a simulated flat for home visits. A few weeks ago, we had a lesson in there. We had to identify any hazards or clues around the house to get an idea as to how the patient lives. For example, if they have an empty fridge, you may wonder if they’re properly eating.

The floor is home to the anatomy room, too. With models of body parts and a state-of-the-art Anatomage table (think of a massive elongated iPad, with human bodies you can freely dissect, with some case studies which can show what happens during an injury). It’s a great way to be more hands-on with your learning!

There’s so much more, including a Radiography room, ultrasound facilities, an operating theatre, to name a few!

Closing words

I’ve had a great experience here (and on my course!) and I can’t wait for the years ahead of me when I can use the facilities a lot more often.

Making the Most of Your Foundation Year in Medicine Part 1: Academic Aspects

If you’ve clicked on this blog article, it’s probably because you’ve received your offer to study Medicine with a Foundation Year. In which case, well done! To even receive an invite to interview within itself is an achievement. However, you may be wondering what you can do in the Foundation Year. After all, by doing a Foundation Year, you’re one extra year away from becoming qualified. This year has a smaller workload and less contact hours. So what should you do? You might be wondering what to do with a bit of extra time, and with a bit less stress. In this blog, I’ll address the academic side, before exploring the social aspect of University in Part 2.

Wait, how do I even pass the year?

We need to achieve 40% in our assignments to progress onto the next year. There is no difference between a student who achieves 40% and 100% (although you’re best off aiming for 100% instead of 40%!)

Unlike some other Foundation Year Medicine programmes, there are no limited spaces to progress onto the next five years. Your coursemates will be your friends for the next six years – not your competition!

So what should I do when I start?

Let this be the year you find your feet! There’s no competition between you and your coursemates. You should learn how to reference at your own pace, and begin to read academic journals for research. Also, don’t be afraid to make mistakes with your studies! Let them be learning experiences – better to learn earlier on than later! You’ll be doing this in Study Skills lessons and when you write your assignments. The more you understand these skills now, the less you’ll need to pick up on the MBChB Medicine course.

What support will I get?

Don’t worry; you won’t do this alone. You’ll be able to rely on fourteen other coursemates, your personal academic tutor, and study support on the course. Outside of the course, you can attend one-to-one or group sessions on University Skills, free of charge!

If you’re still struggling to get to grips with skills by the year’s end, don’t worry! We have so much support on our course and this continues throughout the full six years.

How have you found the workload?

I have found it manageable. If people do struggle, study support is there to help manage time!

What work are you doing beyond lessons?

This year, I’m going to create a good number of resources that I can build upon across the six years. I’m doing this so I don’t have to start making them next year, when I have less time!

Closing Words

This year is all about developing skills for performing well in your assignments; and also your understanding for the fundamentals of Medicine. This will all be covered in lessons, but feel free to ask any of our teachers for support. They’re more than happy to help! As this year has a lower workload volume than the first year of the MBChB programme, I would say you should make the most of your free time, enjoy yourself (avoid burnout!) but also work hard to make the next years of the course more manageable.

If you have any questions or worries, drop a comment and I will be more than happy to answer them!

Want to know what you can expect outside of lesson on your course? Check out part two of the blog, coming within the next few days!