In The Life Of... Medical Student!
Hi, my name is Ephraim and I’m a Medical Student studying at Barts and The London, School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Having just finished my first year at Medical School, the experiences I’ve had were definitely more than I expected when first applying; the highs and the lows, the challenges and the good times.
Our first year consisted of 6 modules each exploring the major body systems and basic sciences, which are then developed further throughout the 5 years. The way we learn can be split into several different methods. The bulk of a typical week consists of 10-12 hours of lectures that take place in our main lecture theatre but are also recorded for online playback. In my first year, I lived on the campuses at Whitechapel, which meant all our lecture theatres and campus buildings were only a 2-minute walk away! Our lectures are complimented with Problem Based Learning sessions (PBLs), which aim to explore patient cases that are relevant to the content we learn in lectures.
A typical day would start with a breakfast that can be made and eaten in under 2 minutes and then a quick dash to our lecture theatre! We would then have 3 hours of lectures, which are normally pretty intense and contain a lot of content. On Mondays, after lectures, we would have Anatomy Practical sessions handling prosections followed by Physiology Practicals, all related to the current module we were learning. After these practicals, the rest of the day is normally spent in the library catching up on the day’s lectures by reviewing them online and making notes. Twice a week, after the morning lectures, we would have our PBL sessions, which are approximately 2 hours long, but are normally quite interesting! The best part of the week is always a Thursday when we would spend the day at a General Practice with our placement groups. During placement, we would normally be set learning objectives related to our current module, for example in our Cardiorespiratory module, learning objectives would include completing a patient interview of someone experiencing respiratory illness as well as learn how to correctly listen to normal breath sounds using a stethoscope.
Each module at Medical School lasts for approximately 2 months, after which we would have a couple of days of free revision and a day’s worth of summative exams, all contributing towards our final grade. Since these exams do count towards our end of year grade, the weeks leading up can be quite intense, where we would all be stuck revising through the night at the nearby campuses!
Our Medical School also offers a unique scheme where every term, we would be given 2 weeks off to organise a placement in a medical speciality or science-based topic that interests us; called a Student Selected Component (SSC). For my first SSC, I was lucky enough to get a placement in Head and Neck Surgery, which saw me rotating between Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Neurosurgery. Days on these placements would involve us being placed on consultant-led ward rounds, shadowing on-call doctors and time in operating theatres. I was lucky enough to have a very friendly surgeon tutor who allowed me to scrub in with him twice a week and assist in theatre. Times like this reminded me why I embarked on a journey into Medical School!
When COVID-19 forced our University to close, we still had one more module to complete. Our lectures, PBL sessions and all our practicals moved online, which was definitely not ideal! Not being able to learn with our friends and attend placement was very demotivating, but with a looming exam, our learning still had to continue.
Medical School was definitely tougher than I expected! The amount of content there is and having no specification similar to in A-Level meant there was no limit to how much we could learn. However, after a few months, I did get to grip with how to learn the vast amounts of knowledge and soon I began to enjoy what I was learning. Although on some days, it did seem like I had no time to do anything else, I can assure you there is still plenty of time to do the things you love outside of Medicine. I joined our Medical School band, many societies and still had time to spend with friends, which is definitely a lot more fun when you all live together! On top of this, I managed to work 2 hours a day privately tutoring A-Level Biology and Chemistry as well as run my own business, both of which are personal passions of mine. Living so close to home despite living in campus, I was lucky enough to be able to come home for the weekend to spend time with family and the occasional dinner during the week, when cooking for myself did not seem that appealing!
The career path I have entered never ceases to amaze me. Being able to learn about the mechanism of disease and how we can use this knowledge to positively impact patients is definitely a privilege!
For all of you students hoping to study Medicine at University, dedicate your time towards your application and study well for your A-Levels and I assure your hard work won’t go to waste!
This incredibly insightful piece was written by Ephraim, and you can find him on @studywithephraim. He delivers great biology help and revision videos too!
This article was reviewed by Dr Pooja Devani, @step2med. As always, please feel free to send us message or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and one of tutors will be more than happy to be in touch.