Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Work hard, play hard

I had originally planned to make this post on Sunday night, but I don't think I can even begin to describe just how busy I've been this week. Still, I'll take a stab at it.

The moment when you cross the threshold and walk into medical school as a graduate medic is pretty special. In that brief step is contained the hopes, aspirations and efforts of at least three or four years, though for many people even more. It is the culmination of a lot of determination and planning which ultimately results in an amazing feeling: that of relief and contentment. Pure, unadulterated relief, that you've made it and you're where you want to be. So even though it was early morning, and I was walking into an unfamiliar university where I knew no one, my overwhelming feeling was one of excitement to starting induction week.

That first day was something of an anti-climax as far as studying textbook medicine goes, but fun for lots of other reasons. Once the faculty had finished welcoming us and giving us intro talks (most of which in one form or another also involved reminding us that the GMC would not be impressed if we were caught pissing on a war memorial or committing similar acts of "unprofessionalism"), we went off to collect our ID cards. I thought this would be a fairly quick affair, but I hadn't banked on who else had turned up aside from the admin staff. When we walked into the room, we were greeted by a whole host of different organisations and reps who appeared to be there only to (almost) literally throw free stuff at us....and not rubbish stuff either, some very cool/useful things too! I came away from that encounter with a free Oxford medical dictionary courtesy of the MDU, a memory stick thanks to the GMC, a clinical examination handbook from the MPS and enough pens to last me well into my foundation years. From the looks of surprise on some of my classmates' faces, I could tell that I wasn't the only one who hadn't expected this to be part of the first day experience.

That first day carried on with another few talks about what's expected of us as med students by the university, the GMC, the general public, etc, who we can go to for help and support, how the course is structured, etc. It's a systems based course so instead of a traditional pre-clinical course with individual subjects entitled anatomy, physiology, pathology, etc, these subjects are weaved into modules concerning body systems. E.g. in the gastrointestinal system module which I'm doing this term, I'll do the relevant anatomy, physiology, etc concerning the liver, intestines, etc but not, for example, the heart or lungs.

However, since anatomy and physiology are pretty complex subjects at the best of times, let alone if you don't have a life sciences background (which quite a few people on this course don't), the induction week was comprised of sessions to introduce (or re-introduce) us to the foundations of these subjects. There's not much point talking about the anterior abdominal wall if you first haven't told people what anterior means in an anatomical context. So last week was spent covering the basic principles and terminology of anatomy, physiology, cell biology, embryology, etc in daily sessions. This was basically a recap of biomedical sciences for me, and nothing taught was particularly difficult. However, I particularly enjoyed learning about acid-base disorders and arterial blood gas tests as part of the introduction to physiology course, as I had that test a few months ago, and it was very interesting gain an insight into the doctor's thought process which led to her telling me the test results were alright. Indeed, it was a damn good moment when I realised I'm now using scientific knowledge to learn how to interpret a test to eventually treat someone, and not simply to pass an end of year exam.

And for the best bit, we were finally introduced to some clinical skills! Yes! Finally, something practical which doesn't involve a Gilson pipette or an Eppendorf tube! I now know how to take blood pressure manually, how to test for reflexes, use a pulse oximeter and an ear thermometer. Pretty basic stuff which any medical student learns early on, but very fun nonetheless because it really felt good to do something practical involving real people instead of bumbling around in the lab and pretending to care about the spectrophotometer. I realise I keep mentioning the lab, but this entire week has felt very surreal...at times it's felt like someone's going to come in and tell me actually there's been a mistake and I have a massive PCR write-up to complete...but slowly I've gotten used to the fact that that's no longer the case.

Studying aside, the first week was also very hectic due to the social side of things. Whilst lecturers were telling us to knuckle down from the first week, MedSoc had different ideas and seemed determined to get us pissed every night (with success, I might add). So once classes were done each day, I was going out and trying my best to live up to the medic stereotype of "work hard, play hard". So much so that the inevitable happened and after 6 days of non-stop classes/clubbing/pubbing with nearly 200 strangers from all over the country, I caught fresher's flu for the fifth year running and have spent the past two days with a sore throat and runny nose.

So with that, induction week finished and as of this week I've started the proper timetable i.e. my regular modules which I will be doing from now until the end of term in November. There's a lot to take in, and the sheer amount of anatomy which will be covered seems immense...almost impossible to learn...but I can only assume like everything else, it's simply a learning curve and requires a bit of time to fall into place. The first week has been pretty exhausting and tough with so much new info to take in, but I had a lot of fun too so it didn't feel like a drag at all. And due to a quirk in the timetable, I get tomorrow off, so I can catch up on some all important sleep...very important considering today's classes started at 8 AM!


  1. Sounds like you're having a great time! Really happy for you! :)

  2. Ah the freebies - this is partly why i go to Fresher's Fayre each year :P

    Good luck with the year grumpy.. sounds like it's going to be tough, but i'm sure you'll do great! can't wait to read your stories.. and er.. hope you get better from the flu.

  3. Damn, we didn't get the clinical examination book until end of fourth year (and then had to give our direct debit details to sign up way in advance for F1) , the fresher freebies have got even better!

  4. Dude! Nice to hear that you're loving it - and yes! Anatomy is super mega hardcore. But I think it's just something we have to get our head around.

    All the best :)

  5. It's so great to hear how you are getting on with what you really want to do :D

    Oh wow, 8 AM :) Hope you feel better soon!

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  7. How is it going? Seems you are being kept busy :)