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Students in a medical school

Medical School Overview 2020

by , 03 December, 2019
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Medical school is a tough journey. This blog will give you medical school overview of what going to medical school is like, the process, and what to look out for. However, it is important to note here that all medical schools are different, and it is unrealistic to generalise them all under one category. Though there are some general truths that can be described, this blog does not pretend to be the final say on what all medical schools are like, and only hopes to give you some broad background on common issues affecting medical schools in Australia.

GradReady GAMSAT Essay Writing Online WorkshopAt the time of writing, students have either just finished their interviews, or are currently going through them, and the question on “what have I signed myself up to?!?” is on everyone’s mind! Over the next few weeks, if they haven’t come already, offer letters for medical schools will come in the mail, and you will have to acquaint yourself fairly quickly as to what to expect! One piece of advice that I would recommend to all students preparing to enter medical school: don’t study before starting. You will have between four and six very intense years of studying, and there is no point trying to pre-empt the course and attempting to prepare prior to actually starting. Enjoy your time off, celebrate your success, and reflect on your progress… and read this blog!

1st Year

The feeling of starting medical school is monumental – I still remember my first day (now several years ago) very well. The excitement, euphoria, dread, and shyness are a very interesting mix, and it is a feeling that will keep with you for decades. After having successfully completed all of the hurdle requirements to get into medical school, you will find out that there are many other very clever people in your course, and they will be bulwarks of support over the next few years. I recall the first year of medical school being replete with attempting to master the content, as well as meet as many people as possible, join study groups, socialise, and get to know my new colleagues. The medical school cohort is a very tight-knit community in most universities, and it is really important that you do your best to introduce yourself broadly across the group – as you will find out that group study is a paramount institution of medical school, and that your colleagues now will also be your working colleagues later.

2nd Year

Proceeding with the topic of medical school overview, second year at medical can vary at each institution, but my own experience was a consolidation year. You still continue to learn a lot of systems-based theory, through the medium of Problem-Based Learning (more on that soon), but it is very much a more comfortable year as you settle into the timetable of medical school and have hopefully firmed up a few friendships. The nervousness of the first year may have largely gone, and you are trying to cram in as much information as possible before the clinical years start. Continuing from first year, most of the tutorials run as problem-based learning (PBL) classes. These are usually twice-weekly classes and are similar to tutorials, except you examine an interactive patient case, and go away and learn things your group doesn’t know, and then present your findings at the subsequent PBL session. In all practicalities, this means you do two mini-assignments per week for PBL, and then have to learn approximately twenty. It sounds much worse than it is, and it is certainly a very busy year. Clinical workshops, anatomy classes, and lectures will also be encountered throughout each semester, and often these are related to the PBL cases.

3rd Year

The third year, or your first year of clinical learning, is a drastic change. You are more-or-less booted out from the safety of the medical school into the public arena, where you must interact with not only doctors, health professionals and nurses, but the general public. Now, you are entering clinical environments, and you will get your first taste of what being a doctor is actually like – for better or worse. You often will encounter difficult personalities, and may initially struggle to find your place in the system. Your clinical commitments can vary significantly depending on what rotation (i.e. area of the hospital) you are in. For example, generally psychiatry is a low contact time placement (might be even just 3 full days a week), compared to surgery that most likely will be 5 days per week. However, this is very dependent on placement and supervisor. Finally, you will notice a complete drop-off of contact from the university (in many circumstances), as academic teaching is slashed. It is also important to just note here that this may be the first time you see bullying in the medical profession up close. Most of my medical student colleagues received, or otherwise experienced, some form of bullying in their clinical placements, myself included. It was a very tough and upsetting experience, and these bullying aspects that grow from power dynamics in the hospital environment can be very traumatising and affect young medical students for many years to come. Indeed, third year is by far the hardest year.

Final Year

The final year of your study, which may be fourth year, is somewhat similar to second year – in that you feel more comfortable in your skin, you’ve been in the clinical environment for a year now, and you are more confident in your very limited abilities (which hopefully you realise how limited they still are!). You will just have a few more rotations to come, but more importantly, you will be crazily preparing for your final exam! Indeed, this will be a very busy year for your studies, as you desperately attempt to get over that final hurdle and out of being indebted to Centrelink for every aspect of your material existence! Uhhh… I mean, um… graduate medical school!

Medical school can be a tough experience, especially for those who have not had many other commitments in their lives previously. I would strongly recommend to all budding medical school hopefuls, to not shut yourself off from friends, family, and work – as these are all vital to get you through medical school. Indeed, in hindsight as I wrote this article about medical school overview, I found finances to be the most stressful thing in medicine, and had to have several jobs throughout my study to survive – though it was hard, and necessary, at the time, I think it certainly made me a better person and juggle commitments very effectively. Get involved in your medical societies, socialise with friends, work, study, play and have a great time – you only get to be in medical school once!

Interested in learning more about how to become a doctor in Australia? Check out our next blog article here!