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Year two of med school – twice as hard?

Year two of med school – twice as hard?

by , 10 January, 2018
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All through the first year, we were told that second year would be harder.

Second years told us. Tutors told us. Lecturers told us.

We were pretty sure they were just trying to scare us into working harder. How could it be possible? We asked ourselves. We thought we were working as hard as we possibly could! They couldn’t possibly give us more assessments, more learning activities, and harder content. Could they? How could Med School get any more difficult than it already was!? Impossible! We told ourselves.

Turns out we were very, very wrong. And we should have heeded the warnings.


The second year is hard. I wrote about how hard first year was, somewhat naively. Little did I know that second year would be far worse and far better at the same time. We did have more assessments, and they were set to a higher standard – more exams, more papers, more presentations. And on top of that, we were also in the hospitals a few days a week, chasing patients who would talk to us and then be writing and submitting reports.


But on the upside, we were in the hospitals a few days a week! Actually seeing patients! We finally got to put our knowledge and hard-earned skills from last year into practice. We had clinical coaching sessions, where instead of practicing our exams on our healthy and somewhat boring peers, who should have no signs of any illnesses, we got to practice on patients who very kindly let us examine them. This way we actually got to see the lists of clinical signs that we’d memorized and regurgitated so often. The patients were also interesting in and of themselves and interacting with them was my favorite part of the second year. We’ve met so many inspiring people who have been happy to swap stories of their lives in exchange for a bit of distraction from being stuck in a hospital bed. My favorite tips for getting on with patients are to pick a few sports you can feign an interest in, and choose a team to know something about. This is a great way to start a conversation with patients. Go the bunnies! Also, offer to help the patients in any way you can – adjust their bed for them, fill their water, find out when their appointment is. It’s a nice way to pay them back for their time and to help out the next lot of med students to approach the patient!


The content we’ve covered has also been more interesting and engaging. The modules on mental health, endocrine system and men’s and women’s health especially have been fascinating and I’ve loved learning so much about systems I’ve never studied before! We’ve learned more practical skills – cannulation, resuscitation, ophthalmology skills and phlebotomy. And even the ethics curriculum has been more engaging – we’ve gone from merely learning different ethical principles to being able to apply them in different situations – both to large-scale global issues and the everyday stuff that we’ll see in regular practice.


The other great thing about the second year is that although it’s more challenging, it’s also familiar. You mostly know how it’s going to work, what classes will involve, how much time you need to devote to a particular subject. Exams seem slightly less scary now you’ve got a few passes under your belt, although OSCEs, a brand new, terrifying exam format, looms at the end of the year. But until then, and in between starting to wonder about the joys of clinical rotations next year, you feel like you have a bit more time for that thing called life. On top of uni and working this year, I’ve made time to get involved a bit more with the med student community, and have taken on the role of Vice President for one of the med student societies. I got to meet amazing med students from all years, interact with inspiring clinicians and leaders, host events for 200 odd students and work with an incredible team. This has made my 2nd year of med school that much more enriching.


And of course, there’s the social side of things. I’ve made more friends in the second year – new classes, new campus! I was also more involved in the amazing social events organized by our Med Soc. Balls, parties, jazz galas, mental health morning teas, guest lectures and more! For any aspiring med students, I recommend checking out AMSA – the Australian Medical Students Association as well as your uni’s Med Society. You can find a list of MedSocs at the bottom of this page. They host a range of events, from information sessions and councils where you get to debate policy and help guide the future of medicine, to conferences and competitions. I’m super excited to be attending the AMSA’s Global Health Conference in August – another thing I wouldn’t have been confident signing up forg the first year!


Looking forward, this year is shaping up to be even more challenging, with a different topic each semester, rather than spending a few weeks on a different body system module. More to learn in shorter periods of time, on top of the regular assessments. At least it feels like the final hurdle until we reach rotations and find out if we can hack it in the hospitals next year!